Civilian Conservation Corps at Chancellorsville – Camp MP-3 (NP-11)


From Eric Mink:

As has been mentioned in previous posts, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) established three camps to support development and conservation projects at the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. One camp was located on each of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House and Chancellorsville battlefields. Throughout the 1930s, the companies that rotated through these camps developed the military park. The projects they undertook transformed portions of the battlefields through the construction of tour roads and trails for visitors and conservation practices that helped to preserve the natural and cultural resources of the area.

The CCC opened Camp MP-3 on the Chancellorsville Battlefield in October 1933. The selected site stood along Ely’s Ford at its intersection with the future park road Hooker Drive. The initials “MP” stood for military park and the companies stationed there supported park development and conservation projects at both the Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg battlefields. The first enrollees arrived with Company 281 on October 7, 1933, having transferred to Chancellorsville from Glacier National Park in Washington state. The men of Company 281 hailed from New York, New Jersey, as well as Virginia. Initially, the camp consisted of tents, but by the end of the year the barracks and other buildings provided more permanent quarters.

Camp MP-3 along Ely's Ford Road on the Chancellorsville Battlefield. The elongated NPS maintenance building south of Hooker Drive is still in use today.

Camp MP-3 along Ely’s Ford Road on the Chancellorsville Battlefield. The elongated NPS utility building south of Hooker Drive is still in use today.

The two hundred men of Company 281 focused on landscaping, roadside clearing, building bridges, planting trees and reduction of forest fire hazards on the Chancellorsville Battlefield. On May 21, 1934, they transferred back to Glacier National Park and Company 1363 moved into Camp MP-3. This company, comprised of 207 veterans of World War One, had been organized at Fort Meade, Maryland in June of 1933. It transferred the following month to Camp P-69 (aka Camp MacArthur) on Catharpin Road in Spotsylvania County, Virginia before moving yet again to Camp MP-3. Its stay at Chancellorsville lasted only a couple months before moving on to Camp MP-1 on the Spotsylvania Court House Battlefield. Replacing the veterans at Camp MP-3 was Company 362, which was immediately broken up and disbursed. From Fort Monroe, Virginia arrived 190 enrollees for the reconstituted Company 362, now made up of African Americans. It received the designation Company 362c. The letter “c” denoted “colored.”

The arrival of an African American company in Spotsylvania County created a bit of stir. The controversy has been covered in another blog post found here. Although some locals wanted Company 362c transferred out of the area, the men remained and worked on various projects at both the Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg battlefields.

Thanksgiving 1935 - Cooks and members of Company 362c pose inside the Camp MP-3 dining hall.

Thanksgiving 1935 – Cooks and members of Company 362c pose inside the Camp MP-3 dining hall.

Ironically, out of all of the companies that rotated in and out of the park’s CCC camps, the one that some locals tried to get transferred ended up having the longest tenure. Company 362c occupied Camp MP-3 for over six years, finally receiving a transfer to a new camp in Galax, Virginia in December 1940. Around that time, the Chancellorsville camp’s designation changed from MP-3 to NP-11, the “NP” indicating the camp serviced a national park. Camp NP-11 remained vacant until April 1941 when Camp NP-24 (formerly Camp MP-4) on the Wilderness Battlefield shut down and Company 2329 transferred to Chancellorsville. This was the last company to occupy Chancellorsville, leaving in March 1942 when the camp closed for good.

The razing of Camp NP-11 - January 25, 1944.

The razing of Camp NP-11 – January 25, 1944. The photographer’s perspective is looking north across Hooker Drive. Ely’s Ford Road is visible along the western edge of the camp and disappearing into the distance.

The amount of work contributed by the CCC was immense. The men assigned to Camp MP-3 (NP-11) shaped the Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg Battlefields. They cleared the vistas, built the trails, built the bridges, landscaped the road sides, applied seed and sod to eroded earthworks and trenches, built picnic areas, and reconstructed a missing section of the famous stone wall at Fredericksburg. Much of what the CCC accomplished remains and continues to influence how visitors tour and see the battlefields. Stone bridges built in the 1930s still carry tour roads over streams. Foot trails established by the CCC are still walked by visitors to the park. Evidence of the camps, however, is a little harder to locate.

A modern aerial photograph of the site of Camp MP-3 (NP-11) shows that nature has reclaimed the ground where barracks, a dining hall, and other buildings once stood. The pattern of vegetation roughly defines the camps boundaries with a concentration of evergreens and thick growth now occupying the area where the camp’s buildings stood. In the southeast corner of the Ely’s Ford Road and Hooker Drive intersection can be seen the NPS utility building. While not part of the CCC camp, it is a building that survives from the early days of the park.

A modern aerial photograph of the Camp MP-3 (NP-11) site.

A modern aerial photograph of the Camp MP-3 (NP-11) site.

On the ground, it is more difficult to identify Camp MP-3 (NP-11). Visitors to the park who choose to walk the Chancellorsville History Trail, probably do not realize they walk right along the eastern edge of a CCC camp. As the trail crosses to the north side of Hooker Drive, it passes along the eastern edge of the camp before it reaches Apex of Hooker’s Last Line at the intersection of Ely’s Ford Road and Bullock Road. The vegetation to the west of the trail at this point is very heavy with briars and dense undergrowth. It is not advisable that visitors leave the trail. Under those thick bushes and brambles is the site of Camp MP-3 (NP-11). There is little visible evidence of the camp other than broken concrete, rusted pipes and scattered cut stone. The CCC camps are important resources that are part of the park’s history and speak to its development into a place designated for preservation, interpretation and enjoyment by the public.

Flashing for a stove pipe (right) found in the woods a few years ago matches the ones that once adorned the roofs on the camp's buildings.

Flashing for a stove pipe (right) found in the woods a few years ago matches those that once adorned the roofs on the camp’s buildings.

Stones that once helped with drainage still line the entrance to the camp along Ely's Ford Road.

Stones that once helped with drainage still line the entrance to the camp along Ely’s Ford Road.

It is important to note that Camp MP-3 (NP-11) is an archaeological site and as such is protected within the Chancellorsville Battlefield. Disturbance of the site or removal of natural and cultural objects, including plants, animals, minerals, stones, or other objects is strictly prohibited and violators are subject to prosecution.

Eric J. Mink

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10 thoughts on “Civilian Conservation Corps at Chancellorsville – Camp MP-3 (NP-11)

  1. Eric, the CCC story of the battlefield is one we didn’t hear or interpret when you and I first worked there a thousand years ago, right? I don’t remember that info in our training. -Pam

    • True Pam, but our job was to interpret the battlefields. It still is. Like all historic sites, there are layers of history and the CCC is just one here. It’s not a primary theme, but it’s still important to the park.
      – Eric

  2. When I first visited the Chancellorsville battlefield years ago, I walked the History Trail. As I approached Hooker Dr. I noticed huge depressions which, of course, warranted additional investigation. They seemed too deep and extensive for Civil War lunettes or earthworks and I noticed ‘old trash’ (artifacts – metal, glass) in or around some of them. I took a bunch of pictures and hauled my camera into the visitors center when I finished the trail to show my pictures and ask what that section of the trail was all about. One of the rangers who was there at the time wasn’t sure what I was showing him, but did mention that a CCC camp was in that area. AHA!

    Flash forward a few years and I revisited the site and tried again to find more info and Eric Mink was always the one I was referred to. Thanks for answering my email I found through the NPS website, Eric.

    Having explored the first CCC camps in the George Washington NF and Shenandoah NP, I agree the CCC is a very important and fascinating part of history. Discovering the camps at Chancellorsville, Wilderness and Spotsylvania CH has enhanced my experience.

    Thank you for providing the most information on Camp NP-11 I have ever been able to find.

    • Linda – I remember our correspondence on this subject back in 2012. I’m glad you enjoy this part of our history. In fact it was your inquiry that led to my looking into our files on Camp MP-3 (NP-11) and ultimately this blog post..
      – Eric

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