Northam to rename Virginia Beach’s Camp Pendleton, which honors Confederate general

A Marine fires an M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle during a training exercise. (MICHAELA GREGORY/U.S. MARINE CORPS)
January 23, 2021

Virginia will rename Camp Pendleton, the 325-acre state military reservation in Virginia Beach named for the Confederate Army’s chief of artillery.

A working group from the state’s veterans affairs and defense agencies and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is reviewing several alternatives, said Alena Yarmosky, Gov. Ralph Northam’s press secretary. The working group will submit a recommended name change by the end of February, she said.

Northam has said he supports changing Confederate names on military bases and other public facilities, and directed his administration to look into changing Camp Pendleton’s name last summer.

Set up in 1912 as the rifle range for the state’s National Guard, the reservation was used by the Army in World War II, and was formally named Camp Pendleton at that time. It had been known as the State Rifle Range or by the name of the current governor before then.

William Nelson Pendleton was fifth in his class at West Point in 1830, but left the Army in 1833. He was ordained a minister in 1838 and eventually served at a church in Lexington.

At the start of the Civil War, Pendleton was elected captain of the Rockbridge Artillery. He served as chief of artillery for Gen. Joseph Johnston and, after promotion to brigadier general, acted as chief of artillery for the entire Confederate Army.

Soldiers called him “Old Mother Pendleton,” apparently because of their low regard for him.

The latest National Defense Authorization Act — the legislation that sets spending plans for the military — calls for placing Confederate names of federal military bases. In Virginia, those include Fort Lee, Fort Pickett and Fort A.P. Hill. While President Donald Trump vetoed the measure, in part because of the required renaming, Congress override that veto.


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