- Historic California
Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
- Fort Mason: Battery
- 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
- 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
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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 removed.
- 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
Burnham October 2000
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UPDATED 24 June 2013.