The region’s earliest years
Fort Lee’s history spans 10,000 years, native peoples occupied Fort Lee for the majority of that time, about 9,800 years.
Fort Lee and the surrounding area were ideal for native peoples. The rich land provided sustenance; rocks and clay were excellent raw materials to make stone tools or pottery, and the wetlands and close proximity to waterways allowed for easy mobility.
About 300 years ago, Fort Lee received its first European colonists.
The roads, and then later railroads, on which tobacco was transported to market, became the avenue of mobilization and troop support during the American Revolution and the Civil War.
These roads passing through Fort Lee linked Petersburg and City Point (Hopewell), both vital supply and communication centers on the Appomattox River.
During the last days of the Revolutionary War, British and Tory troops were engaged in a battle by a small force of Americans near Blandford Church, between Petersburg and the present Fort Lee. After the Americans were forced to withdraw and all military stores in Petersburg were destroyed, Lord Cornwallis and his army joined the British and marched through this area to Yorktown where the war ended.
In the summer of 1864, General Grant decided the capture of Petersburg was essential to the Union cause in order to cut the important supply lines into Richmond and force General Lee out into the open.
General Lee moved his headquarters to “Violet Bank,” now Colonial Heights, and Grant’s headquarters and supply depot were at City Point. You can still see the building where he set up operations.
The struggle for Petersburg continued for ten months before Lee evacuated the city.
One week later, Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, 100 miles to the west. Four historical markers indicate where General Grant’s military railroad crossed the post.
For a time General Meade had his headquarters in the area of E Ave. and 38th St., and President Lincoln watched a review of troops at the present Mahone Ave. parade ground just weeks before his assassination.
Camp Lee (World War I)
Just 18 days after a state of war with Germany was declared, the first Camp Lee was selected as a state mobilization camp and later became a division training camp. In June 1917, building began and within 60 days, 14,000 men swarmed over the newly designed military installation. When construction work ended, there were accommodations for 60,335 men.
On July 15, 1917, the War Department announced that the camp would be named in honor of General Robert E. Lee (1807-1870), the most famous of the Confederate Civil War commanders.
After World War I, Camp Lee was taken over by the Commonwealth of Virginia and designated a game preserve. Later, portions of the land were incorporated into the National Military Park of Petersburg.
Camp Lee (World War II)
In October 1940, the War Department ordered the construction of another Camp Lee on the site of the earlier installation. Built as rapidly as the first, construction was still ongoing when the Quartermaster Replacement Training Center started operation in February 1941.
Camp Lee was also the home of a Medical Replacement Training Center, but as the Quartermaster training increased, it was decided to relocate the MRTC at Camp Pickett.
Later the QMRTC was redesigned as an Army Services Forces Training Center, but it retained its basic mission of training Quartermaster personnel. While the QMRTC was getting underway, the Quartermaster School was transferred to Camp Lee.
A full program of courses was conducted, including Officer Candidate School. By the end of 1941, Camp Lee was the center of both basic and advanced training of Quartermaster personnel and held this position throughout the war.
Camp Lee to Fort Lee
When World War II ended, the fate of Camp Lee was in question. In 1946, the War Department announced that Camp Lee would be retained as a center for Quartermaster training.
Official recognition of its permanent status was obtained in 1950 and the post was re-designated as Fort Lee.
Immediately, troops began Quartermaster training for the Korean War and continued for the next three years.
After the Korean War, progress was made on an ambitious permanent building program. Under the twenty year program, Fort Lee changed from an installation of temporary wooden structures to a modern Army post with permanent brick and cinder block buildings.
The Quartermaster Training Center, created to supervise the training of Quartermaster personnel and troop units, brought an intensification of training activity within the Quartermaster Corps.
As a result, the courses previously taught at former locations were incorporated into the curriculum of the Quartermaster School. Profound changes were evident at Fort Lee during 1962.
The Quartermaster School became a part of the Continental Army Command service school system and was also selected to serve as the home of the Quartermaster Corps and Corps Historian.
In July 1973, Fort Lee came under the control of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
Fort Lee now serves as the flagship installation for logistics excellence while providing support to U.S. Army, Joint and Coalition operations around the world.
Fort Lee’s population includes more than 3,000 military and more than 4,500 civilians. During fiscal year 2005, there were more than 2,500 family members living on the installation and more than 2,300 living off post.
The average annual student load for Fort Lee is more than 33,000. On any given day, Fort Lee’s population is more than 20,000.
The post also provides employment for nearly 3,000 civilians.
Fort Lee contributes more than $800 million to the local economy each year.
As a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure, Fort Lee will become the Sustainment Center of Excellence. The U.S. Army Ordnance Mechanical Maintenance School, the U.S. Army Transportation Center & School and the U.S. Army Ordnance Munitions & Electronics Maintenance School are scheduled to transfer to Fort Lee as a part of the COE. Fort Lee will also gain the Lackland Air Force Base and Great Lakes Culinary Training resulting in the Joint Center of Excellence for Culinary Training.
The Lackland AFB Transportation Training is also schedule to move to the installation, creating the Joint Center for Consolidated Transportation Management Training.
There are many transformations in Fort Lee’s future, the above mentioned are just some of them. Fort Lee’s population will grow by 83 percent in 2009.