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USS Antietam spared from effort to ditch Confederate names

A commission established by Congress has released a list of more than 750 military assets named after Confederate heroes that may get new names, including two ships and 22 other assets controlled by the Navy, including buildings and streets.

As previously reported, the USS Chancellorsville and the USNS Maury are on the list. But one ship that is not on the list, and therefore is not in the federal Naming Commission’s crosshairs, is the USS Antietam.

Retired Adm. Michelle Howard, who chairs the Naming Commission established by Congress in 2021, said last year that its members were still considering whether to include the USS Antietam. That debate now seems to have concluded with a finding that a new name isn't necessary.

The ship was named after the Battle of Antietam in 1862, during the Civil War. Confederate forces tried to push into Union territory but were repelled – most see the fight as a Union victory, although casualties were high on both sides.

“It depends on whether or not you see Antietam as a Union victory,” Howard said at the time. “So that needs more exploration behind what the ship was named.”

The USS Chancellorsville seems likely to be renamed as part of the effort, as it was named after Gen. Robert E. Lee’s greatest military victory during the Civil War.

But the fate of the USNS Maury, an oceanographic ship, is harder to predict. The USS Maury was named after Matthew Fontaine Maury, who opposed slavery but ended up fighting for his home state of Virginia. The Navy considers Maury to be the “father of world meteorology.”

The crests of two ships – the USS Shiloh and USS Vella Gulf – also made the list and may therefore have to be redesigned. The crest of the USS Shiloh, which will be decommissioned in 2024, includes crossed and furled U.S. and Confederate battle flags, and the crest of the USS Vella Gulf, which will be decommissioned this year, includes the Stonewall Jackson saying, “Move Swiftly, Strike Vigorously.”

Two Navy-controlled buildings made the list: Maury Hall and the Buchanan House, which was named after Franklin Buchanan, the first superintendent of the Navy and an admiral in the Confederate Navy.

The remainder of the Navy assets on the list are streets that were named after Maury, Buchanan, Lee, Jackson and others.

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