Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Fort Baker: Battery Kirby
Battery Kirby
by Chuck Wofford
This Endicott era battery was named in War Department General Order 16 in 1902 for 1st Lt. Edmund Kirby, 1st U.S. Artillery, brigadier general of volunteers (was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on the day he died) who died on May 28 1863, of wounds received at the battle of Chancellorville Virginia during the Civil War of the 1890.
This battery was armed with Two 12- BLR rifles Model 1895 nos. 12 and 16 came from the Watervliet Arsenal. The distance between the guns was 120 feet, the gun cost $45,000.00.
These gun were mounted on disappearing carriages Model 1897 nos. 14 and 15 manufactured by Morgan Engineering Company, and the carriage cost $46,000.00. There were 35 manufactured, Original emplaced: 35, Time of emplacement:1899-1904, Number of bolts:14-inner, 12-outer, Circle of diameter :14' 2" inner, 18' 4" outer, Parapet height:13' 11.5", Center to parapet: 13' 11.5", And had 5 steps.

The following is information on the Model 1895 # 12 & 16:
The following is information on Carriage Model #1895 # 14 and # 15:
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 it 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 for.
The means which must be provided for moving ammunition depend of course upon the weight and bulk of the piece to be moved. In this battery the form of a trolley used in this battery are four wheeled travelers, running on the lower flanges of I-beams suspended from the ceiling of the shot room and passages, each trolley carried a half ton Yale-Weston triplex and Ordnance shell tongs which were the standards.
The projectile are stored in rows along the wall of the shell room, with there point to the wall so 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 them up, there was a trolley rail 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, there fore there was a passageway between the walls and between the rows where they were loaded on the trucks, so it would be easier to get the shells on the cart, where they were taken to the gun for loading.
Also as to lifting the shell from the pile, depending on the height to be raised, some can be done by hand; in this battery they used differential pulleys on a trolley.
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 de sired 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 its proper place.
All the powder is know carried in a handbarrow, by four men, and is taken to the loading area for loading.
The propriling, a stacked-type for 12-inch # MK XV1 BSCO were originally for the 10-inch M1888-95, there were some modification on the 10-inch so they could be used for 12-inch, with a web size of .133, which gave them a range of 17600 yds.
The ammunition supply for this battery was stored in the shell room which was 12x25 (there were 2 of them) and held 240, in each room. The size of the powder magazine was 15 x 26 and held 277. Larger amounts could be put in the shell and power rooms, by stacking higher or closer together, there was a total of 14000 Cu Ft.
There were no hoist in this battery, as they were not needed as it was considered to be a "split level ", it resembles a two story one from behind since the powder, plotting, and CO rooms are on a slightly lower level than the gun platforms, but the army called it a single story battery because ammo magazine are on the same level as the gun platforms.
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.
In August, 1898 a project was substituted for constructing a battery of two 12 inch guns at this point, an allotment of $76,917.00 was made the same month for it construction. Owing to the peculiarly sheltered position of this battery provision had only to be made against direct penetration. This was amply provided for and all concrete roof surfaces so shaped as to deflect any impinging shot. This favorable condition suggested the possibility of raising the magazines so as to disperse with lifts and greatly facilitate the service of the ammunition. This arrangement was adopted, the passageway being at the terreplein level, the floor of the magazine being 18" lower and that of the projectile rooms 1 foot lower. In rear of the terreplein an earthen slope with concrete stairs lead down to the level of a covered way upon which all service rooms open.
This battery was 210 feet across the front, and 120 feet deep, and contained the following rooms, Plotting Room 12" X 23 1/2", Engine Room that was 12 X 29 1/2 and in a separate room the Radiator Room or Fan Room which was 10 X 15 with a concrete wall between it with a Ventilating Duct connecting the two, the main Passage was 10' wide and 76' long, it was divided into three sections with a wooden partition at the end of 47' (used in later day storage ) section, between the partition was 17' and then the last section was 12'. The wooden partition has a door in each end, and at the end of the entire passageway there two steel swinging doors, going out onto the gun platforms, this was a one story battery, but the Engine Room and the Plotting Room, on the back of the battery, with the B.C. directly over the Plotting Room, it was 7' X 9'.
There we also two sets of building built outside the main battery, one behind emplacement # 2 was a tool Room , that was 7' X 20' and a Guard Room, that was 11 1/2 X 17 1/2, across and behind emplacement # 1 was the Latrine, one for officers, that was 6 1/2 x 9 and the enlisted men's was 6 1/2 X 16.
Construction of this battery began in 1899, with grading and clearing of the site, this took about seven day and at that time the excavation of the site was started with the removal of 15,857 cu. yds. of dirt and sand. The soil at the site of the battery is essentially aluvial; embankment of earth and clay were built on this to form the old earthen battery. The new battery is founded partly on natural ground and partly on the made ground of the old battery, and all parts of the concrete has not settled equally. It is evident that the floor of the passage and the thin walls were places of weakness were inequality of settlement of the masses in front and in rear of the passage produced a rupture.
As this progressed along the building of the forms was started, the forms were put in place and the only timber used in making the forms, in all cases is dressed lumber is to be used in making the forms. At this time the iron and steel, in the form of I beams for reinforcing ceilings, and in columns for supporting ceilings, As far as the walls and roof of the battery, they used old tracks or any type of scrap metal to reinforce the concrete, and all had to be in place before the pouring of he concrete was started, there was over 213,2l0 lbs of reinforcement used in this battery. It was not until the invention of the different system of rein forcing concrete by deformed steel bars, which started in about 1903 that the above was used for reinforcing concrete.
At this time the pouring of the concrete was started and 5,125 cu. yds of concrete in this battery., and 4,128 cu. yds of finished concrete. Upon removing the forms from the magazine in November 1898, it was discovered that the concrete had cracked in several places, the chief crack appearing in the long passageway extending in the rear of the powder and shot rooms, there being four of these cracks extending the entire length of the passage.
It was deemed best to defer further work on this concrete mass until the winter rains were over and final settlement had taken place. Work was therefore confined thereafter to other portion of the battery, such as excavation for parapets, retaining walls, gun platforms, etc.
Particular attention was given to the drainage of emplacement #3; it is drained directly to the front of the beach. A tunnel was driven under the old parapet, a 6-inch pipe laid and the tunnel then filled up. The permanent water supply of the battery comes from the ravine to the northwest. A concrete settling basis has been built in this ravine from which a pipe carries the water to the battery. A hydrant is placed in the rear of each emplacement; the water is under good serviceable pressure.
In construction of the aprons in front of the guns, as they rest partly upon national ground and partly upon fill, the old flat iron traverse circles were distributed through the concrete in such a way as to resist the effect of unequal settlement, they had to be layered very carefully. No evidences of settlement or cracking have so far appeared. At the end of this fiscal year ( June 30 1899) there was a balanced of $3,710.47, that had not been expended.
During the month of June the work of finishing up this battery was commenced in July 1899, as it was considered no further settlement of a serious character was to anticipated.
The cracks in the concrete were filled with cement mortar and the floors and walls were finished in the ordinary manner. The upper surface of the concrete covering of the rooms was finished with asphalt laid as following: First was placed a layer of hot asphaltie cement one eight inch thick; next a layer of asphaltic cement and sand about 21/4 inch thick, and last a layer of hot asphaltic cement one-eight inch thick with hot sand spread over it. This protective coating was laid with great care, but there indication that it is not waterproof and the subject of it removal and the substitution of other covering will receive consideration.
During October the carriages arrived in San Francisco in the fall of 1899, and were landed at the Fort Baker wharf, so a written agreement was made with Jas A. McMahon of San Francisco Ca, for moving the carriages from the landing to the site of the batteries for $2,947.00. The contractor delayed working, thinking the weather would be more favorable, and it was in April before the first barge load was delivered, an attempt to land the previous month proving unsuccessful.
During May the remaining parts of the carriage were successfully delivered, and in June the base rings were set, and recommendation made that the battery be turned over to the artillery. The gun were showed mounted in the 1902 report, but can not find out and record of them being received, they were mounted in 1900.
One of the thing to add, 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, In this battery over 15,000 cu. yds of fill, a lot of it was from the excavation of the battery it self.
When the structure is 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 Artillery commander. This battery was completed in 1900, and transferred on August 5 1900, at a cost of $70,334.18 .
Fire Control
The B.C. for this battery is located above and to the North, and was constructed in 1908; it was an early station with a metal roof. The B station was construction in 1908, the height above M.L.L.W. of tops of concrete piers for the range finding instrument: 29.32 ft, Height of axis of instrument above top of concrete piers: 4.38, Height of axis of instrument above M.L.L.W.: 33.7 ft, and had one D.P.F. Type A Model 1898 # 32, Telescope #7, all the equipment was removed from this station and abandoned about December 20 1934, and was put in storage at Fort Barry until the new station was completed at Tennessee Point to replace the abandoned station. The station was abandoned because of obstruction of field of view by the Marin Pier of the Golden Gate Bridge.
B Kirby was completed in 1910, Height above M.L.L.W. of tops of concrete piers for the range finding instruments, 372.3 ft, Height of axis of instrument above top of concrete pier 4.38 ft, Height of axis of instrument above M.L.L.W. 376.7 ft, Limiting azimuths of field of view: 67.30 degrees to 153.20 degrees. And was equipped with a Warner and Swazey D.P.F. Type "A" # 28. This station was abandoned about 1926.
A Primary Station B and was completed in 1901, Height above M.L.L.W. of tops of concrete piers for the range finding instruments, 394.23 ft, Height of axis of instrument above top of pedestal: 4.62 ft, Height of axis of telescope of instrument above top of pedestal 4.62 ft, Limiting azimuths of field of view: R. 67.85; L. 291.85 degrees. And was equipped with a depression position finding, Lewis, class "D" Model 1907 #32. All the equipment was removed February 25 1935, File number 413.6821/4. Height above M.L.L.W. of tops of concrete piers for the range finding instruments, 42.95 ft, Height of axis of instrument above top of pedestal: ? ft, Height of axis of telescope of instrument above top of pedestal ? ft, Limiting azimuths of field of view: N. 24.62; L. 291.37 degrees. And was equipped with a W and S Azimuth instrument Model 1900 # 268, and W.&S Azimuth instrument Model 1900 #217.
The Plotting Room was equipped with the following, 1- Whistler-Hearn Plotting Board (was later replaced with #61), 1-Deflection board Model 1905 #44, 1- Correction chart Model 1905 (1070 LB projectile), 1- Atmosphere slide rule, 1- Set forward board, 1- Prediction ruler, 1- Velocity graphic chard(1070 LB projectile), 1-Base line switch box # 113, 1- T.I. Bell, 1- Wind component indicator #25 Model 1906, 1-Board deflection Model 1905 complete #276. All of this equipment was removed when the battery was abandoned.
It had telephone and speaking tubes for data transmission , it also had a siphon la trine, and was connected to sewer and water,(The original source of the water supply was through spring water stored in wooden tank, Through long periods of disuse this tank deteriorated and fell to pieces, the pipe from the spring rusted away and be fore this battery can be put into full effective for war purposes an adequate source of water must be sup plied in order to accommodate the requirements of the above mentioned power plant) it also had natural ventilation by 6" vents from magazine terminating in traverse wall, trunnion elevation in battery was 40.0, Datum M.L.L.W.
On the one story back the constructions plans show 2 doors and 4 windows, I think this is a discrepancy, for one thing in looking at the battery and the R.C.W. of Dec. 1919, it shows one door and three windows into the plotting room, and one door and three windows into the engine room. This battery was the first to receive WW11 guns 4/155 were emplaced Dec 8 1941, for a short length of time.
This battery saw service from 1898 to March 30 1934, when it placed in "Abandoned" status by a Memorandum, HQ H.D. of San Francisco. The guns already been removed and the carriages remained in place until Aug. 1943, when they were sold for junk. This battery is on a walk in road going down to Kirby cove, a very pretty spot for taking pictures, but it is a long walk in and down to the beach.
A pre-World War II post card of one of the two 12-inch rifles located at Battert Kirby
Battery Kirby
by Justin Ruhge
A battery at Gravelly Beach for two 12-inch rifles was approved in August 1898. This emplacement would eventually be designated Battery Kirby.
When first planned this battery was to have four 12-inch rifles on an early lifting type of carriage. Later this plan was modified to place the guns on the Buffington-Crozier carriages.
Construction was on top of the earlier post Civil War 15-inch Rodman Gravelly Beach Battery. The arched brick culvert and two of the traverses with their magazines were retained. A screen blocked the brick culvert so no one could undermine the battery with a mine.
A $60,000 allotment from the fiscal 1897 defense budget was made for two guns in August 1898. Work began in November 1898. The battery was completed in August 1899. It was transferred on August 5, 1899 less armament. The guns were mounted by Ordnance and artillery troops over the following two months during September and October. On July 5, 1900 the Chief of Engineers notified the Secretary of War that the battery was completed. The 61st Company, Coast Artillery, conducted the first fire for practice on March 19, 1903.
Because of the peculiarly sheltered position of Battery Kirby in the narrow valley of Gravelly Beach, provision had only to be made against direct penetration. This resulted in an unusual design with an exceptionally thick-concreted magazine seawall and sloping roof surfaces shaped to deflect any impinging shot. At the same time it was possible to reduce to about 9.5 feet the magazine cover by allowing a slight rise at the battery center. The result was to make a one-story work, with an interval of only about 30 inches between magazine and emplacement levels.
The two 12-inch breech-loading rifles, Model 1894, Nos. 12 and 16 came from the Watervliet Arsenal. They were mounted on Buffington-Crozier disappearing carriages, Model 1897, Nos. 14 and 15, manufactured by the Morgan Engineering Company. This battery was named in General Order 16, February 14, 1902 in honor of Lieutenant Edmund Kirby, who died on May 28, 1863 from wounds received on May 3, at the Battle of Chancellorville, Virginia. Kirby was promoted to Brigadier General of Volunteers on the day he died.

Battery Kirby in action circa 1909.
Report of Completed Works - Seacoast Fortifications
Courtesy of the Coast Defense Study Group
Report of Completed Works - Seacoast Fortification: Battery Kirby
Additional Online Histories
Harbor Defenses of San Francisco - A Field Guide 1890 to 1950
Kirby Cove, Marin County
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Updated 23 June 2017