The US Military Academy will begin removing Confederate monuments from its campus, including a portrait of Robert E. Lee showing him in a Confederate uniform.
The academy will go through a “phased process” during the holiday break to remove all 13 identified references and installations honoring the Confederacy, said the academy’s superintendent, Lt. Gen. Steve Gilland wrote in a letter to the West Point community last week.
These include the portrait of Lee from the library, a stone bust of Lee from the campus’ Reconciliation Plaza, and a “bronze triptych” at the entrance to Bartlett Hall.
“We will carry out these actions with dignity and respect,” he wrote. “In the case of the items that were class gifts (specifically, Place of Honor and Place of Reconciliation), we will continue to work closely with those classes throughout this process.”
The changes at West Point were approved by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in October and are part of a larger set of recommendations proposed by the Naming Commission mandated by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act last year.
“The Commission’s thorough and historically informed work has put the Department on a path to fulfill Congress’ intent — to remove from U.S. military installations all names, symbols, displays, monuments and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederacy.” , Austin wrote in a memo approving the recommendations.
“The commission has chosen names that reflect honor, patriotism and history – names that will inspire generations of service members to defend our democracy and our Constitution.”
This commission drew national attention in 2020 when former President Donald Trump threatened to veto any NDAA bill aimed at removing Confederate names from military bases or other landmarks. True to his promise, Trump eventually vetoed the NDAA and sent it back to Congress, where members voted to override his veto.
West Point plans additional changes to be implemented in Spring 2023: a quote by Robert E. Lee on Honor Plaza will be replaced, and stone markers on Reconciliation Plaza will be modified “with appropriate language and imagery consistent with the commission’s recommendations.” still deliver the central message of reconciliation to the Plaza.”
In addition, West Point’s Memorialization, History and Museum Committee will propose new names for streets, buildings and areas of the Academy named after those who served in the Confederacy.