Cheatham Annex
Part of Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group
York County, Virginia
Aerial photograph of Naval Weapons System Yorktown, Va and Cheatham Annex (June 17, 2009)
Cheatham Annex
Cheatham Annex
Coordinates37°17′8″N 76°36′24″W / 37.28556°N 76.60667°W / 37.28556; -76.60667Coordinates: 37°17′8″N 76°36′24″W / 37.28556°N 76.60667°W / 37.28556; -76.60667
TypeMilitary base

Cheatham Annex is a Naval Base, located near Williamsburg, Virginia on the York River approximately 35 miles northwest of Norfolk in the heart of the famous Jamestown–Williamsburg–Yorktown "Historic Triangle." Although Cheatham Annex was not commissioned until June 1943, the land on which the base is located can claim the unique distinction of having been associated with every conflict involving the United States freedom and independence. The mission of Cheatham Annex includes supplying Atlantic Fleet ships and providing recreational opportunities to military and civilian personnel.


Cheatham is on the York River, in Virginia
Cheatham is on the York River, in Virginia

Cheatham Annex facility is located outside of Williamsburg in York County, Virginia. The annex is adjacent to the York River, between Queen Creek and King Creek, approximately 15 miles upstream from the Chesapeake Bay. Located in York County, Virginia at latitude 37.284 and longitude -76.591. or Latitude: 37°17’2”N Longitude: 76°35’25”W. The average elevation is 26 feet. 5” The eastern section of Cheatham Annex is a 1,579 acre federal facility bounded by the entrance of Queen Creek into the York River to the north, the York River to the east, ane King Creek to the south, the western boundaries are with Department of Interior (DOI) property. The former Virginia Fuel Farm is across the Colonial Parkway, southwest of this section of the annex. This former part of Cheatham Annex, 262 acres of contaminated soil, is being turned into a golf course.[1]

The western section of Cheatham Annex is bounded to the north by the Colonial Parkway, and half of the eastern boundary is adjacent to the Virginia Fuel Farm. The remaining western, southern, and lower eastern boundary is adjacent to non-federal government land. There are several ponds on, or adjacent to the annex, including Penniman Lake, Youth Pond, Jones Pond, and Cheatham Pond. Overland drainage from the sources at the annex may flow into these ponds or the York River


Positioned in the center of the Jamestown–Williamsburg–Yorktown "Historic Triangle," CAX was once the location of a native Indian village.[2]

Before 1607, and 1607 to 1624

Old maps and artifacts indicate an Indian village existed in the area of Penniman Spit, located on base. Historians believe that a Spanish Jesuit Mission occupied the area and was annihilated in an Indian massacre in 1572. Beginning in the 1700s colonial settlers gradually displaced the Indians. The initial settlement of Virginia was the task of the Virginia Company, a private English corporation. From the founding of Jamestown in 1607 to dissolution of the company in 1624, colonization activity was confined to the James River, and practically everyone in the Colony lived on the banks of this one river.

1625 to 1700

A census taken when the crown assumed administration of the fledgling Colony lists a total of 1,232 individuals alive in Virginia in January 1625. Included among the 1,232 were Ensign John Utie, his wife Anne, their son John, and three servants living on a plantation of 100 acres called Utopia, on the James River below Jamestown. In 1630, the Governor decided to settle the lands along the lower York River, and Captain John Utie was awarded 600 acres on the south side of the river. Captain Utie named his new plantation Utiemaria and lived there until November 1638, by which time he died. His son John Utie acquired Utiemaria and possessed it until it was sold to Col William Tayloe (the immigrant) in 1640. Col William Tayloe's widow, Elizabeth Kingsmill, married Colonel Nathaniel Bacon and they used King's Creek (as it was then called) as their residence although the deed was held by William Tayloe, though they owned other property. This Colonel Bacon, who rose to the president of the Council of the State, was first cousin once removed of Nathaniel Bacon, Jr., who led Bacon's Rebellion.

Another resident of King's Creek was Colonel Bacon's young niece, Abigail Smith. Sometime before 1675, Abigail Smith married Lewis Burwell I, a prosperous planter.[3] On Nov 23, 1693 Col. William Tayloe (the nephew) of Richmond Co., VA, nephew and heir of Maj. William Tayloe (the immigrant), late of King's Creek in York Co., deceased, deeds to Lewis Burwell, 1200 acres between King's Creek and Queen's Creek on York River, formerly the property of Col. William Tayloe (the immigrant), the elder.[4]

1700 to 1800

At a cemetery onsite, there is a 1718 grave of this 29-year-old son of a Virginia planter and Major.[5] The brick-walled cemetery sits adjacent to a tee on the golf course. James Burwell was one of the justices for York County and a burgess from 1715 to 1718.[6] On Lewis Burwell's death in 1710. King's Creek Plantation passed to his son James Burwell.

In the 1780s Cornwallis' British troops and General Washington's Continental Army used a site on what is now Cheatham.

Owners of King's Creek Plantation:[citation needed]

1800 to 1850s

1850s to 1900

In April 1862 all of Yorktown, including this site, was caught under a thirty-day siege which included the largest concentration of artillery in one place at one time in history. This was during the Seven Days Battles or more correctly referred to as the Peninsula Campaign. This was the unsuccessful attempt by McClellan to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond and end the war.

1900 to 1942

The area land was used primarily for farming until World War I when the E.I. Dupont Company built a large powder and shell-loading plant. The Dupont plant loaded explosives into large-caliber shell. Founded during the early 1900s the town was named Penniman, in honor of Russell S. Penniman, inventor of ammonia dynamite. Penniman, Virginia, eventually grew to a city of over 15,000 residents.

During World War I, prior to Navy ownership and activity, a portion of the current Navy property was the location of a large powder and shell-loading plant, the duPont de Nemours Company's U.S. Penniman shell-loading plant. The Penniman shell-loading plant operated under contract to the U.S. government loading shells from 1917 to 1918. The facility consisted of approximately 3,300 acres and included what is now the Cheatham Annex, the United States Department on the Interior National Park Service (National Colonial Park), and the Virginia Department of Emergency Services fuel farm (no longer active).

During this time the area included a city of 10,000 people and was named Penniman. The Penniman shell-loading plant, which was a large powder- and shell-loading facility operated during World War I. The Penniman facility closed in 1918. By May 1919, less than 100 people remained in the city of Penniman and by 1920 the land had reverted to farmland.

Following the end of World War I in 1918, through 1926, the U.S. government operated the Penniman General Ordnance Depot to prepare manufactured ordnance and explosives for long-term storage and shipment to permanent U.S. ordnance depots. At the same time, E.I. duPont de Nemours Engineering Company was decommissioning military ordnance and dismantling the former shell-loading plant and TNT plant structures. From 1926 to 1942, the land was in private ownership and was used for farming or left idle.

1942 and WWII

With the outbreak of World War 2, the US government construction began on August 27, 1942 at Cheatham with the erection of a supply pier. The pier consisted of an approach, 2,850 feet long by 28 feet wide, with an L-head at the extreme outboard end, 1,215 feet long by 42 feet wide, parallel to the river channel.

Early in September, 1942, work began on the construction at Cheatham of 10 storehouses, an administration building, and all the appurtenant buildings and services needed to make the annex a secure and independent naval installation. The warehouses were of temporary construction, without heat or sprinklers, 120 feet by 828 feet, one-story, affording approximately 1,000,000 square feet of covered storage space.[7]

This area of land located in the Jamestown, Williamsburg, Yorktown historical triangle was seized by the Navy on June 21, 1943. When commissioned and annexed to the Naval Supply Depot at Norfolk, the facility was renamed FISC Cheatham Annex in honor of RADM Joseph Johnston Cheatham, the 1929 Chief of the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts, the forerunner of today's Naval Supply Systems Command. He was also the fifth and eighth commanding officer of Naval Supply Depot Norfolk.

The first ten storehouses at Cheatham Annex were built in 1943. They were one-story cinder-block and timber-frame structures, 835 feet by 120 feet, with concrete ground-level floors. The second group of warehouses, built in 1945, were six storehouses, doubled the station's general storage capacity, by virtue of the buildings' 200-foot width on the 835-foot length. Steel-frame construction was used. The transit shed was of bolted-steel construction, 1,500 feet long by 240 feet wide.

Door to Warehouse 13
Door to Warehouse 13

The cold storage building, originally built 677 feet by 200 feet, was later extended to 877 feet in length. It had concrete foundations, brick and cinder-block walls, wood frame, and concrete floors at car-door height.

The Fleet Industrial Supply Center, Cheatham Annex, officially opened in 1943 as a storage depot, built on the site of a munitions plant. The 1,572-acre property included 7 archaeological sites, Colonial grave sites, DuPont Company buildings built in 1910, and several World War II buildings.[8]

At inception, CAX occupied approximately 3,349 acres.

In March 1943, construction began of a sizable tank farm at Cheatham Annex, near the fuel depot at Yorktown. Fifteen tanks, of 50,000-barrel capacity each, were installed underground for the storage of fuel oil. Three more of these tanks were provided for diesel oil. A timber T-shaped fueling pier was constructed into the York River, with an approach 2,625 feet long and a head 910 feet long.[7]

Several portions of the original base have since been declared surplus and transferred to other government jurisdictions, including the National Park Service, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and York County.

As a satellite unit of the Naval Supply Depot, Cheatham Annex provided bulk storage facilities and served as an assembly and overseas shipping point throughout World War II.

During World War II, from 1944 to 1945, 520 German and Italian prisoners of war were held at Cheatham Annex.[9]

21st century

CAX currently occupies 2,300 acres. CAX is divided into two parcels, with the larger parcel situated along the banks of the York River.[10] Almost all of the activities at CAX (administration, training, maintenance, support, and housing) take place in this portion of the Installation. The smaller parcel is located south of the Colonial National Historic Parkway. This area contains Jones Pond and is used mainly as a watershed protection area. In July 1987, CAX was designated the Hampton Roads Navy Recreational Complex. Today, the mission of CAX includes supplying Atlantic Fleet ships and providing recreational opportunities to military and civilian personnel.[10] As part of the Navy's Mid-Atlantic installation claimant consolidation, Cheatham Annex, formerly an annex of the Fleet Industrial Supply Center, Norfolk, was incorporated with the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station on October 1, 1998.[11]

Current status

The facility provides complete retail supply support services for approximately 40 tenant activities between Cheatham Annex, Williamsburg and Naval Weapons Station, Yorktown. Included as part of this support service is custody asset storage for large, bulky and unique Navy material and programs. At the 50th anniversary of the installation, in 1993, the base employed 128 civilians and housed 627 tenants from other military commands and 307 reservists.[12]

Cheatham Annex has also been called the “Capital of Navy Expeditionary Logistics” as the U.S. Navy reserve command, Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group. There are eighteen warehouses, providing approximately 2.3 million square feet of unheated space and 300,000 square feet of controlled humidity space. The command's new headquarters and training building was designated as a 2009 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certified building. The 38,960 square foot building joins the command element, administrative, operations and training departments under one roof– providing significantly enhanced capabilities for garrison operations.[13]

Expeditionary training for Navy logistics and cargo handlers, both active duty and reserve, is conducted at Cheatham Annex. These units have deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan in support of operations on both fronts. CAX is also homeport to USNS Zeus (T-ARC 7), for Military Sealift Command (MSC). Zeus is capable of laying 1,000 miles of cable at depths of up to 9,000 feet and is the only ship of her type currently operated by the U.S. Navy. [14]

Cheatham Annex is headquarters and home for the Navy's “Combat Stevedores” the predominantly Reserve cargo handling command with one active duty battalion, and home away from home for 10 Reserve battalions, and four regiments.[15]

The Navy Expeditionary Medical Support Command (NEMSCOM) is a tenant command on Cheatham Annex.[16] Navy Expeditionary Medical Support Command is Navy Medicine's lead agent for the deployable medical systems.[17] This was originally the Fleet Hospital Support Office, providing medical and surgical support to the needs of all sailors, marines, soldiers and airmen deployed. In 1997, the Chief of Naval Operations, as part of the Base Realignment Act, moved the FHSO from Naval Air Station, Alameda, CA to Cheatham, VA. In April 1998, the mammoth relocation process was successfully completed as more than 100 Naval Reserve men and women from Navy Cargo Handling Battalion 5, home-ported in Tacoma, Washington, offloaded hundreds of containers, civil engineering support equipment, and military vehicles to warehouses at Cheatham Annex.[18]

For government usage, the outdoor range at Cheatham Annex (CAX) is capable of handling all pistols, shotguns and rifles up to and including 7.62 mm. The surface danger zone (SDZ) of the outdoor range extends over portions of the York River. Utilization of the range may be affected at times due to the transit of boats through the SDZ. An increase of boat traffic occurs mainly during the summer months and through the commercial fishing season.[19]

Since October 18, 2002, Cheatham Annex purchases its drinking water from the Newport News Waterworks, operated by the City of Newport News.[20]

In 2009, Cheatham Annex was named “Tree City USA” community. The Arbor Day Foundation recognized the facility for its community forestry.[21]

On base recreation

MWR brochure, circa 2010
MWR brochure, circa 2010

The Navy Morale Welfare and Recreation (NMWR)[22] runs a cabin and recreation facility on Cheatham Annex. Cheatham Annex (CAX).

CAX is home to the largest Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Outdoor Recreation facility on the East Coast. Active duty, Reservists and military retirees and their dependents can take advantage of a wide range of facilities, including 54 cabins, 50 RV parking spots, 20 primitive campsites and more than 10 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. Along with fishing on two lakes and the York River, swimming pool and an 18-hole golf course, the MWR Outdoor Recreation is ideal for military families looking for a chance to relax.[23]

Ecological footprint

Endangered animals

Stygobromus araeus
Stygobromus araeus

The globally rare interstitial amphipod, Stygobromus araeus, is closely associated with the groundwater in shell marl or limestone deposits.[24] Identified in 1969 by Dr. John R. Holsinger,[25] the 2002 DoD report on Species at Risk on DoD Installation [26] describes this animal as 'A small, unpigmented, blind amphipod. The species is sexually dimorphic, with males ranging up to 0.70 cm in length, and females to 0.55 cm.' This extremely rare species is only found on the coast of southeastern Virginia.

Environmental sites

There are several sites designated on the Cheatham Annex grounds that illustrate the legacy and usage of the site over the years. The overhead view of the facility shows the sites either clustered around naval storage areas or abandoned manufacturing sites.[10]

Sites designated as "No Further Action (NFA)" sites

Active sites

The following are considered sites requiring active environmental actions.[28]

Areas of concern

  1. Ammonia settling pits – This area consists of earthen ammonia settling pits that were part of a former shell-loading area located on Cheatham Annex. Wastewater from an ammonia finishing building was discharged through these settling pits.
  2. TNT-graining house sump – These areas consists of a concrete-lined, open-top pit believed to be the sump pit for the trinitrotoluene (TNT) graining house in the former shell-loading area. Located near the dam at Penniman Lake.
  3. TNT catch box ruins – The catch box ruins area consists of an earthen, brick-lined depression located immediately adjacent to the TNT-graining house in the former shell-loading area. This area was used to separate TNT particles from wastewater. Located near the dam at Penniman Lake.
  4. Waste slag material – This area consists of waste metallic slag material that is located throughout the shell-loading area predominantly along the railroad tracks.
  5. 1918 drum storage – This area was used for the storage of 55-gallon drums when the shell-loading area was active. The site is currently a yard area around facility buildings.

Recent news

The senior enlisted chief at Cheatham Annex, Command Master Chief Richard Ward, was relieved by the Expeditionary Support Group Command in February, 2012. CMC Ward committed fraternization, willfully disobeyed a commissioned officer, misused a government cell phone, and made a false official statement.[29]

The command master chief of Navy Cargo Handling Battalion (NCHB) 4 was relieved of duty March 14, 2012 by the commodore of 2nd Navy Expeditionary Logistics Regiment (NELR), at Cheatham Annex, VA. Capt. Charles Rink relieved Master Chief Logistics Specialist Scott Splitgerber, U.S. Navy Reserve, due to misconduct he committed while assigned as the command master chief of NCHB 4.[30]

Marines and sailors of 2nd Marine Logistics Group participated in a large-scale training operation designed to prepare the nation's amphibious – logistics warfighters for an actual humanitarian aid and disaster relief operation, spanning the East Coast from Camp Lejeune, NC to Norfolk, Va., June 11–16, 2012. Elements of the Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group based at Naval Weapons Station Yorktown – Cheatham Annex, Williamsburg, Va., teamed with 2nd MLG's Combat Logistics Regiment 27, Combat Logistics Battalion 8, and CLB-6 to provide support for the Expeditionary Logistics Wargame.[31]

A new Navy Ordnance Cargo Logistics Training Complex was completed in September 2013. The training facility consists of two buildings, with a 600-square-foot chemical test chamber and a new mock pier, warehouse and cargo hold for training with luffing cranes [32]


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  15. ^ Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group Change of Command Ceremony
  16. ^ "Visitor Information". Retrieved 2012-08-20.
  17. ^ "Command Mission". Retrieved 2012-08-20.
  18. ^ "Command History". Retrieved 2012-08-20.
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  24. ^ "Natural Communities of Virginia – Palustrine System – Non-Alluvial Wetlands of the Coastal Plain and Piedmont: Coastal Plain / Piedmont Basic Seepage Swamps". Archived from the original on 2012-09-26. Retrieved 2012-08-20.
  25. ^ "The Department of Biological Sciences". Archived from the original on 2012-07-27. Retrieved 2012-08-20.
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  28. ^ "Superfund Program Site Fact Sheet" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-08-20.
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  30. ^ "NCHB 4 Command Master Chief Relieved of Duty". 2012-03-16. Retrieved 2012-08-20.
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