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Naming Commission Still Undecided How To Handle Ships with Confederate Ties

USS Chancellorsville (CG-62), USNS Maury (T-AGS-66) US Navy Photos

A commission tasked with identifying military assets with names tied to the Confederacy has not yet visited two ships that could be renamed.

The Commission on the Naming of Items of the Department of Defense that Commemorate the Confederate States of America or Any Person Who Served Voluntarily with the Confederate States of America, which goes by the shorthand “The Naming Commission,” spent the past summer visiting military bases, mostly Army installations, which are named after members of the Confederacy.

Once it finishes visiting bases, the Naming Commission will look at its list of assets and decide if it needs to visit ships, retired Adm. Michelle Howard, former vice chief of naval operations and chair of the commission, said Thursday afternoon.

The two ships the commission could visit are USNS Maury (T-AGS-66) and USS Chancellorsville (CG-62).

While visiting the bases, the commission members have met with military and community leaders, Howard said. What that would look like for a vessel would be different because there is less of a community around a ship.

The stakeholders would likely be sailors, former sailors and veterans that served on the ship, she said, as well as Navy leadership.

Maury, an oceanographic survey ship, is named after Matthew Fontaine Maury, who laid the foundation for modern oceanography and is considered to have written the first oceanographic textbook. He resigned from the U.S. Navy and joined the Confederate States Navy. Maury was delivered in 2016.

Chancellorsville is a guided-missile cruiser named after the Battle of Chancellorsville, a 1863 Confederate victory under the command of Gen. Robert E. Lee and Lt. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

Chancellorsville, commissioned in 1989, contains minié balls and shell fragments from the battle in its hull, USA Today first reported. A painting of Lee and Jackson hung in the ship’s wardroom, as of 2016. The Naming Commission could also discuss the painting as an asset in need of review.

While visiting the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the commission examined a portrait of Lee, who was painted as superintendent of the academy. That picture could remain because it does not celebrate the Confederacy, Howard said. A picture of Lee in a Confederate uniform, however, would likely need to be moved to a museum.

The Naval Academy and West Point were also part of the commission’s summer visits. The Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., likely has three assets of interest to the commission, including the residence of the superintendent, Buchanan House. The residence is named after the first superintendent of the Naval Academy, Franklin Buchanan, who left the U.S. Navy to join the Confederacy.

Buchanan House is off of Buchanan Road. Maury Hall, which also got its name in honor of Maury, is also on the academy grounds.

The commission updated the House and Senate armed services committees Thursday. Its final recommendations are due to the committees by Oct. 1, 2022, Howard said.

The recommendations will then go to the Secretary of Defense, who will decide how to implement them.

Once the commission completes the visits, it will determine a list of assets linked to the Confederacy and the criteria for what assets should be on the list to be renamed. The commission is also tasked with assessing the cost of removing names and Confederate symbols, as well as determining the procedures for how to rename assets that require new names.

Recommendations for names could also be included. The commission is currently soliciting public input through its website, thenamingcommission.gov.

In the first two weeks, the commission received 25,000 suggestions, Howard said. It now has about 27,000. Of the recommendations, there are approximately 5,000 names that were suggested multiple times.