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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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