- Historic California
Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
- Fort Mason: Battery
- Battery Burnham
- by Justim M. Ruhge
- Battery Burnham was an 8-inch breech-loading
rifle, Model 1888, mounted on a Model 1896 Buffington-Crozier
carriage. This battery was named in General Order 16, February
14, 1902 in honor of Lieutenant Howard M. Burnham, killed in
action at the battle of Chickamauga, Georgia, September 1863.
Construction of this battery was essentially completed by September
1899. Costs for this battery were estimated at $28,700. The
site chosen was the very top of Point San Jose, above and behind
old Batteries East and West.
- In 1909 Battery Burnham was abandoned,
its gun dismounted and removed. It was the first of the Endicott
batteries to be eliminated because it no longer provided a useful
field of fire to defend the back of San Francisco Bay. The ammunition
was transferred to Battery Slaughter.
- Battery Burnham
- by Mr Chuck Wofford
- This battery was named
for Lt. Howard Burnham who was killed in the Battle of Chickamauga,
Georgia in September of 1863.
- This battery was armed with one 8-inch
breech loading rifle, Model 1888 , serial number 4. It was fabricated
by the Watervliet Arsenal. at the cost of $16,875.
- This gun was mounted on disappearing carriage
Model 1896, serial number 32. It was manufactured by the Lake
Erie Foundry. at a cost of $14,000.00.
- There were 38 built, and were emplaced
between 1897 and1901. There were 12 bolts, and the circle diameter
was 10'3", parapet height was 10'3", the center to
parapet was 8'6-1/2", there were generally 2 steps.
The following is information on the Model 1888, #4:
- Emplacement #1 - the reference height
of the crest was 120 ft above mean low water.
- Gun Model 1888 #4 was mounted and emplaced
in 1901 under the supervision Lt. L.B.Davis. Limits of elevation
of gun as mounted and emplaced: elevation; 18 degrees depression;
-5 degrees and the number of shots fired was 7.
- The following is information on the Model
- Carriage Model 1894 #32 was mounted in
1901 under supervision of L.B. Davis and was leveled by Ordnance
- The movement of ammunition must be very
rapid and it is the duty of the Engineer Department to so design
the emplacement that each and every step of the ammunition service
may be performed with such speed that the ammunition can be carried
to the breech of the gun at least as rapidly as it can be loaded
into the gun and fired; and so the rate of fire which can be
obtained from the gun be limited by consideration other that
the functioning of the portion of the ammunition service for
which the Engineer Department is responsible.
- In this battery being it was a two story
and had one shell room that was 10' x 24' and stored 100 shots
& 150 shells, and one powder room that was 10' x 24' and
stored 550 cartridge boxes, more could be stored if stacked higher.
The shot and shell room had two overhead trolleys that moved
the shells out of the room into the hall, (the only battery where
the U turns were not installed, but they both dead-in to the
back shell room wall) where they were loaded on a shot truck
and taken to the hoist for loading, (at the start it had a Hodges
back delivery hoist/no motor, hand control which was transfer
August 21 1900, and was not remodeled for long points), then
it got a new Taylor-Raymond hoist to move the ammunition. where
it was placed on a shell cart and loaded into the gun.
- The powder rooms did not have a trolley
to take propellant charges to the loading platforms. All the
powder charges are carried in a handbarrow by four men, being
the charges were light enough and were taken to be loaded in
- Gun Crew
- The organization of the gun section, was
as follows, this gun will be manned by a gun section (37 enlisted
men plus the reserve detachment) consisting of a gun squad, an
ammunition squad, and a mechanic, Each gun squad (26 enlisted
men) consists of the gun commander (chief of section) the gun
pointer, chief of the breech, the range setter, the telephone
operator, the recorder and 20 cannoneers, numbered 1-20 inclusive,
the ammunition squad (11 enlisted) consists of the chief of the
squad and 10 cannoneers, numbered for 21-30, inclusive. This
squad is divided by it chief into details for the service of
the powder and projectiles. Each section assembles in two ranks
with 4-inches between files and 40-inches between ranks. The
post of the gun commander is in the first rank, 1 pace to the
right of his section. Mechanics take post in the front rank on
the left of there respective section.
- As with any battery is to be built in
any Engineer district, as much information as may be necessary
is sent to the district officer.
- On January 24 ,1899 directions were given
by telegraph to start the work on this battery, with funds from
National Defense Act of March 9 1898. The allotted amount for
this battery was $28.700.00, plus an additional $4,000 and construction
was started in February 1899.
- This battery was to be located to the
left (west) of Battery West (1871-1876 period) where a few uncounted
mortars had once been placed. The battery was 135' across and
85' deep, there was a shot and shell room and a powder room (see
below). The Commanding Officer's room was 10' x 16' as was the
Guard Room; the Plotting Room, 10' x 16', the Hoist Room, 4'
X 5'; the Telephone Room, 10' X 5', the passageway was 6', and
the Observation Station was 6' X 8' wide also there were three
fireplaces, and the Latrines, which was on the left rear of the
- "Construction of this battery began
in April 1, 1898. The first step is to clear the site so that
the excavation can start, the excavation was begun March 2 of
that year and the work being done in two eight hour shifts.
- The excavation is clay to a depth of about
5', where it changed to soft rock, getting harder as the depth
increased. It was moved by blasting and loading into dump carts,
at an average cost of .69 per cubic yard, there was 6933 cubic
yards removed to put in a foundation. The foundation was uniformly
good under the entire emplacement, with no difficulty due to
unequal settlement having occurred.
- After the excavation was finished, they
started building the forms. On the timber used in making the
forms, in all cases dressed lumber was used, and then the reinforcing
for the concrete, they used wire mesh, steel bars, trolley tracks,
rails from railroads, bars, the reinforcing steel was measured
by the pound in place and ready for pouring concrete and included
an allowance for minimum laps, splices and hooks, if any item
needed to be embedded into the concrete such as bolts, anchor,
pipes or other embedded items were firmly and securely fastened
in place excluding the Maneuvering Ring, as indicated on the
- All possible precaution was taken to prevent
leakage. Walls in contact with the earth were plastered and painted
with paraffin paint and drain tiles were placed at the bottom
- Partition tiles were placed around all
the rooms and on three sides of the magazine. These tiles are
6" by 12" by 12 ", there being a partition in
the center dividing them into two parts 41/8 by 41/2", interior
measure. They are placed in the concrete about 2 feet from the
inner wall, and extend from a trifle below the floor to a foot
or two above the ceiling. At the bottom
is a gutter draining into the sewer system. The tile is set over
this gutter in mortar and the concrete placed on each side of
them. In this way the air spaces run continuously from the top
to the gutter below.
- Tile 6 by 6 by 12" outside and 41/2
x 41/2" inside are used to cover the top. They are grooved
so that one side can be knocked before they are placed in position".
- A damp-proof course or asphalt was placed
in the concrete about 2 feet over the magazine extending to the
outer edge of the partition tile and having a slight crown. This
course was about 1" thick and consisted of 85% per cent
pure asphaltum and 15% sand.
- The top surfaces were covered with a smooth
cement finish about 2" thick and marked off into squares
like a sidewalk. In some places this finish cracked along the
grooves marked on it causing slight leaks. These leaks were stopped
by filling grooves with grout. One of the last items to built
is the using of sand on the front and flanks of the lower floor
of batteries, the sand was filled in front of the concrete,(Horizontal
protection, front of magazine, 15 feet of concrete, 45 feet of
sand; equivalent to 30 feet of concrete.- Horizontal protection
front of gun, 15 feet of concrete, 40 feet of sand; equivalent
to about 28 1/2 feet of concrete- Vertical cover over magazine,
10 feet of concrete) then when a shell was fired at the battery
it has been found that a projectile entering a mass of sand appears
to have a tendency to deflect upward and to leave the sand with
out penetrating very far.
- The exception is the blast apron, which
is made of concrete, and immediately in front of the gun, they
had to be layered very carefully, or the would be blown away.
The District Engineer prepared the transfer drawing"
then the Engineer officer and the local Coast Artillery officer,
make an inspection of the structure, and if all is in order the
keys, are transferred to the Artillery commander. This battery
was transferred May 1 1900 at a cost of $32,500.00.
- The entire work was completed June 20
1899, so far as can be done until the hoist and base ring are
received, and the electric plant, and some of the plumbing, will
be soon be completed, but until the standard drawing of the chain
ammunition hoist for the 8" gun are issued the emplacement
will be left in it present state, until the gun and carriage
are received. The hoist arrived and was installed in July of
1901 at the same time a tool room was erected in the reverse
slope, racks were provide in the emplacement for rammers, and
several other minor changes were made on the switchboard of the
- The gun was delivered on October 7, 1900,
and the carriage January 13, 1901 to Fort Mason and the base
ring was set, and the gun was mounted all was completed in early
- Electrification of this battery was furnished
from a 5 hp Hornsby-Akroyd horizontal oil engine purchased from
the De La Vergne Company on January 10, l900. It was belted to
a 2.62 kilowatt, 125 volt D.C current, multi-polar Westinghouse
generator, also purchased on January 10, 1900. There were not
any telautograph service or post building lighted from this plant.
This plant was not designed for installation of parallel units.
No transformers or storage batteries The battery used 1.64 K.W.
for lights. The battery transferred to the Coast Artillery on
August 21, 1900 at a cost of $1,253.00. The # 9 searchlight was
located at Point San Jose and the generator was an independent
25kw, gasoline set located in abandoned Battery West magazine.
- Fire Control
- Burnham was tied into the same fire command
as Batteries Slaughter, Sherwood, Baldwin,
and Blaney. The Fire Command station
was behind and above Sherwood and was an F9. The "Crows
Nest" on top of the battery was it's B.C.
- This battery was connected to water and
sewer, with a latrine outside the battery, The Hodges hoist was
replaced by a new T/R,. when the new hoist was installed, the
winch of the old hoist was removed and installed at the District
Radio Station, Fort Winfield Scott. The ventilation for this
battery was national draft 6" vents from the magazine terminating
at rear wall, there was not any telephone in this battery. Trunnion
elevation in battery 118.0 Datum M.L.L.W.
- The gun and carriage were originally emplaced
at this battery, from August 21, 1900 until 1909,. In 1909, they
were removed and remounted Battery Rod, Harbor Defenses of the
Columbia. After this battery was closed its ammunition was sent
to Battery Slaughter and by 1909 it was complete abandoned (was
used for post plumbing shop) with it gun dismounted and carriage
- This battery was completed in 1899, but
was considered obsolete only eight years later, the first of
the Endicott battery to be so regarded in May 1908. The reason
for not using this gun was , the character of it armament (8-Inch)
and it unimportant field of fire, and did not justify a searchlight
or fire stations This battery only saw 8 years of service.
- Battery Burnham
Burnham October 2000
- Click above image
of a larger document
- Other Online
or Printed Histories
- Harbor Defenses of San Francisco - A Field Guide
1890 to 1950
UPDATED 24 June 2013.