Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Fort Baker: Battery Orlando Wagner

Battery Orlando Wagner
by Justin Ruhge
Battery Wagner was planned for three 5-inch guns on balanced pillar mounts. However, the ridge slope on which it was to be located was found to be too narrow for more than two emplacements and the limited space made it necessary for the total width of the work to be kept to a minimum. For these reasons, the magazines were placed under the loading platforms. The battery was begun in May, 1899 and finished within a few months. A delay in the arrival of the carriages interrupted its completion for over a year until December 1900. This was the first battery north of the Golden Gate to be built with metal doors to the magazines. Wooden doors warped under exposure to the weather on the Marin County side of the Gate.
The two 5-inch breech-loading guns were Model 1897, Nos. 19 and 21 manufactured by Bethlehem Steel Company and mounted on balanced pillar mounts Model 1896, Nos. 10 and 11 also from Bethlehem Steel Company.
Construction work was completed on July 3, 1901. The battery was turned over to the troops on August 21, 1901.
The battery was named in General Order 194 for December 17, 1904, in honor of Lieutenant Orland G. Wagner, Topographical Engineers, who was mortally wounded at the Civil War siege of Yorktown, Virginia, in 1862.
Battery Orlando Wagner
by Chuck Wofford
This Endicott battery of the 1890 project was named in GO 194 on December 17 1904 in honor of Brevet Major Orlando G. Wagner a topographical engineer, (he was a 1st Lieutenant in the engineers) who was mortally wounded at the Civil War siege of Yorktown, Virginia on April 16, 1862.
The two 5" rapid fire guns mounted here were model 1897 nos. 19 and 21 and were manufactured by the Bethlehem Steel Company. The cost of the gun was $6,250.00, and the weight of the gun was 11,120 lbs. The distance between the guns was 45 feet.
These guns were mounted on Bethlehem Steel Company, Balanced Pillar Mount, and were model 1896 nos. 10 and 11 with a maximum elevation 15 degrees. The number that was built was 32; original emplacement 32; time emplaced 1897-1903, with relocations until 1917. The circle diameter: 4'9" collar & plate, Parapet height 6'8", Center -to-parapet 10' 6", and the collar was mounted on 12" elevated concrete cone. The cost of the carriages was $8,150.00, and the total weight, complete with counterweight weight 48,809 lbs.
The following is information on the Model 1897:
Emplacement # 1 the reference height of the crest = 299.6 and Emplacement #2 the reference height of the crest = 299.4, above mean low water.
Gun # 1 Model 1897 Serial 19was mounted and emplaced May 2 1902, under the supervision of Capt Hancock and Mech. Barn, Limits of Elevation = 15o and the number of shots fired were 49 (1913 list), and proof fired July 17 1902.
Gun # 2 Model 1897 Serial 21was mounted and emplaced May 1 1902, under the supervision of Capt Hancock and Mech. Barns, Limits of Elevation = 15o and the number of shots fired were 49 (1913 list), and proof fired July 17 1902.



The following is information on Carriages Model 1897:
Carriage Model 1897 Serial 10was mounted January 1902, under the supervision of Capt Wm. Hancock and was leveled under the supervision of Capt D. M. King.
Carriage Model 1897 Serial 11was mounted January 1902, under the supervision of Capt Wm. Hancock and was leveled under the supervision of Capt D. M. King.
As to ammunition storage and service, each battery, had a Magazine. 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 a gun this size, the 5-inch projectiles and the powder are stored and transported to the gun in the form of complete cartridge, like used in an Infantry rifle. The projectile are stored in rows along the wall of the shell room, and or shipped to the battery in wooden boxes or cases containing several rounds. It is kept in the form that it was received until just before it is to be used, when the boxes are broken open. Larger amounts could be put in the shell and power rooms, by stacking higher or closer together.
The magazines were 13'.3" x 24'.9" (there were 2 of them).
Gun Crews
Each emplacement is manned by a gun section (10 enlisted men plus the reserve detachment) consisting of a gun detachment, an ammunition detachment and a reserve detachment. The gun commander is in command of the gun section, and is also chief of the gun emplacement. The gun detachment (5 enlisted men) consists of the gun commander, the gun pointer, the range setter and two cannoneers numbered from 1-2 inclusive.
The ammunition detachment (5 enlisted men ) consisted of the chief of ammunition and 4 cannoneers, numbered from 4 to 8 inclusive. The reserve detachment consists of all unassigned cannoneers. It is posted by the gun commander at some convenient place and is used by him to fill vacancies in the other detachments.
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.
This battery had been ordered for some time, but plans could not be prepared owing to lack of information regarding the carriages. When this information finally became available, plans were sent on and approved, and the work started. The site selected for this emplacement is on a ridge. It was intention to construct emplacements for three 5" guns, but examination and survey disclosed the fact that it was to narrow to permit it, in consequence, but two guns could be provided for.
An allotment of $25,000.00 was made in May 1899, for the construction of this battery, a figure some what under the estimates, for which reason it was directed to omit for the present, the installation of an electric plant. As but little work could be done to advantage until the metal parts of the balanced pillar mounts are received.
Construction of this 2 story battery began in 1899, with the clearing and grading of the site and the excavation, started with the removal of over 829 cu. yds. of dirt and sand, and construction of a road leading to the battery, and the gathering and storing of the necessary sand and gravel obtained from the beach and the construction of the drainage system, and started building the forms on the timber used in making the forms, in all cases dressed lumber will be used, this was finished by late May.
The foundation was started in May, and the concreting was completed at the end of June. It used 29,225 gals. of concrete, and reinforcement of 4987 lbs of steel. As it is necessary to build the foundation cylinders to pivot the guns into the platforms, work could not be carried beyond making the excavation, laying the foundation and completing some portions of the battery.
All surfaces covered by earth were plastered and painted with paraffin paint and a layer of cobblestone was placed next to them to secure the quick removal of water.
The length across the front of this battery was 120' across the front, and 55' deep and there was 45' between the guns, beside the magazines as listed above, a Crow Nest which was 5' x 5', Oil & Tool Room which was 12' x 12', C.O. Room which was 10' x 17', Enlisted Men's Latrine which was 12' x 6', Officer Latrine which was 6' x 6', Guard Room which was 16' x 10'.
They were unable to proceed further with the construction until the cylinders for the mounts arrived. This work was finished in March of 1898 and remains status quo, the carriages not having been received.
The carriages arrived in December and were delivered to the Quartermaster Dept. The informal bid of James McMahon, the contractor who brought them across the bay, was accepted to delivery them to the battery site for the sum of $350.00. And the work for completing the battery immediately began. The position of the battery, it being situated on a narrow ridge made it impossible to place three gun here as first contemplated, and made it necessary to keep the width from flank to flank at a minimum figure.
These conditions suggested a feature in the design, which was adopted, which placed the magazines under the loading platforms. Access to the man hole at the bottom of the gun cylinder is obtained through an opening 2 feet by 2 feet and about 2 feet above the magazine floor. The thickness of concrete between the cylinders and room is 2 feet 6 inches. The pillar mounts were placed on the gun centers and the engineering works resumed January 1 were mounted, guns not received as of this date.
The gun platforms over the magazines were given a slope of one-twentieth to insure prompt drainage. No other waterproofing was used. The gun block, is the portion of the emplacement that supports the gun and the carriage. Its size and mass therefore must such as to make it safe from overturning by the shock of the discharge, the size and shape of the gun block must, of course be such as to fit the carriage and consequently, it must be largely designed to accord with the Ordnance Dept drawings of the carriage, in fact for a few details such as drainage, bringing in the electric cable, etc. the Engineer Dept in preparing gun block design, has but little freedom or responsibility.
In a medium barbette emplacement like Wagner, they are very simple, but were separated from the other portions of the emplacement by "planes" or more "properly, surfaces of weakness", there is one between the parapet and also one between the loading platform, the latter is sometimes it is a few feet farther away from the axis of the gun, also there is the loading platforms, which is space around the gun and the carriage, upon which the members of the detachment stands while loading the ammunition the gun.
The refill, the grading and seeding, the cement finishing and the carpentry work were done in August. During September the battery was allowed to dry, and in the latter part of September the rooms were whitewashed and the electric wiring put in. The work was completed except putting the surface drain on the exterior slopes, and some minor fixtures.
One of the problems on the North side of the bay, was the experience with wooden doors in the emplacement, no matter how carefully they were made, wrapping in time would set in, which admitted the weather into the service rooms. Doors of sheet steel 3/16 thick riveted to a 2-inch angle iron frame, and stiffened with 1 1/2-inch channels were substituted at this battery, as they have proven very satisfactory in recent emplacement on the North side of the bay.
The latrine building was made of concrete and placed on the right flank of the battery, adjoining the main body of masonry, a cast iron range closet, of three seats being used in the plumbing fixtures instead of individual flushing closets.
The water service is connected with a concrete tank, the head of water is 250 feet, so to reduce the pressure on the fixtures a small basin of 50 gals capacity was built just above the emplacement and was provided with a ball and cock to regulate the flow of water automatically.
All exterior walls, where the back filled were painted with paraffin paint, two coat work, against which a foot of gravel was placed as the back filling progressed. The same was done on the roofs were covered.
The nature of the general excavation was rocky, and the slope of the ridge on which the battery is situated is more than 20o; hence the back slope of the roadway on parade level is very long. This was left bare because of the difficulty of placing loam upon it with any likelihood of it remaining permanently. All banks and other slopes were sown with alfalfa.
A rubble retaining wall of about 60 cubic yards contents was built along the cut where the side road leading into the battery adjoins the main road.
One of the last thing to finish up this battery was the use of sand on the front and flanks of the lower floor of batteries, the sand was filled in front of the 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 engineering work of the battery was completed in May 29. Whitewashing of the interior of the service rooms was done by the watchman and was finished in June. 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 the keys, were transferred to the Artillery commander. It was completed in, 1901 and transferred on August 12, 1901 a cost of $25,000.00.
Fire Control
Its BC-B1S1 was directly above and behind the battery.
In the original estimate for the battery an electric-light plant was provided. When the allotment was made it was directed to omit the plant to keep the figure within the limit of $25,000.00.
In the construction the battery was wired for lighting, lamps provided it can be connected with very little expense. The interior conduit system of wiring was used, and it was made in every way to be the standard for the best waterproof work.
Electrification for this battery came from Battery Spencer, and it needed only 1.7 kw, because there were not any hoist, just lights only. This battery never did get it on plant.
Of the many 5" weapons included in the Bay Area defenses, there was one unique model that warrants special comments a carriage known as the balanced pillar mount.
All of theses terms designating the types of gun carriages explain themselves except perhaps the masking mount, which was a modification of the barbette mount, formerly used for comparatively small gun only that is guns up to and including 5-inch.
In the emplacement built for guns on balanced pillar or masking mounts, gun wells were necessary and niches were left in the sides of the wall of the emplacement, into which the gun could be lowered when not in use. When the gun was to be fired this pillar was raised and locked in the elevated position. When the gun was not in use, the pillar could be lowered into the well, at the same time raising a counter weight, and the gun would drop down into a niche in the parapet, and hidden from sight. In this position it was of course, hidden from the sight of the enemy, and the top of the battery as viewed from the front consisted of a practically unbroken horizontal line giving no indication of the position of the gun.
The balanced pillar mount was later abandoned by the Ordnance Dept and all emplacement were replaced with pedestal or regular barbette mount.
This battery was erected to provide Rapid Fire against objects suited to it caliber and to assist Battery Spencer and Battery Kirby in preventing passage of hostile ships through the Golden Gate.
After the guns were removed from this battery, it's Magazines were used storage, there was 68560 Cu Ft of space in the two Magazines, the nearest source of power for lighting is from Battery Spencer, about 50 yards distance, with good drainage on the face of a slope between Lime Point and Gravelly Beach, at an elevation of 390 feet. This battery was connected to water and sewer and had natural ventilation through 6" vents from magazines terminating in traverse wall. It's data transmission was by telephone, trunnion elevation in the battery was 299.0, Datum plane M.L.L.W.
This battery was dismounted and shipped to the Inspector of Ordnance, Morgan Engineering Co., Alliance Ohio, per tel inst. Sept. 22, 1917 on Fort Baker letter of file, number 238-239, for remounting as field artillery, and the carriages scrapped in 1920. These two guns were sent to France in 1918.
The engineers were quite pleased with there work on this battery as a whole, and especially the surface of the concrete masonry present a remarkable fine appearance, they still do today.
Today it can be seen along the walk in road to Kirby Beach and can be clearly observed from Battery Spencer.
Like Battery Boutelle it is architecturally interesting, moreover it is situated so that it presents an inviting scene for photographers.

Report of Completed Works - Seacoast Fortifications

Report of Completed Works - Seacoast Fortifications: Battery Orlando Wagner

Additional Online and Printed Histories
Harbor Defenses of San Francisco - A Field Guide 1890 to 1950
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Updated 23 June 2017