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Fort Barry: Battery Alexander
 
 

 An unique view of Battery Alexander in 1941. Note that four of the battery's original eight 12-inch mortars are still in place. These too were removed in 1943. Photo courtesy of Brian B. Chin
 
Commenced in October 1901, this eight-mortar battery, smallest mortar battery in the defenses of San Francisco, was armed with breech-loading 12-inch mortars, all Model 1890 manufactured by the Waterlievet Arsenal with serial numbers 145 through 160. These were mounted on model 1896 Mark I carriages with serial numbers 277 through 284. These carriages were all maufactured by the Rarig Engineering Company. The battery was named on November 22, 1902 in honor of Colonel Barton S. Alexander of the Corps of Engineers, an associate of Colonel George Mendell's and the senior engineer on the Pacific Coast, who had died in 1878.
 
Pit A in 1908. Photograph from the Ralph Durland Collection. Courtesy of John Martini
 
In the summer of 1918, the four forward of the eight 12-inch mortars were dismounted and shipped to the Morgan Engineering company. The four carriages were not scrapped until 1920. The battery was declared obsolete in 1943 and its final four mortars scrapped. Today, the battery's pits are used as picnic area.
 
Technical Information
by Chuck Wofford
 
Ordnance
 
 

Model 1890 Mortar on M1896 Carriage

 
Mortars for Alexander were Model 1890 manufactured Waterviliet Arsenal numbers 145,147,148,150, 151, 155,159 & 160. The cost of the mortar was $7,750.00, and the mortar weighted 118,200 lbs with a range of 15,000 yards and had all-around-fire.
 
These Mortars were mounted on Carriages, Model 1896 (Later converted to Model 1896 MI) numbers 277,278,279,280,281,282,283 & 284 all manufactured by the Rarig Engineering Company. Cost of the carriage was $12,500.00, and the carriage weighted 302,000. There were 310 built, were emplaced between 1897 to 1921, there various reallocations and partial removals between 1917 to 1921. The carriage had 12 bolts on the inner and the same amount on the outer. The circle diameter was 13' 7" inside bolt ring.

The following is information on the Model 1890 Mortar in Pit A

In Pit A, the reference of crest was--180.97 feet, - Top of concrete on which lower surface of ring rests is 168.26 feet above M.L.L.W, and the top of the concrete which lower surface of base ring rest to top of interior is 12.71 feet.

Mortar #1 serial # 160 was mounted in December 1903 under the supervision of 2nd Lieutenant Nat F. Jamieson, the limits of elevation as mounted and emplaced, 71º-28 feet, and the number of shots fired from this Mortar from 14 November 1917 to 2 September 1941 was 134.

Mortar # 2 serial # 159 was mounted January 1904 supervision of 2nd Lieutenant Nat F. Johnson, limits of elevation of mortar as mounted and emplaced, 71º-28 feet, and, the number of shots fired from 8 May 1916 to 14 November 1917 was 47. (this mortar was removed 25 June 1918).

Mortar #3 serial #147 was mounted February 1904, under the supervision of 2nd Lieutenant Nat F Jamieson, limits of elevation of mortar as mounted and emplaced, 71º-28 feet, and the number of shots fired from 14 November 1917 to 2 September 1941 was 186 (this mortar was moved into Pit B, # 2 in this time period).

Mortar #4 serial #150 was mounted August 1906, under the supervision of 1st Lieutenant G.E.Manning, limits of elevation of mortar as mounted and emplaced, 71 º-28 feet, and the number of shots fired from 7 May 1916 to 8 May 16 was 36. (This mortar and Carriage was removed June 25 1918 and shipped to the Ordnance Department at Fort Scott).

The following is information on Mortars Model 1896 in Pit B

In Pit B the reference to the crest 180.97 feet- Top of concrete for which lower surface of base ring rest is 186.26 feet above M.L.L.W.--Top of concrete on which lower surface of base ring rests to top of interior crest is 12.71 feet.

Mortar # 1 serial # 151 limits of elevation as mounted and emplaced, 71 º 28 feet, and was mounted March 1904 under the supervision of 2nd Lieutenant N.F.Jamieson. Numbers of shots fired from 16 November 1917 to 5 April 1929 was 127.

Mortar # 2 serial #148 was mounted and emplaced, 71 º 28 feet April 1904, under the supervision of 2nd Lieutenant N.F.Jamieson. Number of shots fired from 7 May 1916 to 8 May 1916 was 37. (This mortar and carriage was shipped, June 25 1918 to the Ordnance office Fort Scott).

Mortar # 3 serial # 155 Mounted & emplaced, 71 º 28 feet in October 1904 under the supervision of 2nd Lieutenant N.F.Jamieson. Number of shots fired from 10 April 1918 8 August 1922 was 112.

Mortar # 4 serial # 145 was mounted and emplaced May 1904, 71 º 28 feet, under the supervision of 2nd Lieutenant N.F.Jamieson. Number of shots fired from 7 May 1916 to 14 November 1917 was 38 (This mortar and carriage was shipped to the Ordnance Department at Fort Scott on June 25 l918).

The following is information on Carriages Model 1896 in Pit A

Carriage # 1 serial # 280 was mounted December 1903 under the supervision of 2nd Lieutenant N.F.Jamieson, and was oriented in January & February 1906 by Corps of Engineers

Carriage # 2 serial # 278 was mounted January, 1904 under the supervision of 2nd Lieutenant N.F.Jamieson, and was oriented in January & February 1906 by Corps of Engineers

Carriage # 3 Serial # 277 was mounted January, 1904 under the supervision of 2nd Lieutenant N.F.Jamieson, and was oriented in January & February 1906 by Corps of Engineers

Carriage # 4 Serial # 283 was mounted and emplaced September 1906 under the supervision of 1st Lieutenant G.H.Manning, and oriented on December 1906 under the supervision Maj. C.H. Mckinstry. Removed from Pit A in August 18 1920.

The following is information on Carriages in Pit B:

Carriage # 1 Serial # 282 was mounted and emplaced March 1904 under the supervision of 2nd Lieutenant N.F.Jamieson, and was oriented in January & February 1906 by Corps of Engineers

Carriage # 2 Serial # 281 was mounted and emplaced April 1904 under the supervision of 2nd Lieutenant N.F.Jamieson, and was oriented in January & February 1906 by Corps of Engineers. Removed from Pit B June 25 1918.

Carriage #3 Serial # 284 was mounted and emplaced in October 1904 under the supervision of 2nd Lieutenant N.F.Jamieson, and was oriented in January & February 1906 by Corps of Engineers (Now # 2)

Carriage # 4 serial # 279 was mounted and replaced in May 1904 under the supervision of 2nd Lieutenant N.F.Jamieson, and was oriented in January & February 1906 by Corps of Engineers.

 
Ammunition Service
 
The magazines and service rooms were located between the pits under earthen traverses, The ammunition supply for this battery was stored in two shell rooms which were 11 X 53 which was 583 sq. feet with two halls way leading up to them which was 10 X 70, which made them "L" shaped, The form of trolley used in this battery was a simple I beam attached to the ceiling by bolts through an upper flange, this form consisted of a pair of wheels running on the lower flange on either side of the beam and held together by a U-shaped yoke hanging down under the beam, each trolley carried a half ton Yale - Weston triplex block. The shell was taken out of the shell room, down to the entrance of the battery, and there loaded on to a shell truck and taken to the mortar. It also had two powder rooms which were 10 X 47 or 470 sq. ft each, with a small 10 X 18 room between the two powder magazines, it also had tracks in the floor for small rail cars that carried the silken bags of gun powder out to the entrance of the battery. War Reserve for this battery was, 320 and the battle allowance for this battery was, 320 rounds of fire, this battery could hold up to 1470 projectile, 200 powder charges for which storage space is provided for in the main powder magazine is 200 per mortar.
 
Sub-Caliber Devices
 
This battery had 3 sub-caliber guns # 86; mortar #1, which fired a total of 417 rounds from 3 May 1910 to 3 August 1929; # 99; mortar # 2, fired a total of 428 rounds from 3 May 1910 to 5 August 1929; and # 87; mortar # 4, fired a total of 396 rounds between 3 May 1910 to 30 August 1941.
 
Construction
 
Plans and estimates having been requested on 29 May 1900, examinations were begun in June of the sites selected by The Board of Engineers, with a view of investigating the facilities for prosecuting the work. This battery was allotted $1,000.00 on 25 July 1900, $89,362.00 on 31 October 1900, and $16,505.00 on 11 May 1901.
 
The distance between the wharf and the site of the batteries being several miles over a mountainous road with an elevation of 640 feet at the highest point, the cost of transporting material by this road would be also prohibitory, so it was deemed best to make a hydrographic survey of a sheltered cove to determine whether a wharf could be built. The site of the wharf was selected, the depth of the outer end being 26 feet. To connect the wharf approach with good grounds above by a road was found to expensive, hence a tramway was designed to carry loads up to 6 tons in weight, was decided upon and built, from the foot of the wharf the tramway had a single car track which was 578 feet long, and was projected to reach the top of the bank at an elevation of 250 feet above the low-water plane. Also a barge 30 X 100 feet by 7 feet 6 inches deep capable of transporting safely loads of 200 tons in weight. The barge is to be used in the construction of the batteries for transporting supplies, it also carried the guns and carriages to the new wharf. The question of the transportation of supplies and the guns and carriages having been determined upon, the next thing was the clearing of the site. Construction of this battery began in 1901,when the site was cleared the excavation was started.
 
The first step is to put in the foundation for the gun blocks for the mortars, the excavation for this battery was in fine sand, fairly well compacted. It was easily removed with scrapers. Hard compact clay was encountered on the right flank of the battery under the service rooms, while on the left flank under the end pit wall, rock was found. The ledge extend under the two platforms nearest the wall, but dipped below the next two and the remainder of the battery. There was over 2900 cubic yards of dirt and sand removed from the excavation of this battery.
 
When the excavation is finished the forms are built, on the timber used in making the forms, in all cases dressed lumber will be used, also light thin lumber should not be used in the making the forms for the concrete.
 
After the forms are finished any iron or steel, in the form of I beams for reinforcing ceilings, and in columns for supporting ceilings, and for reinforcing concrete, which deformed bars were used, then the pouring of the concrete can start.
 
The concrete mixer was placed about half way between this battery and Battery Mendell, which was being built at the same time, there was 884 cubic yards of concrete plus a large amount of finishing cement. Owing to the delay in completing the concrete at Mendell, due to the failure of contractors in delivery of the iron work, it was considered best to proceed with the concreting at Alexander. In April mixing the concrete at the former and transporting to the latter in four horse dumping wagon. A permanent road was built connecting Battery Mendell with Battery Alexander. For a distance of 1,800 feet it leads through deep sand. A brush foundation was first laid, consisting of the stalks of lupih and sage brush, which were lightly covered with sand and left for the winter rains to pack firmly. Upon this footing were spread layers of disintegrated rock from the excavation of Battery O'Rorke, and crushed stone with considerable fine material from the quarry. The road was then watered and rolled with a roller of the "corrugated" type of 3 foot width and weighing 4,500 pounds. The roller was built on the works, the casting being obtained from a city foundry having been made to order from drawings. It cost when completed was $196.00. After the road was finished, a wagon could delivery one-barrel batch and was delivered in about twenty minutes. In this manner duplicate mixing plants were avoided and, it is believed, and equally good concrete was obtained.
 
The following sections of the battery were completed: The detached service rooms on the right flank, the pit walls for both pits, the four platforms on number 1 and two platforms in pit number 2, and the floor over the middle section of the battery containing magazines and shot galleries. In making the back fill over the service rooms the slopes were sodded instead of sown with seed. When the cost of taking measures to prevent he sand from blowing away and of protecting the slopes during the first winter is taken into consideration, the extra cost of the sodding over seeding is slight.
 
This battery was 330 ft across the front and 170 ft deep. There was a number of rooms in this battery, and they were as follows, two Oil Rooms which were 8' x 20', two Data Booths which were 7' X 7'-1", a Tool Room 6' X 12', a Plotting Room 12' X 20'-1", a Guard Room 12' X 20', a Main Passage which was 11' X 98', an Emergency Post Switchboard 12' X 20' a room for Battery storage 2' X 20', the Switchboard Room which was 10' X 20', and the latrines, one for the men that was 8' X 8' and the Officers that was 8' X 12'. On 1 June1915, Colonel Rees had some improvements made to this battery, "additional earth on top and in front of the power rooms and shell rooms, and some additional cover along the top and sides of the existing work"
 
This battery was completed in 1903 and transferred on 8 June 1905 a cost of $1,000,382.00.
 
Power
 
The power plant for this battery was furnished by the Battery Guthrie plant. The battery itself needed 8.2 kw of power for the lights, there being no motors in this battery. On 23 June 1942 under 662-B-296, commercial power was approved for and installed.
 
Miscellaneous
 
Battery Alexander was the only mortar battery constructed on the north side of the Golden Gate having two pits in a straight line each had four weapons each, and was installed on the western portion of the Lime Point Reservation, during this period, its form fairly typical of the later mortar batteries construction in the United States This battery was contacted to water and sewer, with a siphon latrine, and it used telephones and speaking tubes (the speaking tubes were installed throughout the battery during construction, but were not connected with telautograph booths or telephones, these were built in the rear of each emplacement during 1905, work of installing a complete system of communications was commenced in August 1908, and were completed on 1 January 1915. The zone signal equipment was obsolete and removed and salvaged January 1940) for data transmission,
 
The ventilation in this battery was natural draft, two 6” flues from each magazine extending thought the roof in one 10" flue terminating in metal cap, there were no hoist in this battery. This battery had a range of 15,000 yards.
 
The elevation of the battery was 176.62 feet above mean low water (MLW), (Official elevation was taken at "Center Ring Bolt 'B' Pit") original when it had eight 12-inch mortars in two pits, each pit containing four pieces; pit centered 175 feet apart; within the pit, mortars arranged in a square 25 feet on a side, (The two forward mortars were removed in 1918 for mobile use in World War I, #2 and #4 of both Pits and the carriages were sold for junk). This battery was reclassified to a Class C status for use as a training and target practice in lieu of Battery Livingston on 3 July 1941. In a classified letter dated 28 July 1944 this battery was in use for storage for Fort Winfield Scott.
 
Fire Control
 
The plotting room for this battery was located inside the battery, which was constructed in 1909, and had one each of the following equipment.
 

 

The telephone switchboards which housed the Fort Barry Fire Control switchboard from 1909 until 1943, the original was listed as a standard type B, which was installed in 1909.
 
Sometime before 1943, new upgraded equipment was installed, also in 1918 there was additional protection given to the Fire Control and Switchboard Room, at the rear of the battery.
 
The Battery Command was at the battery. This battery it also had a BC2, B4/5, S4/5 which was a double concrete station on Point Bonita at an elevation of 269 feet, which was construction in 1909 just below the light house, this station was to serve as an emergency Battery Command and observation station and as a fog station., with a field of view Left-353 degrees, Right 158 degrees, the heights of axis of instrument above MLW was 277.7 feet, Height of the top of pedestal for range finding instrument was 272.7 feet with a Warner Swassey D.P.F. , Class A-2, No 157.
 
Also a B3/5, S3/5, a double dug-in was constructed at Frank Valley at an elevation of 480 feet and was to provide a northern baseline as the two emergency stations, B2S2 was located at Fort Miley at an elevation of 350 feet which was construction in 1938 with an Azimuth 334 degrees- 25 feet- 19.20 feet, with a range of 5044.42 yards. Height of axis of instrument above MLW was 350 feet. Trunnon in the floor of pit was 170.6, Datum M.L.L.W. Traverse in Azimuth was Emplacement 1,2,3,4, Left and Right was all-around-fire".
 
Abandonment
 
This battery saw service from 1905 to August 1943, its armament was dismounted and salvaged in 1943, and sold for junk. One of the shell rooms were used to store the Fort Barry radio in May 23 1940. It was reclassified to Class C, to be used in training and target practice in lieu of Battery Livingston, Reference 662.b (SAN FRANCISCO) 396 DATED 3 July 1941. And the battery was also used to store mine explosives April 27,1944. The radio, equipment was removed from the battery some time prior to April 1943.
 

 


 
Layout of Battery Alexander, 1923
 
Drawings courtesy of Mark Bernow

What are Seacost Mortars?
 
Battleships and cruisers might have had more than a foot of armored plate on their sides, but their decks were reatively thin. Battery Alexander could exploit this weakness. Fired in groups, mortars hurled 700 pound projectiles in a high arc to drop onto the warships unprotected decks
 

Battery Alexander Today
 
 
 
Picnic area in Pit 2. The location of the mortars can be clearly seen. October 2000
 
UPDATED 24 JUNE 2013

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