- Historic California Posts
- Fort Winfield Scott: Battery Lowell
- Battery Chamberlin's
Number 3 gun being fired prior to it's removal in 1918. Image
courtesy of Chuck Woffard
- Built in 1904 and mounting four M1903
6 inch guns on M1903 Dissapearing Carriages, this battery is
the centerpiece of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area's
program to interpert the history of the Harbor Defenses of San
Francisco. The small museum in one of the magazines is being
expanded and improved.
- The battery, which was the last fortification
to be constructed at Fort Winfield Scott, was named in honor
of Captain Lowell A. Chamberlin, a Civil War veteran who died
- Battery Chamberlin's guns were removed
for service in France in 1918 . They were replaced in 1920s with
two 6" M1900 guns on M1900 pedestal mounts in emplacements
2 and 3. These guns could fire serveral rounds per minute and
were used to defend the entrance of the harbor against small
craft and later to protect the defensive minefield from mine
sweepers. These were removed and scrapped in 1948.
- In 1976, the National Park Service replaced
one 6" M1905 gun (Number 9, Watervliet Arsenal) mounted
in a working M1903 (Number 2, Watertown Arsenal) disappearing
carriage that was donated by the Smithsonian. This gun originally
came from Battery Livingston, Fort Hamilton, Harbor Defenses
of New York. The two guns from that battery were re-emplaced
in Battery Schofield at the United States Military Academy at
West Point, New York for some time before given to the Smithsonian.
The other gun is now located at Battery Cooper, Fort Pickens,
does a Disappearing Gun Disappear?
- When a lever is pulled, a lead counterweight
drops and the aimed barrel rises to the firing position. After
the gun is fired, its recoil drops the gun below the parapet.
This feature made the gun invisible to enemy ships and protected
the crew during loading. But, while it was an effective weapon
against ships, it had no protection from what its designer could
not have foreseen, the airplane. Batteries designed after World
War I were casemated, providing their crews a large degree of
overhead protection. Below are some rare color photographs showing
the battery's gun in action.
- by Chuck Wofford
- This battery was initially
armed with four 6-inch rapid fire guns, Model 1903 numbers 26,27,28,
and 52 manufactured by Watervliet Arsenal, and were shipped to
this battery 14 November 1905, they were dismounted in 15 September
1917, and then were shipped back to Fort Monroe 28 January 1918
(presumably for use in World War I in France) then this battery
sat empty of guns and carriages for nearly 3 years until 1920
(Form 7 shows December1918). After 1919 the carriages were scrapped,
the guns went into storage at Aberdeen Proving Ground, but in
World War II, three of them (numbers 28,29, and 52) were had
some modification included changes to the rifling.
- In 1920 two Model 1900's
were mounted in Emplacements #2 and #3 that had been modified
to receive the two 6-inch guns. Serial number 21, was shipped
to Slocum, then 9 November 1905 to Fort Taylor, it's home battery
was Battery DeKalb, 2nd place was Fort Winfield Scott. Serial
number 31 was also from Battery DeKalb. The 1928 and 1944 inventories
show that they they were emplaced at Battery Chamberlain. This
battery saw service (4 guns) 1904-1917 and (2 guns) 1920-1948.
In 1976 the National Park Service mounted a Model 1905 #9--6-inch
gun in emplacement # 4. Today this is one of the few guns of
this era, that can still be seen, the rest were cut up for the
war and scrap after the war, very few were left.
- As to ammunition storage
and service, this battery, had a Shell Room and a Powder Room.
The movement of ammunition must be very rapid and it is the duty
of the Engineer Department to so design the emplacement so 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.
- The means, which must
be provided for moving ammunition, depend of course upon the
weight and bulk of the piece to be moved. The projectile are
stored in rows along the wall of the shell room, with their point
to the wall so that the bases could be gotten at for placing
fuses, the bottom layer of shells where placed in pairs and put
on timber skids, and then stacked using the same method., there
were trolley rails in this battery, so it was fastened to the
ceilings over the center of gravity of the shells in each row,
after 1908 this was changed, and the larger shells were stacked
in two rows down the middle of the shell room, therefore there
was a passageway between the walls and between the rows.
- As far as Powder Service,
the powder was shipped to the battery in metal cases and stored
in racks, that they were shipped in, in most cases, there ends
projecting into the passageway. When a cartridge was desired
the solder strip was to be pulled of without moving the cartridge
case from the rack, this loosens the top of the case and the
cartridge is then pulled out, leaving the case still fastened
in it proper place. The ammunition supply for this battery was
stored in the shell room which was 12 x 38 (there were 2 of them)
and held 304 in each room, The size of the powder magazine was
14' 3" x 36 and held 118. The battle allowance for this
battery was 600, and it's war reserve was 600 both stored at
the battery, and 200 H.E, were at the Central Reserve, Larger
amounts could be put in the shell and power rooms, by stacking
- 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. The first step
is to grade and clear the site, so that the excavation may be
started. Construction started on this battery in June 1902; at
the completion of the excavation, they had removed over 56,000
cu. yds. of dirt and sand, Construction was suspended, until
new plans for the battery were approved.
- The plans were eventually
accepted, and the work on installing the forms was started, on
the timber used in making the forms, in all cases dressed lumber
will be used. As the forms were finished the iron and steel,
in the form of I beams for reinforcing ceilings, and in columns
for supporting ceilings, for reinforcing concrete, they used
deformed steel. There was over 12,352 lb. of reinforcement used
in this battery.
- As the gun blocks were
being poured, the foundation, were started, there was poured
over 11,000 cu. yds. of concrete as well as 18,650 cu. yds. of
- This battery was 350'
across the front of the battery, 30 ' deep and 125' between the
guns., beside the Shot and Power Rooms, it also had a Spare Room
18' X 28'-6", a Plotting Room 13' X 18' which were located
between emplacement # 2 and # 3 of this two story battery, an
Oil Room, 10, X 20-6" and a Guard Room 10' X 20"-6",
and two Store Rooms 10' X 8'. these room were between emplacement
#1 and # 2 also on the other end of the battery was and Oil and
Tool Room10' X 20'-6" and a power room 10' X 20'-6"
and the Generator Room that was 10' X 20'-6", with a Latrine
for Officers and Enlisted 25' behind Emplacement # 1, also there
was a B.C. over the top of the rooms between emplacement #1 and
2 and Emplacement #3 and 4' The last thing to do was to add 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, there was over 19.000 cu. yds. of fill used.
- The exception is the blast
apron, which is made of concrete, and immediately in front of
the gun, they had to be laid very carefully. When the structure
was completed the district Engineer officer prepares the so called
"transfer drawing" then the Engineer officer and the
local Coast Artillery officer , make an inspection of the structure
, and all was in order and the keys, were transferred to the
- This battery was transferred
on December 27, 1904 at a cost of $100,803.45, and by March 1,
1904, Battery Chamberlain was reported to be ready for it guns
to be mounted, which had not yet arrived.
- This battery was electrified
around December of 1903, and it used 6.5 for Battery Chamberlain,
B/11, F/5, F/6, F/7, P/5, Fiv/1, Biv/1, one 25 kw, set was to
be installed in the engine room, the feeders and branch feeders,
were centered at a cabinet panel in the emplacement plant switchboard.
Prior to December of 1904 a few small electrical plants has been
installed in some of the batteries at Fort Winfield Scott, but
after analyzing the needs of the area, the board concluded that
a central power station was needed for each of the Forts, but
with the shortage of funds, it was decided to put the first one
at Fort Winfield Scott.
- Fire Control
- Traverse in Azimuth emplacement
one, left was 36 and right was 190, emplacement # two-left was
36 and right was 190 ( this was after the four were taken out
and the two were remounted).
- The B.C.-B1 was a standard
concrete station located on the left flank of the battery at
an elevation of 54 feet. An azimuth instrument Model 1910 and
a Swassey D.P.F., all type A11. were available. B2S2 was a single
dug in station at Fort Point at an elevation of 134 ft. The length
of the base line from BC B1 to B2S2 was 5400 yards. Spotting
was provided for stations BC-B1 and B2S2. The plotting room was
in the battery itself, and was equipped with a Model 1904 Whistler-Hearn
plotting boards. However, a 110 o Model 1915 plotting board was
required, and Point Bonita at an elevation of 233 feet was a
single dug in.
- In a letter dated Jul
6 1908, from Major Charles McKinstry, stated that a road was
to be built, from Lobos Creek supply road with a road branching
into this battery, in front of the battery on the beach 60 ft
from the front of the battery, thence through the sand dunes
in the rear of range finding station to the pumping.
- Declared surplus by a
classified letter in 1947 (Reference HQ AGF 602-1/109 (C) May
23 1947 GNGOS-1A May 23 1948 Subject: Harbor Defense Installations
to of Z1 Armies. Dismantling and removal of guns directed by
2nd Ind HQ Sixth Army September 2 1948 to Ltr Ch of Ord May 28
1948. Subject: "Ordnance equipment excess to the needs of
the H.D.S.F. to CG AGF.) these two weapons remained in service
until after World War II. Harbor Defense Project (HDSF-AN-45)
called for retention of this battery. Today this battery is in
excellent condition. The Park Ranger, in period uniforms at the
6-inch gun once a month, gives demonstrations in a gun drill.
This battery is historically significant because, it was the
only coastal battery in the Presidio to have survived in post
World War II days and emplacement number 4 today contains the
only Endicott period gun presently at San Francisco Bay.
of Battery Chamberlin, 1943
- Drawing courtesy
of Mark Berhow, Coast Defense Study Group
Chamberlin in World War II
"At the instant an alert sounds vigilant artillerymen leap
to their positions, draw back part of the clever camouflage and
prepare a big six-inch gun for hurling shells - if it should
ever be necessary - to guard San Francisco's coast line. That
is the swift action you see above...". 8 September 1942.
Photograph courtesy of the San Francisco Public Library
- Battery Chamberlin's
4 with the 6" rifle
today. Photo courtesy of Mark Berhow.
- Prior to
the Army turning Battery Chamberlin over to the National Park
Service, the Presdio used it as a NBC (Nuclear, Biological and
Chemical) defense training center. The room on the left was used
for CS agents, while the one on the right was used for CN. October
2 modified for the M1900 barbette mounted rifle. October 2000