Fort Barfoot, formerly known as Fort Pickett, became the first of nine US military bases with Confederate references to get a new name, which now honors a decorated officer who fought in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
Fort Barfoot in Blackstone became the first of nine military bases across the US with nods to Confederate leaders to get a new name.
Sen. Tim Kaine, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, cosponsored an amendment in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act to rename the bases. Three of the nine are located in Virginia.
Formerly Camp Pickett and later Fort Pickett, the military base is the home of the Army National Guard Maneuver Training Center. The previous name honored US Army officer and Confederate Gen. George Pickett.
If you’re familiar with Civil War history, that’s the same Pickett who, along with two other Confederate generals, led an infantry assault on the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. The attack—ordered by Gen. Robert E. Lee, yet known as Pickett’s Charge—was a disastrous loss for the Confederate forces, with nearly half of the participating soldiers either dead, wounded, or captured by the end of the day. Eye witnesses observed Pickett weeping over the loss of his men, all from Virginia (though soldiers from other divisions were from a variety of Southern states).
A New Era
On March 24, Fort Pickett became Fort Barfoot, named after Col. Van T. Barfoot.
“Although he was from Mississippi originally, [Barfoot] ended up living in the Richmond area late in life,” Kaine said during a recent media availability.
Enlisting in 1940, Barfoot served a total of 34 years in the Army. He fought in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
On May 23, 1944, Barfoot exhibited valor and dedication on the battlefield by attacking and securing enemy positions and also by helping two injured Americans get to safety. Barfoot received the nation’s highest military award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his actions that day.
According to California Indian Education, Barfoot was one of only five American Indians to receive the Medal of Honor in the 20th century. Of note, while his grandmother was a full-blooded Choctaw Native American, Barfoot’s mother did not enroll him with the government as a member of the tribe.
During his military career, Barfoot also received the Silver Star and three Purple Heart awards. The Silver Star is the nation’s third-highest military combat decoration and is awarded for gallantry in action. The Purple Heart is one of the most recognized and respected medals, according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs. The award goes to service members who are wounded or killed while in the US armed forces.
In The News
Wartimes weren’t the only times Barfoot found himself fighting for freedom. The veteran drew national attention at age 90, when a homeowners association (HOA) in Henrico County attempted to ban him from flying the American flag.
The Washington Post reported that shortly after Barfoot moved to the Sussex Square development, he erected a 21-foot flag pole in his front yard. According to The New York Times, the HOA only allowed flags on poles attached to homes. The association asked Barfoot to remove the flagpole for aesthetic reasons and threatened court action when he refused.
Following national media attention and public outcry, the HOA dropped its case and allowed the veteran to fly his flag.
Barfoot died in 2012 at age 92 from complications due to a fall.
Along with Fort Barfoot, the new military base names will reflect “heroes that everyone could admire,” Kaine said.
The Department of Defense announced name changes for two other Virginia military bases:
- Fort A.P. Hill near Bowling Green will be renamed Fort Walker after Dr. Mary Edwards Walker.
- Fort Lee, located east of Petersburg, will be renamed Fort Gregg-Adams after Army Lt. Gen. Arthur J. Gregg and Army Lt. Col. Charity Adams.
Dogwood will provide continuing coverage as the names of the Virginia bases change.