Fort AP Hill renamed Fort Walker to honor Army’s first female surgeon
Stars and Stripes August 25, 2023
WASHINGTON — The Army on Friday renamed Fort A.P. Hill, a training outpost near the nation’s capital, as Fort Walker to honor the service’s first female surgeon and Medal of Honor recipient from the Civil War.
The installation in Virginia is now officially Fort Walker, named for Dr. Mary Edwards Walker.
“We make history during this redesignation ceremony,” retired Lt. Gen. Nadja West, who in 2015 became the Army’s first Black surgeon general, said during the ceremony. “If there was no Dr. Walker, there would have been no Dr. West.”
“She blazed a trail that I and thousands of others have been following over a century later,” added West, who was also the first Black woman to hold the Army rank of lieutenant general.
At the start of the Civil War, Walker volunteered to serve as a surgeon for the Union Army, though initially she was only allowed to do so as a civilian because the military did not yet accept women in that role. After a couple years, she was officially accepted as a military surgeon and was later captured by Confederate forces in 1864. After a few months, she was traded for a Confederate doctor.
“Dr. Walker made many forays across enemy lines to treat the wounded,” said Maj. Gen. Trevor Bredenkamp, commander of the Joint Task Force-National Capital Region and Army Military District of Washington. “It was on one such trip that she was captured by Confederate forces and charged as a spy.”
After the war ended, President Andrew Johnson awarded the Medal of Honor to Walker and she remains the only woman ever to receive the award, which is the military’s highest decoration for valor.
Fort Walker opened in 1941 during World War II and was originally named for Ambrose Powell Hill, a Confederate general during the Civil War. A law passed by Congress in 2021 recommended nine Army bases that honor Confederates change their names. Most of the Army bases slated to be renamed have already made the switch. On Oct. 27, Fort Gordon in eastern Georgia, near Augusta, will be the last base to be renamed. It will become Fort Eisenhower after former President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Two of the Army’s largest installations, Fort Hood in Texas and Fort Bragg in North Carolina, are now known as Fort Cavazos and Fort Liberty, respectively.
Located about 60 miles southwest of Washington, Fort Walker is known for its arms training programs and is commonly used by Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and Space Force troops, as well. The installation is a regional collective training center and provides “innovative, flexible and relevant training” to support military readiness, according to the base website. It also offers support contingency operations in the mid-Atlantic and Washington areas.
“Simply put, training is what Fort Walker does,” Bradenkamp said at Friday’s ceremony, noting 15,000 soldiers trained at the base in 2022. “They provide the best training and support anywhere.”
Fort Walker is the third and final Army base in Virginia to be renamed in 2023. Fort Lee, named for Gen. Robert E. Lee, was redesignated Fort Gregg-Adams in April to honor two Black soldiers who helped pave the way for an integrated military. Fort Pickett — named for Gen. George Pickett — was changed in March to Fort Barfoot to honor a soldier from World War II — Van. T. Barfoot — who had also been awarded the Medal of Honor.
“One of the reasons why we name our Army installations [is] it allows us to reach into our rich, storehouse of … citizens who chose to fight for and serve their nation,” West said. “It reminds us of who we are and why we do what we do.”