Historic California Posts, Camps,
Stations and Airfields
Fort Baker: 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
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.
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
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
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).
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Its BC-B1S1 was directly above and behind
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
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
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
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