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Fort Mason: 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.
 
Ordnance
 
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 1894 #32:
Carriage Model 1894 #32 was mounted in 1901 under supervision of L.B. Davis and was leveled by Ordnance Dept.

 

 
Ammunition
 
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 the gun.
 
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.
 
Construction
 
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 battery.
 
"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 plans.
 
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 of them.
 
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 electric-lighting plant.
 
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 February 1901.
 
Power
 
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.
 
Miscellaneous
 
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 removed.
 
Abandonment
 
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 Today
 
Battery Burnham October 2000
 
To view the original plans of Battery Burnham, CLICK HERE

UPDATED 24 June 2013.


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