Camp Pendleton

Camp Pendleton, in Virginia Beach, was established in 1912 on the Atlantic Ocean beach, just south of Rudee Inlet, as a rifle range for the state militia. Between 1922-1942, it was renamed after the current governor of Virginia - Camp Trinkle, Camp Byrd, etc. The current name honors Brig. Gen. William Nelson Pendleton, an Episcopalian minister at Grace Church in Lexington who served as Robert E. Lee's chief of artillery during the Civil War.

Early in his Confederate career, he was in charge of the Rockbridge Artillery, and named the cannon in his 4-gun battery after the canon of the New Treatament - Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John. His performance as Lee's artillery chief for the Army of Northern Virginia was less-than-stellar, especially at the Battle of Shepherdstown during the withdrawal after Antietam. In 1864, Lee eased him into a position where Pendleton retained his title but did not actually control the Confederate artillery.

(Camp Pendleton in California was named after Major General Joseph H. Pendleton, a Marine Corps general born in Pennsylvania...)

During World War 1 and World War II, the base was Federalized. The Navy preferred Camp Pendleton over Fort Eustis for coastal artillery training in World War I, because the artillery could shoot over the undeveloped Atlantic Ocean waterfront without worrying about objections by landowners on the "receiving" end. (Later, as the area developed, landowners did object...) The Army controlled the facility in World War II, and applied the Camp Pendleton name.

Camp Pendleton is losing its importance as the home of the Virginia Army National Guard. (Air National Guard bases were in Richmond and Newport News.) Much of the Virginia National Guard's training is conducted now at Fort Pickett, since urban development has occurred on the northern and western edges of the base. The 1st Battalion 111th Field Artillery Regiment (formed originally in 1829 as the Norfolk Light Artillery Blues) is the only remaining Virginia National Guard artillery unit. It trains at Fort Pickett, with practice rounds hitting targets 5 miles away.1

Virginia governors have used Camp Pendleton as a retreat from the capital in Richmond, though visits to the facility rarely attract attention equivalent to presidential visits to Camp David in Maryland - with two exceptions. When Governor Godwin was attending the Democratic National Convention in August, 1968 in Chicago, his 15-year old daughter Becky was struck by lightning and killed on the beach at Camp Pendleton. Governor Robb's visits became controversial after it was revealed he had attended parties at Virginia Beach where illegal drugs were used.



1. "Weapons give artillery unit old bang with new precision," The Virginian-Pilot, April 29, 2009 (last checked April 29, 2009)

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