Who was Henry Benning?

By | June 28, 2020

[June 28, 2020]  I’ve been to the U.S. Army Fort Benning, Georgia, many times, receiving training, giving lectures and speeches, and attending a variety of schools.  Like many Infantry officers before me, I gave no thought to who the fort was named after or why.  But who was Henry Benning?1  Henry Benning, the fort’s namesake, was a Brigadier General in the Confederate Army during the U.S. Civil War.

What was Benning’s thinking, his politics, his military service record, and was he any good at what he did?  Henry Benning was from Georgia.  He was well educated (graduating first in his class at the University of Georgia), worked as a lawyer, and served on the Georgia Supreme Court.  During the Civil War, he was first a Colonel in the 17th Georgia Infantry and later commanded a Georgia brigade as a Brigadier General.  Benning was also a delegate to Georgia and Virginia’s secession conventions.  He was smart, articulate, and successful in civilian life, the CSA military, and politics.

 “It is true, then, that unless there had been a separation from the North, slavery would be abolished in Georgia? I address myself to the proofs of that case.”

Henry Benning was also a dedicated secessionist.  Several U.S. states had leaders who were clear that they wanted to split from the Union and for a number of reasons.  Eventually, this led to the U.S. Civil War.  Scholars disagree over the causes but maintain that the primary cause was the Southern states’ desire to preserve the institution of slavery.  Some historians disagree and point to other factors, such as the principle of States’ Rights.  Here is what Benning had to say on February 18, 1861:

What was the reason that induced Georgia to take the step of secession? This reason may be summed up in one single proposition. It was a conviction, a deep conviction on the part of Georgia, that a separation from the North-was the only thing that could prevent the abolition of her slavery.

Benning gave his reasoning for the urging of succession from the Union, appealing to ethnic prejudices and pro-slavery sentiments to present his case.  He also said that were the slave states to remain in the Union; their slaves would ultimately end up being freed by the anti-slavery Republican Party.2

I confess to being confused as to why the U.S. Secretary of Defense or any senior military leader are allowing themselves to be bullied into thinking about changing the name of Fort Benning or any other military base because of the namesake from the Civil War era.  So what that Fort Benning is named after Henry Benning.  No one seriously believes that the base has any meaningful connection with Henry Benning.  Thinking along these lines to change the name is astonishingly stupid.

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  1. An interesting side note about the Benning family. In her Civil War novel Gone with the Wind (1936), Margaret Mitchell wrote about a fictitious family called the O’Haras, which is based on Henry’s wife Mary and their post-war Benning family struggles.
  2. “I say that the North hates slavery, and, in using that expression, I speak wittingly. In saying that the Black Republican party of the North hates slavery, I speak intentionally.”
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

18 thoughts on “Who was Henry Benning?

  1. Lynn Pitts

    Hi Gen. Satterfield, I think those of us in the military have never really given much thought to where the names of our military’s installations came from. What we do know is that since they were built, we have developed a good track record of doing well. The names should not be changed just because the change of wind of politics has shifted slightly. Stand strong.

  2. Jonathan B.

    Excellent comment on the fort renaming movement in the military. Too bad the leaders like SecDef Esper and a few high-ranking generals are even considering such a foolish idea.

    1. Andrew Dooley

      Jonathan, makes you wonder if these guys (and gals?) are operating with a full deck. I’m a Navy vet.

  3. Doc Blackshear

    Good short history lesson. Thanks. Never gave this much thought until today. I agree with your final para wholeheartedly.

  4. Tony B. Custer

    Here is why the Fort was named after Henry Benning.
    “In 1918, the Army established its infantry school at a camp partly in Muscogee County and partly in Chattahoochee County. At the request of the Columbus Rotary Club, the camp was named for Benning. It later became Fort Benning.”

    1. Darryl Sitterly

      Yes, no satanic ritual was performed. Ghee, go figure.

    2. Billy Kenningston

      Simple. Thanks Tony for running this to ground. The facts, however, don’t matter a blip for nut cases that are making unreasonable demands. The fact that any leader would seriously entertain the idea shows they are not worthy of being in an important leadership position.

  5. Linux Man

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Gen. Satterfield. I too agree that changing names to please the mob is not such a great idea. Once you cave into such small demands, then you are forever open for more pandering and caving to insane demands. Hold your ground and give a good explanation here that the southern military bases were named after have no bearing on the US military. Note that mobs are now tearing down statues of George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and others who were anti-slavery. Why? Because nothing is beyond their “superiority” over us knuckle draggers.

  6. Fred Weber

    Another excellent article and very informative. Also I like your common sense approach.

    1. Eric Coda

      Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper are said to be open to holding a “bipartisan conversation” about renaming nearly a dozen major bases and installations that bear the names of Confederate military commanders.

    2. Danny Burkholder

      Even US military senior leaders are infected by the PC bug.

      1. Forrest Gump

        Sad. ???? Stupid is as stupid does —-

      2. The Kid 1945

        So true. You would think, however, working for Pres Trump would have made them to reject such PC (read that as neo-Marxist) ideology.

  7. Greg Heyman

    Earlier, you had mention, Gen Satterfield, that you were misled as a child to why the Civil War was fought. If I recall correctly, you wrote that it was a “states’ rights” issue and not slavery. Now I see you have come full circle and agree that indeed slavery was the primary factor. I guess many in the south changed their own historical memories to rid themselves of unpleasant times.

    1. Harry B. Donner

      Good memory Greg. Yes he did. But as you can see, like many good leaders, they have gone on to educate themselves properly and reject false history or incorrect analyses. This is the mark of not just a good leader but of a good person as well.

      1. José Luis Rodriguez

        Yes, well said Harry. This is just another reason among many as to why I come to this website for my leadership news.

  8. Doug Smith

    As I was reading your article, I didn’t get to where you were going until the very end. Well said !

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