Historic California Posts, Camps,
Stations and Airfields
Fort Baker: Battery Spencer
Gun 2 circa 1913. Photo courtesy of John Martini
For half a century, Battery Spencer was
one of the most strategically important site guarding the Golden
Gate. Construction started in 1893 and was completed in 1897.
Under the provisions of War Department General Order 16, dated
14 February 1902, it was named for Major General Joseph Spencer
of the Continental Army, a hero of the Revolutionary War, who
died in 1789. It was initially armed with three M1888 12-inch
breech loading rifles (Made at Waterlieviet Arsenal and serial
numbered 10, 16, and 17) mounted on M1892 barbette mounts (made
at Watertown Arsenal and serial numbered 1, 4, and 5.) In 1917
one gun was removed to rearm Battery Chester at Fort Winfield
Scott. The remaining two guns were removed and scrapped in 1943.
Today the battery is very popular with the public and has been
seen in movies and television.
by Chuck Wofford
This battery was named in GO 16, February
14, 1902 in honor of Maj. Gen. Spencer, Continental Army, 1775-1778,
who died in 1779.
This battery was armed with three 12-inch
B/L Rifles guns and was Model 1888 #10. 16. and 17 that came
from the Watervliet Arsenal, and were at an elevation of 476
feet; distance between the guns # 1 and # 2, was 105 feet, between
#2 and #3 was 77 feet, originally to have 5 emplacements, each
with 12-inch on barbette mounts. The guns cost $45,300.00 and
there were 66 manufactured.
Mounted on nondisappearing carriages Model
1892 nos 1, 4 and 5 from the Watertown Arsenal. The carriage
cost $46,000.00. There were 28 built, Original emplacement was
28, Time emplacement was 1895 to 1900, Number of bolts: 28, Circle
of Diameter 11' 8", Parapet Height 6' 8".
The following is information on the Model 1888 #10 & 16,
& Model 1888 M1 #17
Emplacement - Reference height of the
crest: 370.35 for all three emplacements: Height of interior
crest above M.L.L.W. = 471.53 feet.
Gun #1 Model 1888 Serial 10Was mounted
and emplaced 1897 under the supervision of Capt. B.F.Randolph.
Limits of elevation of gun as mounted and emplaced, plus 14o-58'
(14.966) Minus 7o 26' (7.433), and the number of shots fired
from this gun was 67.
Gun #2 Model 1888 Serial 16Was mounted
and emplaced 1896 under the supervision of Capt. B.F.Randolph.
Limits of elevation of gun as mounted and emplaced, plus 14o-56'
Minus 8o 17', and the number of shots fired from this gun was
Gun #3 Model M1888 Serial 17Was mounted
and emplaced 1897 under the supervision of Capt. B.F.Randolph.
Limits of elevation of gun as mounted and emplaced, plus 14o-58'
(14.966) Minus 7o 55', the number of shots fired from this gun
The following is information on Carriages
Model 1892 #4, 1 and 5
Carriage Model 1892 # 4was mounted 1897,
under the supervision of Capt. B.F. Randolph and was leveled
Aug. 1909 under the supervision of 2nd Lt H.P.Councilman.
Carriage Model 1892 # 1was mounted 1896,
under the supervision of Capt. B.F. Randolph and was leveled
Jan 1910 under the supervision of 1st Lt O.A.Russell.
Carriage Model 1892 # 5was mounted 1897,
under the supervision of Capt. B.F. Randolph and was leveled
Jan 1910 under the supervision of Capt. Harris.
Sub-Caliber Device: This battery had one subcaliber tube, it was a
1-1lb, projectile with a muzzle velocity of 20000 F.S. and D=1.46.
Do not know which gun this was mounted.
The sights for this battery were 3" M1904 # 31 at emplacement
# 1, # 33 at emplacement 2, and were installed in 1906 by Capt.
Kenneth Luarton Can not find a serial for emplacement # 3, and
were modified to improve the present type of clover leaf reticle
by application of cross wire, this work was done Jan 2 1934.
ammunition for this battery was lifted from the magazine to the
platforms by very inefficient hoist, later in about 1905 the
newer Taylor-Raymond lifts were installed to move the ammunition
to the gun emplacement and could also be operated by hand; #1
had a back delivery Serial # 17, made by G.E. C, with a 7 1/2
H.P. Motor, 110 Volts, 800 R.P.M., Wita a R-96 A Control. It
was transferred Sept. 30, 1908, there were no powder hoist. They
were remodeled for long points. The parts for widening this hoist
were shipped to San Francisco December 11 1913 and allotment
for the work of widening was made under date of February 19 1914
(71562/). # 2 Serial Number 18, and had the same specs as above,
# 3 Serial Number was 19 and was removed some time in 1918, when
this emplacement was made into the power plant for the battery.
As to ammunition storage and service,
each battery depending on size, had a Shell Room and a Powder
Room. 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 for this battery weighted 1,000 pounds,
powder cartridges weighing as a rule not over 80 pounds each,
this gun used 4 cartridges. 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 using the same method, in all batteries of 8
inch and over, there was a trolley rails were 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.
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. The means which
must be provided for moving ammunition, depend of course upon
the weight and bulk of the piece to be moved. .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 block, then the shells were taken to the hoist and unloaded
on the receiving table and then by cart to the gun breech, where
a cranes, loaded them into the gun.
As to vertically movement of the shell,
an appliance for seizing hold of the shell, they used a tongs,
which looked like a pair if ice tongs, except there were three
rather they two, two on one side and one on the other, and was
located to close between the two other tongs, then opened wide
and placed as near the center of gravity as possible, then they
are closed and ready to be moved, the only problem being several
inches of vertical height are lost, and this can be important
where head room is scarce. The Yale-Towne block and the Ordnance
shell tongs which were the standards.
Also as to lifting the shell from the
pile, depending on the height to be raised, some can be done
by hand, where higher places will need to have an chain block
and tackle block, were used.
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.
All the powder is know carried in a handbarrow, by four men,
and is taken to the gun for loading. The ammunition supply for
this battery was stored in the shell room which was 7.9 X 36
(there were originally 3 of them, one was changed into a Power
& Switchboard in 1918 ) #1 & # 2 held 100, projectiles
per gun, and it service magazine which was 14 x 36 held 156 in
each room, there were originally two. The battle allowance for
this battery was 200, and its war reserve was 200. Larger amounts
could be put in the shell and power rooms, by stacking higher
or closer together, (there was room for 300 shells, and 140 charges
In a letter from the Dept of Engineers
dated April 28 1918, the gun and hoist and carriage in emplacement
# 3 were removed, in 1920 the most Easterly of the three was
dismounted, and was replaced by a Fire Control Switchboard room
for Fort Baker and the emplacement power plant, the original
power plant was down the hill from the battery which was installed
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. See the Appendices for the complete
procedure. The appropriation acts of August 1, 1894 and March
2, 1895 for $117,161.00, which was combined with balance from
a previous appropriation, work was commenced upon emplacement
#5 at the Ridge Battery at Lime Point and also completing emplacement
3 and 4.of this battery. On March 26, 1893 the first step of
leveling and grading the site, so the excavation for the foundation
can start, with the excavation of over 11.833 cu. Yds total for
dirt and sand and shale for the battery, and was finished in
the middle of June.
The forms were started as the excavation
progressed, the timber used in making the forms, in all cases
dressed lumber was be used.
As the forms were completed, the iron
and steel, in the form of I beams for reinforcing ceilings, and
in columns for supporting ceilings, for reinforcing concrete,
you can use wire mesh, steel bars, trolley tracks, rails from
railroads are added in at this time. The iron work consisting
of old rails and cable was built in accordance to plans and the
top surface divided into flags. In this battery there was over
143,000 LB reinforcement.
The gun block, which is the portion of
the emplacement, that supports the gun and the carriage is started
at this time. Because of its size and mass it must be 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
drawing of the carriage, in fact for a few details such as drainage,
bringing in the electric cable, ect the Engineer Dept. in preparing
gun block design, has but little freedom or responsibility.
In a battery the size of Spencer the gun
block is very large and complex, and 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. Another consideration which
increases the difficulty of laying the foundation, are weights
are unequally distributed, the parapet are solid, gun platforms
and gun blocks are lower that the parapet, and the weight of
the gun and the carriage are much less than if the gun block
was extended upward in solid concrete to the crest of the parapet,
in the rear are loading platforms, and in the large emplacements
rooms were placed under the loading platforms so that the weight
per square foot of foundation under the loading platform is much
less that under the gun block, and the weight per square foot
under the gun block is much less that under the parapet.
Similarly in the traverses between the
guns, the weight is unequally distributed, there is also the
magazines, and farther to the rear are hoist rooms, so consequently
near the guns and through the traverses, emplacement are much
heavier per square foot in the front than in the rear using over
13,431 cu. yds of concrete, and over 6,000 sq. ft of finished
One of the last parts of construction
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. 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 were 18,000 cu. yds of fill used in this battery.
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, or it would have been blown away.
As the battery was nearing completion
the engineers proposed using steel I-beams in the roofs of the
magazines and passageways in place of the arches that were scheduled.
However he wanted to retain arches for the roof of the hoisting
room and elevator shaft their being less expensive than I.-beams.
By June 1895, the magazines doors were hung and the floors were
laid "the outside work was plastered" he reported,"
and a coat of hard finish placed upon the walls of the interior
compartment and passageway" Also 4 inches of asphalt covered
the top of the emplacement. Benyaurd considered everything finished
except placing the machinery in the hoisting room and in the
elevator shaft. Of course as on the South side of the gate, the
platforms had not yet been built. On March 26 1895, the 3 (#5)
was started with money from the appropriation acts of August
1, 1894, combined with the balance from previous appropriation,
with the excavation 4,870 cubic yards of dirt and loose rock,
and was completed by the middle of May and the concrete work
was commenced about the middle of June, and was well under way
at the close of the fiscal year. The concrete work was carried
on (the mixing being done by machinery) until all the cement
on hand was used and the ship that was to bring the second lot
In order to avoid shutting down the work
it was decided on July 26 to remove the mixing plant and finish
the excavation, leaving the remainder of this concrete to be
put in by hand when the cement arrived, as only 200 cubic yards
more could have been mixed by machine if the cement had been
on hand. In the concrete there was used a mixture of coarse and
fine beach gravel instead of rock. This gravel was much cleaner
than any rock that can be obtained in the market, and while it
is not angularit has a fine roughness to which the mortar adheres
very well. Beside it is much heavier than broken rock, amounting
to two or three hundred pounds to the cubic yard, a very desirable
quality for gun platforms. It was intended to make concrete of
such proportions as to have each cubic yard contain just one
barrel of cement and after determining the voids by actual experiment
and figuring to reach the end it was found that the 241 cubic
yards of concrete had consumed just 241 barrels of cement. After
the excavating for the parade ground and wiring walls the concrete
work was finished, the terreplein were graded, the slopes were
graded and seeded, the concrete work inside and out was plastered,
the inside also received a coat of hard finish, and the whole
top of the concrete was finished with a mixture sand and asphalt.
The three emplacement are finished, except
the machinery(for which plans have been submitted) the plastering
of the elevator rooms and shafts(which can not be done until
the machinery is in place) and the grading of the parade ground,
which will be done as soon as the carriage and gun are out of
On January 1896, and allotment of $8,400
was made to build three gun platforms in emplacement #3, 4, and
5. The subsensequent estimate was for $4,500 for three platforms,
and since then there had been withdrawn #3,900, leaving the amount
of the estimate.
One platform has been completed and the
other two left in an unfinished condition awaiting the arrival
of the base rings. The finished platform was built in a good
manor which is considered most satisfactory to make a good fit
between the base ring and the concrete. The base ring was suspended
by four 2-inch turn buckles from four 12 inch X 16 inch timbers
resting on the top of the parapet and on a timber crib in the
rear of the excavation. From the base ring were hung the anchoring
bolts and the concrete was started around its head. By means
of the tufrn buckle the base ring can be leveled or raised or
lowered at any time.
When the top finish was reached (about
6 inches or 8 inches below the base ring) the material was rammed
well under the base ring by two men, one on the inside and one
on the outside, each working against the other with a flat tamper.
The iron work consisting of old rails and cable was built in
accordance to plans and the top surface divided into flags.
At the close of the last fiscal year the
three emplacements were finished, with the exception of the elevator
shafts, which could not be completed until the ammunition hoists
were ready. One platform #5 was completed, during the past fiscal
year the ammunition hoists and trolleys have been completed,
the shafts and the interior arrangements finished, two guns and
there carriages mounted and the base ring for #4 was put in place
and the platform completed.
The last carriage arrived in April 1897,
and the gun is now being transported up the hill and will soon
be in readiness to mount. As soon as the gun is mounted, the
terreplein will be concreted, the parade ground grated, and the
slopes planted, and the battery will be completed in all respects.
This battery was 155' across the front , facing South, and 200
' deep, from the front to the Latrine which was the first building
on the left coming into the battery, the distance between gun
# 1- and # 2 was 125' and between #2 - #3 was 75', there was
also the Engine Room (in old #3 was 11' X 27' and the Switchboard
Room was 8' X 36', in this complex it also had a Storage Battery
Room which was 8' X 6, and a Telephone Booth for the post phone,
between #1 and #2 were the Shell Room and Powder R, and the Hoist
Room, with a passage between the Hoist Room and the Shell and
Powder Rooms the were about 30' X 40, North of #1 was a C.O.
Room which was 11.6' X 14' and a Guard Room that was 11.6' X
14' and an Oil Room that was 11.6' X 12' and the Plotting Room,
which was 11.6 X 34', theses room were on the West going down
from #1 , on the South side was a Tool and Rammer Room which
was 7' X 22.6' and Oil Room , which was 7' X 10' and the Latrine,
which was 20' X 10', also there was a B.C. , on the North of
#1 that 6' X 8', at the entrance of this battery are the old
Power buildings. The structure being 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 1898 and
transferred on April 14, 1898 a cost of $299,861.55 (this battery
was built on the peak of Lime Point on top of a 1879 battery
called Battery Cliff).
The B.C. was a standard station located
between the guns at an elevation of 475, the construction was
finished in 1910 and the height above M.L.L.W. of axis of range
finding instrument; 475.10 ft, and had a Swasey D.P.F. Type All
# 166. B1S1 was constructed in 1903, and was located on the left
flank of the battery Height of axis of instrument above M.L.L.W.
371.9 and it field of view; left 200 degrees, right 74 degrees,
and was equipped with one Lewis D.P.F., Model 1907, # 35, the
only one that was made of brick. on Lime Point, B2S2 was a single
dug in station at Tennessee Point at an elevation of 183 feet,
and was constructed in 1921 with a field of view Left 322 degrees
and Right 131 Degrees. The height of axis above M.L.L.W. was
183.28' this was former E3 Wallace, and was equipped with one
Warner Swasey D.P.F. Class A-2 $ 166. B3S3 was a standard double
station at Fort Winfield Scott at Rob Hill and was constructed
1910, with a field of view Left 18 degrees and Right 357 Degrees,
the height of axis above M.L.L.W.; 376.7'and was equipped with
one Warner-Swasey D.P.F.., Class A # 28.
It was also connected to water (water
was drawn from springs on the hill, and also pumped from pumping
station at the post, in 1940 the pipes from the spring on the
hill and from the pumping station at the post have been removed,
water is hauled to the post in drums) and sewer, and had a telephone
and speaking tube for data transmission, it had natural ventilation
by 8" vents from the magazine terminating in the shot hoist.
Trunnion elevation in battery was #1=475.6--#2-=476.0
Traverse in Azimuth--Emplacement #1 Left-327 Right--111 Emplacement
#2 Left- 249--Right- 85. Datum M.L.L.W. Battery Spencer was the
first of the Endicott to be built on the North side of the Golden
Gate also it was the highest elevation of all the Endicott in
the bay area.
As a young Lt Douglas MacArthur was dispatched
to Battery Spencer to investigate an anchor bold that had sheared
off at emplacement # 1. This was his only association with any
of the batteries while he was assigned to San Francisco as an
With the war in the Pacific going the
way it was, this battery was disarmed about Aug. 1943 and the
other two gun and carriages were removed and sold for junk. This
battery is not in the best of condition today, but is open to
the public worth the time to see, and a wonderful view of the
Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco.
by Justin Ruhge
The first Endicott battery built on the
north side of the Bay was Spencer. It was begun before the founding
of Fort Baker.
Funds for modern Endicott gun emplacements
at Lime Point did not become available until two years after
similar construction began south of Fort Point. Colonel Benyaurd
directed the work in the Bay area during this period. The first
major expenditure was the purchase of a steam launch, Yosemite,
in January 1893 with which to haul supplies to the north side
of the Golden Gate. The old engineer buildings and wharf that
Colonel Mendell had built around 1868 needed repairs. The old
employee dormitory was fixed up and a private party was allowed
to board the men at a cost of sixty cents a day each. As at Fort
Point, Colonel Benyaurd required the lieutenants directly in
charge of the work to live at Lime Point.
The original plans for Battery Spencer
had five emplacements for 12-inch guns on non-disappearing carriages
on top of Lime Point, the highest location of any battery in
the Bay area at that time. Three emplacements were to be located
directly on the site of Mendell's old Cliff Battery, and two
emplacements were to be constructed on the site of the Ridge
Battery. Excavation of the two forward emplacements began in
April 1893. A third emplacement was added later, but the two
for the ridge location facing into the bay were dropped from
the plans. Instead, four 15-inch Rodmans were placed at the Ridge
location in 1895. Both the old Rodman and the new Endicott guns
were to be mounted at Spencer at the same time.
Excavation work removed a portion of the
old Lime Point Battery and a concrete magazine. Concrete work
was commenced in June 1893. A concrete plant had been constructed
at the Ridge Battery site for this purpose instead of hauling
the concrete up the slope from the wharf.
In March 1895, the third gun emplacement
was authorized. By June 30, 1895 the magazine doors were hung
and the floors were laid. The outside was plastered and a coat
of hard finish placed upon the walls of the interior compartments
and passageways. Four inches of asphaltum covered the top of
the emplacements. The magazines were placed below the gun platforms
and elevators designed into the works to lift the rounds and
powder to the gun platform levels.
The first 12-inch gun at Battery Spencer
was mounted before the end of 1896. By December of that year
the second gun and its carriage were being hauled up the hill
by a contractor. The third gun was mounted in July 1897. All
three of these rifles were Model 1888, Nos. 10, 16 and 17. They
came from the Watervliet Arsenal and were mounted on barbette
carriages Model 1892, Nos. 1, 4 and 5 from the Watertown Arsenal.
Battery Spencer was transferred on September
24, 1897 to Battery I, Third Artillery Regiment.
This battery was named in General Order
16, February 14, 1902, in honor of Major General Joseph Spencer,
Continental Army, 1775 to 1778. He died in 1789.
The battery fire control, BC, was a standard
station located between the guns at an elevation of 475 feet.
The only known brick fire-control station in the Bay Area, designated
B1S1, was located on Lime Point just below the battery at an
elevation of 372 feet. A second station designated B2S2, was
located at Tennessee Point, north of the battery at an elevation
of 183 feet, and a third designated B3S3, at Fort Winfield Scott
at an elevation of 377 feet. The plotting room was located at
the battery and was provided with a 110-degree plotting boar
The first firing on record did not take
place until January 14, 1903 when target practice was conducted
by the 61st Company, Coast Artillery Corps.
Completed Works - Seacoast Fortifications, 1923