Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Fort Baker: Battery Spencer
 
Battery Spencer's 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.
 
 
Battery Spencer
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.
 
 
Ordnance:
 
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.
 
The following is information on Carriages Model 1892 #4, 1 and 5
 
 
 
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.
 
 
Sights: 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.
 
 
Hoists: The 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.
 
 
Ammunition:
 
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 extra).
 
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 in 1909.
 
 
Construction:
 
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 plaster.
 
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 was overdue.
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 the way.
 
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).
 
 
Fire Control
 
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.
 
 
Miscellaneous
 
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 engineer.
 
 
Abandonment
 
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.
 
 
Battery Spencer
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.
 
 
 
Report of Completed Works - Seacoast Fortifications, 1923
 
 
Report of Completed Works - Seacoast Fortifications: Battery Spencer
 
 
 
 
Battery Spencer, Circa 1913
Photographs are part of the Theodor Horydczak Collection of the Library of Congress
 
Theodor Horydczak in the breech of one of Battery Spencer's guns
 
Soldiers leaning against gun 3
 
Cleaning gun number 2
 
Ammunition being stored behind gun number 3
 
Gun number 2
 
Theodor Horydczak loading one of the guns
 
 
 
Battery Spencer, Circa October 2000
 
Endicott and earlier building at the entrance of the Battery Spencer and Ridge Battery Area. October 2000
 
Emplacement for gun 3. October 2000
 
Battery Commander's Station. October 2000
 
Emplacement for Gun 2. October 2000
 
Emplacement's for Gun 2 (foreground) and 1 (background) October 2000
 
 
Other Online Histories
 
FortWiki
Harbor Defenses of San Francisco - A Field Guide 1890 to 1950
 
 
Updated 14 January 2016