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Navy official: Ship name honoring Confederate victory unlikely to change

As America churns through a bloody debate over the place Confederate monuments occupy in the modern day United States, a Navy cruiser named in honor of a Confederate Civil War victory is unlikely to see its named changed, a service official said Wednesday.

The guided-missile cruiser Chancellorsville was commissioned in 1989 and derives its name from an 1863 battle considered to be the greatest victory of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The Navy named several vessels in honor of the Confederacy throughout the 20th century, including the submarine Robert E. Lee, the Stonewall Jackson and submarine tenders named after a Confederate boat and its commander.

But a Navy official speaking on the condition of anonymity Wednesday said that even though the Chancellorsville is named after a Confederate victory, the name comes from a battle, not an individual, and soldiers on both sides died.

play_circle_filled The guided-missile cruiser Chancellorsville is named after the greatest Civil War victory of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. It is one of at least five Navy ships named after icons of the Civil War South (MC1 Peter Burghart/Navy).
Meet the Navy ships named in honor of the Confederacy

The Navy has a history of naming ships after icons of the Confederacy. Such honorifics have turned contentious, most recently in the fatal protests last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The week-long battle resulted in major casualties for both sides — 13,000 Confederates and 17,000 Union troops, according to the National Parks Service.

The Navy official did say, however, that there remains a chance the ship’s crest could be altered.

The predominance of gray in the ship’s crest speaks to ”General Robert E. Lee’s spectacular military strategies and his dominance in this battle,” according to the ship’s website.

An inverted wreath also memorializes the Confederacy’s second-best known general, Stonewall Jackson, who was mortally wounded in the battle.

While the rupture of the country during the Civil War is reflected in the crest, it also features Jackson’s order to ”press on.”

“Maybe that is worth re-looking at or redoing,” the official said. ”There‘s a fine line.”

The question of naming vessels or installations after Confederate icons has simmered in the military for years, but they have resurfaced in the wake of Saturday’s fatal violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, that was sparked by the planned removal of a Robert E. Lee statue.

Some proponents of Confederate names contend that the names honor the warrior spirit or military ability of the individuals, not the morality of their cause. 

The Army has several bases named after Confederate figures. 

Military bases named after Confederate members

As local governments and college campuses take down more and more monuments to Confederate heroes, eyes are turning to the military — particularly the Army, which has 10 installations named after Confederate officers.

Military Times reporter Tara Copp contributed to this report. 

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