World War I began to impact Chesterfield County on April 6, 1917 when the National Selective Service Act was enacted. Lacking a home guard and with no pre-war military organization, Chesterfield County's initial efforts to form an infantry unit started with a recruiting center located in the 1749 county courthouse (demolished in 1917). Chesterfield County volunteers aligned themselves with units such as the Richmond Grays or the Petersburg Grays; others waited for the draft. Over 1,480 men signed up for the draft; only 161 were selected. On October 26, 1917, when the cornerstone for the new courthouse was laid, one hundred drafted men were encamped on the courthouse grounds and a parade was held. Recruits were sent to various army regiments including the 80th Mountain Division at Camp Lee in Petersburg, VA, and to National Guard units stationed throughout the nation. Some soldiers who fought in France stayed until 1919, almost a year after the declaration of the Armistice on November 11, 1918. The valor of the men of Chesterfield County is commemorated on the historic 1917 Courthouse Green during the county's annual Veterans Day ceremony.Chesterfield WWI Camp
In 1917, the U.S. Army leased over 4,000 acres in Chesterfield County for training. The 313th Field Artillery occupied the Civil War Confederate
fort known as Parker's Battery and fired their guns into the swamps at Dutch Gap. J. Thompson Brown, a Richmond businessman, served in Parker's Battery during the Civil War and later purchased the land. In a letter to Maj. Gen Aldebert Cronkite, commander at Camp Lee, he wrote :
"I wish if possible, the threes and earth works, and the Battery redoubt to be spared and protected.....to me and the other survivors still living in and around Richmond every tree and square foot of ground is sacred and of hallowed memories."
Parkers Battery still exists today as a unit of the Richmond National Battlefield Park.