Historic California Posts, Camps,
Stations and Airfields
Fort Baker: 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:
Emplacement #1 and # 2 The reference height
of the crest=35.3 ft above mean low water.
Gun # 1 Model 1895 # 12was mounted and
emplaced October 10 1900, under the supervision of 2nd Lt. H.B.
Clarke, Limits of elevation of gun as mounted and emplaced:10.14'
elevation; 1.05 depression, and the number of shots fired was
32. Azimuth and Altitude test made by Otto Von Gildeen, January
2nd and 8th 1901. This gun was dismounted Sept 21 1933 and sent
to Fort Scott and then on Sept 27 1933 on orders # E-4174, from
the Chief of Ordnance was shipped on the Ludington to H.D Manila
and Subic Bay. This gun was emplaced in Battery Cheney on Corregidor.
Gun # 2 Model 1895 # 16was mounted and
emplaced September 20 1900, under the supervision of 2nd Lt H.B.
Clarke, Limits of elevation of gun as mounted and emplaced:10.12'
elevation; 1.11 depression, and the number of shots fired was
31. Azimuth and Altitude test made by Otto Von Gildeen, January
2nd and 8th 1901. This gun was dismounted in the early part of
1941, and sent to HD Manila and Subic Bay, and was a spare for
Battery Cheney, but was never emplaced.
The following is information on Carriage
Model #1895 # 14 and # 15:
Carriage Model 1895 #14was mounted 1900
under the supervision of 2nd Lt. Gardener, and was leveled Sep
27 1906 under the supervision of Mr Harkins.
Carriage Model 1895 #15was mounted in
1900, under the supervision of 2nd Lt. Gardener, and was leveled
September 27 1906 under the supervision of Mr Harkins.
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
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
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
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
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
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 .
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
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
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
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.
Completed Works - Seacoast Fortifications