ALBANY, N.Y. — The growing national effort to remove monuments or honors to Robert E. Lee and other leading figures of the Confederacy has reached the U.S. Military Academy.
West Point is where the Virginian learned to be a soldier and later served as superintendent before resigning from the U.S. Army to lead Confederate troops during the Civil War. It’s also where a cadet barracks is named after him.
If two members of Congress from New York get their way, his name will be removed from Lee Barracks.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, both Democrats, want the secretary of the Army to rename the 55-year-old barracks. The request, first reported Wednesday by the Times Herald-Record of Middletown, follows last weekend’s deadly white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia.
After a woman was killed and dozens others injured when a car rammed into a crowd near a Lee statue, communities across the nation are removing Confederate memorials and symbols or considering doing so.
Gillibrand’s Washington office said Thursday that she’s asking Acting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy to change the name of all facilities at West Point that honor Confederate figures. West Point officials didn’t respond when asked if there are other places on the grounds named after Confederates.
West Point officials directed questions on the barracks’ name to the Secretary of the Army, who makes final decisions on names of Army buildings.
Maloney’s office confirms that he is seeking the name change. Maloney, whose district includes West Point, will convey his stance directly to McCarthy, the congressman’s office said.
Gillibrand and Maloney are members of a West Point advisory board.
At West Point, on the Hudson River’s west bank 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of New York City, buildings and streets are named after some of the nation’s most revered military leaders, including Lee, who’s considered one of the academy’s most famous graduates.
He received no demerits in four years and graduated second in West Point’s Class of 1829. Lee later returned as a brevet colonel to run West Point from 1852-55. Many of the cadets who attended the academy during his stint as superintendent would go on to either fight against him or serve beside him when Lee led the Confederacy’s Army of Northern Virginia from 1861-65.
Lee Barracks, opened in 1962, is located next door to Grant Hall, named for Ulysses S. Grant, an 1843 West Point graduate who went on to command Union troops and accepted Lee’s surrender at Appomattox in April 1865.
On Wednesday, plaques honoring Lee were removed from the property of a now-closed Episcopal church in Brooklyn, and Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he will conduct a 90-day review of “all symbols of hate on city property.”
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo also called on the Army to rename two streets at nearby Fort Hamilton that honored Lee and Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson, and he called for the City University of New York to remove busts of Lee and Jackson from the university’s Hall of Fame for Great Americans in the Bronx.