Lt. Gen. Telita Crosland, Director, U.S. Army Defense Health Agency, center-left, and Col. Kathleen Spangler, Director, center-right, unveil the portrait of Lt. Col. (Dr.) Alexander T. Augusta, the highest-ranking black officer in the Union Army, as Fort Belvoir Community Hospital was renamed the Alexander T. Augusta Military Medical Center, during ceremonies May 16. (Photo Credit: Paul Lara)

Fort Belvoir Community Hospital renaming in Honor of the highest-ranking black officer in the Union Army

FORT BELVOIR, Va. — The Defense Health Agency (DHA) conducted a renaming and dedication ceremony on Thursday, May 16th, renaming Fort Belvoir Community Hospital to the Alexander T. Augusta Military Medical Center in honor of U.S. Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Alexander Thomas Augusta.

The decision to change the hospital's name came after a thorough search for a figure who exemplifies American values.

“The renaming is a tribute to the bravery, sacrifice, and values of a notable American pioneer and hero,” said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Telita Crosland, Director of the DHA.

The newly named Alexander T. Augusta Military Medical Center symbolizes and commemorates the significant accomplishments of Dr. Alexander Thomas Augusta.

“[Now] is about more than changing the unit’s colors and installing a new sign on a building,” said Lt. Gen Crosland. “It’s an opportunity for us to honor the heroism and sacrifices of a native Virginian, of a true American soldier and pioneer.”

Several esteemed military health officials attended the ceremony, including U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Telita Crosland, U.S. Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Tanya Y. Johnson, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Anne Swap, and U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mary Krueger, highlighted the importance of the occasion.

Born in 1825, Dr. Augusta overcame numerous obstacles throughout his life. He worked as a barber in Baltimore, Maryland, while pursuing his dream of attending medical school. When faced with rejection from medical schools, he made the decision to relocate to Canada, where he found acceptance into the medical program at the University of Toronto. He received an M.B. in 1856. Driven by his passion for medicine, he furthered his career by commissioning as a major in the Union Army and was appointed head surgeon in the 7th U.S. Colored Infantry

U.S. Army Col. Kathleen Spangler, the director of the medical center, highlighted Lt. Col. Augusta's noteworthy contributions and the challenges he faced throughout his remarkable career.

Col. Spangler mentioned that despite initial rejection based on his race when offering his services as a surgeon in the U.S. Army and writing a letter to President Abraham Lincoln, Lt. Col. Augusta persisted and ultimately gained acceptance.

Dr. Augusta went on to become the highest-ranking black officer in the Union Army, the first black professor of medicine at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and the first black officer to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. His contributions during the Civil War exemplified dignity and distinction while breaking barriers of segregation and discrimination.

The ceremony concluded with the unveiling of the new unit colors, symbolizing the organization's responsibilities. Additionally, a portrait of Dr. Augusta was revealed following the presentation of the organization’s new flag.

“We are a nation of military power and effectiveness in the diversity of our ranks. The selection of Alexander T. Augusta for renaming and memorializing the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital reflects our rich history and values, said Lt. Gen Crosland.”

Tiana Waters

USAG Fort Belvoir Public Affairs Office