A recent news report indicates the guided missile cruiser U.S.S. Chancellorsville is about to become another victim to political correctness and the ongoing effort to erase Confederate “things” from the national stage. Although the cruiser is anticipated to have only three more years of active service on the high seas, we can expect to bear the costs involved with renaming a United States warship and the bureaucratic flood that follows all things federal (and, especially, military).
The debate over renaming things can wait for another time and venue. A bigger question is whoever thought naming a Navy ship after a battle the United States lost (and which is known as “Lee’s Greatest Victory”) ever thought this was a good idea in the first place?? Sister ships U.S.S. Gettysburg and U.S.S. Shiloh would appear to be appropriate commemorative names, and even the U.S.S. Antietam is not at all unreasonable. But Chancellorsville?
To be sure, there are other naval vessels named after historical battles in which the United States did not fare well. The U.S.S. Pearl Harbor and U.S.S. Bunker Hill come to mind; while both were military defeats, they served as rallying cries for the Revolutionary and Greatest Generations in their fights that would ultimately create a nation and cement that nation’s place in the world.
While the U.S.S. Chancellorsville is currently making the news, one could also question the thought process (or lack thereof) behind the U.S.S. Harpers Ferry, U.S.S. Newport News or U.S.S. Germantown, as well. The fortunes of the United States were not advanced during those battles, and they never rose to the level of bolstering patriotic outcries.
As of this writing, CG-62 has now officially become the U.S.S. Robert Smalls in honor of a slave who commandeered a Confederate vessel, piloted it toward the Union blockading fleet outside Charleston, South Carolina, thus freeing himself and other slaves in the process. If one looks at the background of warship naming you find dozens of instances in which various Navy and Marine personnel who served honorably or gave “the last full measure” throughout the nation’s history have been honored. Robert Smalls likely deserves the honor he has now received (and arguably should have won long ago).
Still, Chancellorsville? Really…