It was named in honor of a major Confederate general during the Civil War, but a road at Ft Bliss now has a new, more locally based name.
Ft. Bliss officials have changed the name of Robert E. Lee Road to Buffalo Soldier Road, recognizing the African-American units that moved through Bliss in the 19th century.
The change had been in the works for some time. Robert E. Lee Gate was renamed Buffalo Soldier Gate last year. And in a ceremony Thursday, Fort Bliss officially renamed the road itself to honor the soldiers of the 9th and 10th Cavalry known coloquially as Buffalo Soldiers.
Soldiers and volunteers wore period dress and uniforms as Maj. Gen. Sean MacFarland and members of the Buffalo Solider Association led the renaming ceremony.
The road already has a memorial to the Buffalo Soldiers based on the work of Bob Snead, a retired airman and local artist. Snead spoke during the ceremony about the historical importance of the recognition.
“They trained in this area, they had their mess facilities in this area,” Snead said. “And 15 years ago, in 1999, when we erected this statue, we chose this area, because this was the area that was synonymous with the Buffalo Soldiers.”
This isn’t the first renaming of a road at Ft. Bliss from that of a Confederate general. In 2000, Cassidy Road was renamed. It was previously known as Forrest Road, after Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. He had been an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
Snead said that the renaming wasn’t to cover up or diminish Robert E. Lee’s place in history, but rather to recognize a group that had operated in and impacted the history of the area.
“Robert E. Lee was a brilliant general, and this by no means is a slam against him and his contributions to the military,” Snead said. “This has nothing to do with the Civil War or the Confederacy or anything like that. this is just something to show that the Buffalo Soldiers are being recognized in this particular area.”