Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Castillo de San Joaquin

Castillo de San Joaquin (2005) by Justin Ruhge

The Castillo San Joaquin was built in 1794 on the site selected by de Anza eighteen years earlier for the presidio. The Punta del Cantil Blanco was a bold jutting promontory of hard serpentine rock overlaid with sand about one hundred feet above high water on the south side of the Golden Gate. It was windswept and remote.

Vancouver recorded the early construction of the Castillo while visiting the presidio for the second time in October 1793. He speaks of seeing on the beach eleven dismounted cannon, nine-pounders, with a large quantity of shot of two different sizes, and on the top of the cliff several Spaniards who, with a large number of Native Americans, were erecting what appeared to him to be a barbette battery. The construction observed by Vancouver was a preliminary and temporary defensive work. This structure was now replaced by a fort consisting of ten-foot thick embrasures on the seaward side of adobe faced with brick and mortar. Behind this was laid out an esplanade on which the heavy guns with their four-wheeled siege type carriages rested. The esplanade, made of heavy timbers, had a plank flooring about 20 feet wide held together by nine-inch spikes. On the land side, the walls of unfaced adobe stood only five feet thick. There, lighter guns on two wheeled carriages sat on the ground. The Castillo's construction was managed by the superintendent of construction for the Department of San Blas, Francisco Gomez. Master gunner Don Jose Garaicochea directed the placement of the cannon. These men and three sawyers had come up from Mexico aboard Aranzazu originally bound for Bodega Bay before the fort planned for that location was cancelled and the personnel and equipment reassigned to the San Francisco Castillo. Antonio Santos also arrived with the ship and took charge of the manufacture of tile and burnt brick. The masters worked with Christian Native Americans provided by the missions and non-converted Native Americans brought up from the area around Santa Clara. Woodchoppers went into the hills west of San Mateo for timber, going more than 15 miles to find the redwood. It took about a week to bring back the timber, weather permitting, while 23 yoke of oxen hauled the material northward. Additionally, the laborers made many bricks and tiles before the rains halted work in January 1794. At this point, Alferez Jose Perez Fernandez replaced Sal as nominal director of work on the Fort.

Timber cutting went well and as soon as the workers received the requested boats the lumber was brought to the Fort. This fact indicated that the beams and boards from the hills would be hauled overland then probably floated to the beach between the Presidio and the Castillo. Even before this, a half dozen cannon had been placed and stood ready for action on the partially completed esplanade, although Perez Fernandez admitted the use of incorrect size timber in its construction.

In early March 1794, when the rains ceased, efforts resumed. Perez Fernandez sent Sergeant Amador to San José to obtain non-Christianized Native Americans for heavy work because they provided the only available labor force. They received a daily-allotted wage plus cotton breeches and a blanket as a bonus. Occasionally, some of them ran away. By April, 78 Native Americans toiled on the Castillo, including some 30 Christian Native Americans. The money and clothing earned by the mission Native Americans went back to the padres for disbursement. A sergeant, corporal and two soldiers supervised the work of this group, who they kept occupied at adobe brick making at the rate of 1,500 bricks daily. Others cut wood. Before long, they provided 52 large square timbers for the esplanade.

While construction progressed at a steady rate, the viceroy changed his mind about the Fort's construction because he felt it was costing too much. For once the long delays in communication with Mexico City worked to the advantage of the Californios. The Viceroy's instruction to stop construction took six months to reach Monterey. By then, mid-June 1794, the governor replied that with completion so near it seemed wise to finish the project. In his opinion no ship could enter or leave San Francisco once the Fort stood as a guardian while enemy cannon from the ships could not damage the Fort to any great extent because of its superior construction. With enough artillery and artilleryman, San Francisco would be safe from foreigners once and for all, said the Governor.

Thus, ignoring the Viceroy, California's leaders took local defense matters into their own hands. With all the heavy masonry and timber work completed after an expenditure of 6,400 pesos, 4 reals and 7 granos, acting Commander Perez Fernandez dedicated the new Castillo de San Joaquin on December 8, 1794 with the priests of the mission saying mass and chanting the Te Deum. Musket volleys and cannon fire concluded the festivities. Afterward the Comandante saw to the final details, which included the installation of flooring and gun racks in the barracks, the sentry box of the fortified tower, and the door of the mess room. Only a few details remained to be received, including two boxes of nine-inch spikes so the roof could be nailed on, and doors and windows from San Blas to enclose the building.

Additionally the governor requested more artillery, writing to request four more 12-pounders and three 24-pounders along with carriages, implements, fuses, powder, cable, lead base plates for the primer mechanisms, burlap wrapped cartridges in 8,12 and 24-pounder calibers, and regular cannon balls for the cannon.

The Castillo was a formidable affair of adobe, rectangular in shape, and pierced with fourteen embrasures lined with brick. It was about one hundred and twenty five feet long by one hundred and five feet wide. The parapet was ten feet thick and in the middle of the Fort was a barracks for the artillerymen. A corporal and six artillerymen garrisoned it. Eleven brass nine-pounders were sent from San Blas but only eight were mounted. The Castillo was variously called the Castillo, Fort Blanco and the Fort.

In the spring of 1796, 75 Catalonian volunteers headed by Lieutenant-Colonel Pedro de Alberni arrived at San Francisco on the Valdes and San Carlos. Along with these reinforcements, the Viceroy sent the Royal Engineer Alberto Cordoba. As was mentioned earlier in this work, Alberni became the Comandante of the San Francisco Presidio. The catalyst for the "volunteers" was the war between France and Spain. Cordoba was to inspect the coast defenses and make needed improvements and recommendations. In addition he was to establish the location and layout of the Villa de Branciforte, which was subsequently founded at Santa Cruz.

Three more cannon were brought by the San Carlos along with Cordoba. At the time the Castillo was just two years old when Cordoba inspected it. He did not like what he saw. The location was unstable; the Castillo was built on sand and crumbling rock, which was subject to

frequent earthquakes since it was located on the San Andreas Earthquake Fault line. The guns were badly mounted and could not fire a shot across the Golden Gate. In addition there were not enough gunners to support the guns at hand. When the guns were fired, the adobe and brick merlons would shake and crack. Of the 13 pieces of cannon, three 24-pounders, two iron 12-pounders, and eight bronze half culverin 8-pounders, only two could fire across the Golden Gate. If ships stayed on the far side they could not be easily hit by shots from the Castillo. In addition there was high ground behind the Castillo from which an enemy could fire down on the Fort.

Cordoba did try to improve the situation by helping place the three cannon, supervising repair work on the Fort, building a double wall for the powder magazine, and building a pair of sentry boxes.

Cordoba recommended that the Fort be moved to the commanding high ground and estimated that a new structure would cost less than the repair of the old one. In addition he called for a second Fort on the other side of the bay entrance and for more troops, the shortage of which was made critical by the lack of training among them. Cordoba gave further advice in the repairing of the Presidio's powder magazine, tower, sentry box and roofs. He also drew plans for a new presidio and made a drawing of the Castillo and the Cantil Blanco upon which it rested. While the Fort had shortcomings, it retained some value so long as the enemy did not realize the poor state of the defenses.

Cordoba also made a case for two or three ships of war to be stationed at San Francisco as a headquarters to patrol the coast for added protection, a concept that the governor endorsed. None of these proposals were carried out due to lack of funds.

In the winter of 1797 news arrived on the San Carlos that Spain and England were at war. The San Carlos brought additional cannon for the Castillo. On March 23, 1797 the San Carlos was wrecked while at anchor in front of the Presidio during a sudden storm. The cannon had been off loaded earlier but food and clothing had been lost. This was the second San Carlos surnamed El Filipino. The San Carlos of the 1769 Portola expedition had been lost at sea some years before. Over the next two months the supply vessels Concepcion and Princesa arrived. From these some of the sailors and officers helped to man the Castillo during the war emergency, which only lasted for a few months.

During this period, the "Bateria de San Jose" was built during the months of April and June 1797. Cordoba's recommendation for a second fort on the north side of the Golden Gate was ignored and a small battery of eight embrasures was built of brushwood fascines east of the Castillo at "Black Point" or "Yerba Buena", near where Vancouver had anchored in his first visit.

Five guns deemed too small to be of use at the Castillo were placed there. A palisade and mud shelter served as a barracks since nothing more substantial could be brought there.

Cordoba objected to the battery's poor construction, which once more rested on a sand foundation, its distance from the Fort at the mouth of the bay, and the shortage of artilleryman, already too few to manage the guns that had been mounted earlier in the decade. After the departure of the sailors, it appears that no garrison stood regular watch there. To at least the end of the 18th century, a soldier simply paid Bateria San Jose a daily call and occasionally a noncommissioned officer from the artillery rode over for a brief inspection.

Cordoba completed his work on California fortifications, made his surveys, and produced a general map of the province before returning to Mexico in the autumn of 1798 according to the History of California by H. H. Bancroft, Vol. I, pg. 545.

The weather continued to take its toll on the Castillo. On February 28, 1799, Comandante Alberni made the following comments about the state of affairs at the fort:


1. First, the two walls which serve as ramparts and defense for said fort were located east and south. The door is found in the latter of these. Because they are constructed of adobe of very poor quality, the storm demolished them.

2. The Extraordinary Engineer don Alberto de Cordoba constructed the merlons, which face north and were made of fascine. They have come undone and have fallen to the ground because water had seeped and rotten the leather and maguey cords with which they were tied.

3. The merlons built in an easterly direction and its building of adobe covered by bricks which were cemented with mud are all demolished.

4. The merlons situated to the northwest, although they are made from stone of the same terrain and constructed of sand from the bar at the mouth of the harbor, also are sagging out and at the point of falling into the sea. For this reason, I ordered the cannons and also the sentry box that were at the battery to be taken off in order to avoid a mishap.

5. The wall that serves as a rampart to the blockhouse looks toward the south has its adobe building demolished. There is a sand dune that surrounds it at this time. It leans its full weight against said wall. The dune is rising above the wall and threatens its ruin.

6. The structure that serves as a barracks for the troops of the garrison of the Castillo and also for the defense of the stores. Its construction being of sandy adobe and so eaten away in the south wall, with another small storm it will come down. As its roof has little slope, and also because the roof tile which covers it is of such poor quality, the rains come in everywhere.

7. It easily is noticed that the intermediate passage from the blockhouse to the fortification s so dilapidated on both sides of its narrow passage that it barely retains enough space to permit the ten to twelve varas width necessary to pass by. Since the precipice to the side of the fort is of pure sand, it is possible during one of the earth tremors that are experienced here, it can be split because of its narrowness, thus leaving the aforementioned fortification cut off from the mainland."

Spanish Army Royal Engineer Alberto de Cordoba executed two drawings related to the Castillo de San Joaquin, one of which provided a cross section of the Cantil Blanco and the other one provided his most concise views of this approximately 40 varas by 60 varas emplacement. Positions exist for a dozen guns. The proximity of the west side of the fortification to the edge of the cliff stands out, this being one of the problems cited by Cordoba in his analysis of the placement and construction of the battery. The drawing is located in the records of the Provincias Internas, 216:236, AGN, at the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

The information for the drawing translates as follows: "Plan of the Battery of San Joaquin constructed on the northernmost point of land for The defense of the entrance to the Port of San Francisco. A. Gate of the Battery; B. Main walls of adobe; C. Guardhouse; D. Storage for implements for the Artillery; E. Corridor to the Guardhouse; F. Kitchen; G. Wooden Esplanade; H. Cannon by which to defend the narrowest entrance of the Port; K. Embrasures of the Battery constructed upon sand; M. Embrasures of the Battery constructed on rock and sand. Note: The main walls of the Guardhouse and kitchen are of adobe and equally are those utilized for the battery and which are brick fastened with mud.

Royal Engineer Alberto de Cordova's drawing of the Castillo de San Joaquin, 1796, Provincias Internas, 216:236,AGN, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, California.
Another drawing of the Battery of San Joaquin published in California Under Spain and Mexico by Irving B. Richman, pg. 344.
A rendering of how Castillo de San Joaquin would have appeared on the point of land known as Cantil Blanco in 1795. From The Beginnings of San Francisco by Zoeth Skinner Eldredge, pg. 720.

The fortification was not then viable. Sand, rain and earthquakes do not make for good foundations. Similar comments were made for the condition of the Bateria de Yerba Buena.
Alberni recommended rebuilding the two forts at the mouth of the Golden Gate, one on either side. But funds were not forthcoming and things just got worse.

In 1805 an extensive reconstruction took place with Native American captives erecting a stonewall on three sides and a palisade on the fourth. They also provided a new casa mata
some 300 yards behind the Fort.

This renovated Castillo then gave way to an entirely new fort. Work began in October 1815 in response to the Russian presence at Fort Ross. Brevet sub-lieutenant Manuel de Luz Gomez of the artillery supervised the work. Gomez, with the master carpenter and soldier, Jose Franco, along with five Native Americans from Mission Santa Clara and four from Mission San Jose, used 200 beams and 600 planks for the esplanade on which to place the guns. Apparently the work went forward without the use of any of the nails and spikes used earlier. Governor Sola sent three 8-pounder cannon with 300 balls. The new Castillo had embrasures for 16 cannon. Apparently many of the older cannon were also used. The new structure was horseshoe in shape with the crown of the shoe facing north. Bancroft's History of California and other 19th century works depict the semicircular version of the Castillo. Dr. Eric Beerman of Madrid discovered the drawings of the new Castillo and deserves credit for resolving this matter, which had confused many earlier writers on the subject. The drawing was located in the Archivo General Militar de Segovia, Section X. There were, as we have seen, two Castillo designs and one interim structure between these.

After Bouchard's visit to California in November 1818, further cannon and artillerymen were sent to man the Castillo. A "hot shot" furnace was constructed at the Castillo in 1820 so red hot shot could be fired at ships, if necessary, to start them on fire.

On November 6, 1826 British Royal Navy officer Captain Frederick William Beechey anchored his ship, H.M.S. Blossom, at San Francisco. Two renderings of the Presidio and the Castillo were made during this visit. One of the Presidio by Richard Brydges Beechey has been shown in an earlier section on the San Francisco Presidio. A second view was rendered by Captain W. Smyth. It shows a scene from on high looking down on the Golden Gate, the Presidio and the Castillo. Three Native Americans are shown in the foreground. This may have been the basis of the drawing shown earlier of the Castillo on the Cantil Blanco. The Smyth drawing is in the Hydrographic Office of the Royal Navy, Taunton, England.

Coastal fortifications, originally built to protect the population, had all but disappeared. The artillery stood unused and uncared for, although Comandante Vallejo recommended the Castillo be rebuilt in the early 1840s. As it was, only one artilleryman remained to man the last six cannon since Vallejo had ordered the relocation of several of the serviceable guns to Sonoma.

The French visitor from Mexico, Duflot de Mofras toured the almost deserted Castillo in 1841 and made the following comments: "The fort has been so completely abandoned that a ship could easily send its small boats over the shore below and without attraction attention of the presidio, carry off the cannon that could be rolled down the cliff. The Castillo consisted of a horseshoe-shaped adobe battery with 16 embrasures for cannon. Only three obsolete guns and two good bronze pieces of 16 caliber, cast in Manila were in place, all on wooden gun carriages which date from 1812 and are partially decayed. In the center of the horseshoe, the barracks, used originally to house the soldiers, have fallen into ruins. No one lived there nor did a ditch or other protection to the rear exist to keep the place from being overtaken from the side should the battery be manned."


After a major rebuilding of the castillo, in the late Spanish period, the fort took on a new horseshoe shape. This 1816 schematic, complete with Spanish flag and sixteen cannon, bears the legend: "Battery of San Joaquin of the Port of San Francisco in New California." The esplanade remained of wood and the walls of brick and mortar. The Placement of the Guardhouse and its Corridor Shifted to the West Rather Than in the Center as Had Been the Case With the Earlier Accommodations for the Artillery detachment. Double gates and walls protect the rear. From the Archivo Militar de Segovia, Section X.
The plan view of the Castillo de San Joaquin as presented by H. H. Bancroft in Vol. I of The History of California pg. 609. The horseshoe shape was not verified until the recent
discovery of the foregoing drawing located in the Spanish Archives. How did Bancroft know?

Bancroft's drawing shown in the foregoing figure is apparently based on the comments of de Mofras. It is not as accurate as the recently located drawing shown before it. Bancroft's comments on the Castillo are a summary of the comments of the visitors to San Francisco from England and France.

On July 1, 1846 American Captain John Fremont with his company of men which included Kit Carson, Lieutenant Gillespie, and twenty Delaware Indians approached the bark Moscow riding at anchor off Sausalito, where they asked for the loan of a longboat to transport them across the Golden Gate. The party rowed southward where the Presidio was in total abandonment as was the Castillo, the latter's guns being found in poor condition. They spiked the five brass pieces they found in order to be sure that the ordnance would not be pressed into service by the Mexicans. Fremont and his company then returned north to Sutter's Fort. It was on this mission that Fremont was supposed to have named the mouth of San Francisco Bay the "Golden Gate". The following week, Commodore Sloat sent to Commander Montgomery of the Portsmouth the news of a declaration of war between Mexico and the United States. Sloat ordered Montgomery to take possession of Yerba Buena and hoist the American flag within range of our guns, post up the proclamation in both languages, and notify Captain Fremont to put the Fort and guns in order. In other words "unspike those guns".

As a result of the Fremont boat borrowing, the captain of the Moscow, for his services, made a claim on the U.S. Government. The Captain was the same William Dane Phelps, who appeared in San Diego in 1842 to spike the guns at the fort there when Commodore Jones landed at Monterey. The subject of this claim is reviewed in the note 40 from the reference document to follow with a somewhat humorous conclusion that the service of boat borrowing was only worth fifty dollars and that was paid by the U.S. Government.

The Castillo San Joaquin was the largest and best built of the four California forts and it received the most attention from the foreign travelers. It was never used in anger but was a very worthwhile deterrent.

From The Beginnings of San Francisco by Zoeth Skinner Eldredge, pgs. 712-713.

Nothing remains of the Castillo. It was replaced in 1850 by Fort Point located on the same spot but 100 feet lower to the water. The U.S. Army leveled the Cantil Blanco at that time. However, six of the bronze cannon used there and at the Presidio have survived and have been saved by the U.S. Army to date of this publication. For years they lay around at Fort Point or Fort Mason where some of them were used as fender posts with the muzzle buried in the ground. They have since been mounted on a garrison carriage or concrete pier and five are located at the Presidio of San Francisco which has become the Golden Gate Recreation Area under the National Park Service and one is located at Fort Point. Only the bronze cannon have been saved, the iron have long ago rusted out or been scraped. The following is a summary of the six bronze pieces and their locations:
References: Used for the Castillo of San Joaquin are as follows: The Historic Resource Study of El Presidio de San Francisco by John Langelier and Daniel Rosen; Cannon of the Castillo by Gordon Chappell; Historic Resource Study Seacoast Fortifications San Francisco Harbor Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California by Erwin Thompson; History of California by H. H. Bancroft; California Under Spain and Mexico 1535-1847 by Irving Richman; San Francisco, 1806-1906 by Jeanne Van Nostrand; Castillo de San Joaquin by George Tays.
Photographs of the Bronze Cannon at the Presidio Officer's Club. By the Author in 1982.

Photographs of Two Bronze Cannon Located at the Presidio Flagpole. Photograph by the Author in 1982.
One of the Castillo cannon mounted on a garrison carriage shown here at the Army Museum at the San Francisco Presidio. Photograph by the Author in 1982.
Another of the original El Castillo de San Joaquin cannon cast in Peru in 1684 and named "San Martin". Located at Fort Point National Park. Photograph by the Author in 1982.

Castillo de San Joaquin by Gordon Chappell, National Park Service
Castillo de San Joaquin, the Royal Spanish fort which guarded the strait into San Francisco Bay which the Americans later would name the Golden Gate, is gone. It was demolished early in the 1850s, and even the white cliff on which it stood was cut down to near sea level to accommodate construction of a new brick-and-masonry fort completed before the Civil War, a fort which still stands.
Yet San Francisco retains part of the most significant armament of the old Castillo, bronze guns that were a century old when they first arrived, guns of such beauty of design and decoration that they survived the scrapping that was the fate of lesser iron weapons.
Plans for a fortification at the narrowest part of the Golden Gate strait, on the southern shore, dated back to the founding of San Francisco and its Presidio in 1776, when Captain Don Juan Bautista de Anza designated the top of the white cliff at the point known as Punta de Cantil Blanco as the site for a fort. Nevertheless, nothing was done immediately, the garrison known as the Presidio was being established about a mile to the southeast at a more sheltered location. Meanwhile, Spain and Great Britain contested ownership of this part of the New World, and were unable to settle on a boundary between their possessions in the resolution of the Nootka controversy during which Spain relinquished claims to the far northern coast. This unresolved question of imperial rivalry coupled with British naval visits to San Francisco and Monterey alarmed Spanish officials and spurred them to build the fort the need for which had been discussed for fifteen years.
One day after the arrival in San Francisco Bay of the British frigate H.M.S. Discovery captained by George Vancouver, Commandante Alferez Hermenogildo Sal reported to the Spanish Gobernador de Alta California on October 31, 1792, that he had but one cannon on hand, and suggested the mounting of a battery of ten or twelve guns on the Cantil Blanco or white cliff at the point south of the strait.
Apparently in response to this fear of British incursions, on July 24, 1793 the Spanish royal frigate Aranzazu delivered to San Francisco guns and other military stores including, it is believed, the six bronze guns cast in Peru more than a century earlier which survives today. When later that year the British barkentine Chatham arrived in San Francisco Bay, the botanist on board, Archibald Menzies, reported that the Aranzazu and other Spanish vessels "had brought some reinforcements to the settlement, together with a supply of warlike-stores & some Ordnance, for eight long brass four-pounders were laying on the Beach at the landing place & a considerable quantity of Shot of different sizes, so that if we might judge from appearance's & the great preparations now going forward, they seem to have taken some alarm at the defenseless state of the Settlement, for in our former visit (November 1792) we only observed one cannon in the whole place and that simply lashed to a log of wood, but we now observed a number of people employed on the eminence on the South side of the entrance clearing away the ground for the purpose of erecting a Battery for the defense of the Harbour and a more suitable situation could not be fixed on, as it perfectly commanded the entrance."
Construction of the castillo had actually begun in August 1793, the work being done by thirty Indians drafted from Mission Santa Clara, as well as 23 yokes of oxen used to haul timber, guns, and both fired brick and adobe or sun-dried mud brick. The castillo whose construction Menzies witnessed that fall was completed and dedicated on December 8, 1794.
Unfortunately, Castillo de San Joaquin was poorly built and went through a long history of deterioration and repair, and more deterioration and redesign, and more deterioration and ultimate neglect. The one relatively constant factor was the ordnance, and even it changed to some extent. A report in September 1796 listed six iron guns and eight guns, presumably of bronze, which were called at that time 8-pounders. The years passed. Mexico revolted against Imperial Spain and won freedom by 1822; the change little-affected Alta California. In time, the Presidio and the Castillo were abandoned by the Mexican governor in favor of establishing a new barracks north of the Bay at Sonoma, and of the eight bronze and eight iron guns reported at the castillo in 1837, two of the former were moved to the Presidio of Sonoma. These were probably the guns named Poder and San Francisco.
The Bear Flag Revolt, a revolt of American settlers and a few indigenous Californios against the Mexican government of Alta California exploded in June 1846, and soon an American army lieutenant of Topographical Engineers named John C. Fremont was playing a leading role. After one small skirmish, Fremont and his men moved southward, borrowing a longboat to cross the strait, which Fremont named the "Golden Gate," and they seized the deserted castillo and its guns, many of which were lying in the dirt because their wooden carriages had rotted entirely away. Fremont and his men found at that time three bronze and seven iron guns in the castillo. The men spiked the guns by driving iron files into the touch-holes. (The gun named San Pedro still have remains of one of the files in it.)
On July 9, 1846, Captain John B. Montgomery of the U.S. sloop Portsmouth landed a force of sailors and marines to seize Yerba Buena, as the settlement which would grow into the city of San Francisco then was known, and Montgomery dispatched a lieutenant with an armed Party to the Presidio and the Castillo. At the Castillo they found three brass guns, which they believed to be 12 and 18 pounders, made in 1623 possibly a misreading of 1673, 1628 and 1693, as well as seven iron guns. Those bronze guns are believed today to have been the ones named San Pedro, San Domingo, and La Birgen de Barbaneda.
By July 11, Montgomery could report to Commodore John Drake Sloat at Monterey, "I am endeavoring to clear the vents of the brass guns of the fort, and I hope to succeed. Tomorrow I hope to recover the brass 12-pounder, which I learn was buried in the sand at the Presidio Montgomery's men succeeded in reventing the guns San Domingo and La Birgen de Barbaneda, and they found the buried gun at the Presidio, believed to have been the San Martin."
On July 20, 1846, Montgomery sent a launch to Sonoma to pick up the two brass guns there and return them to the Presidio, or more accurately, to Yerba Buena. Meanwhile, his men were constructing a new battery on a steep bluff facing the bay at Punta del Embarcadero, also known as Clark's Point, to protect the anchorage inside the Bay. This battery, its named preserved in San Francisco's "Battery Street," was unofficially known as "Fort Montgomery." Its site was between the present Battery Street and the water and between Vallejo and Green Streets.
The subsequent history of the Spanish cannon has not been closely traced. An undated early photograph of the interior of Fort Point, located on the site of the cliff on which the old castillo stood, shows two of the guns lying on the ground just inside the sally port. In 1870 four of the guns were used as ‘fender posts;' that is, buried vertically at the muzzle near the corners of the sally port entrances, they prevented iron wagon tires from damaging the brick work at the entrance to Fort Point. An 1897 magazine article claimed that Major General Irvin McDowell commanding the Military Division of the Pacific from 1876 to 1882, had brought all the ancient guns together at Fort Mason in order to preserve them, having found them scattered at different posts around the Bay. By the early 1900s, two of them, muzzle down, flanked the entrance gate to the Commanding General's quarters at Fort Mason, and by 1936, one was still there and another was on the lawn in front of the residence, while the other four had been moved to the Presidio, two to flank the entrance to the Officer's Club, two to flank the flagpole on the Parade Ground. Early in the 1970s the Fort Mason guns were moved again, the San Martin to Fort Point and the San Domingo to the Presidio Army Museum, and both were remounted on replica wooden carriages.
Today these historic cannon, cast in a Peruvian foundry three centuries ago, brought to San Francisco from the Spanish ordnance depot at San Blas in Mexico nearly two centuries ago, serve as impressive reminders of San Francisco's more than two centuries of military history.




 San Martin

 Arms of Don Meleher de Navarra y Rocafal, 26th Viceroy of Peru  Fort Point
 San Domingo

 Arms of Don Diego Fernandez de Cordoba, 17th Viceroy of Peru  Presidio Museum
 San Francisco

 Arms of Don Baltasar de la Cueva Henriquez y Saaverdra, 24th Viceroy of Peru  Presidio Flagpole
 La Birgen de Barbaneda

 Arms of Don Melchor Puertocarrero Laso de la Vega, 27th Viceroy of Peru  Presidio Flagpole

 San Pedro

* Translates roughly as"The governing gentlemen of the Royal Audiencia of Lima," a governing council at a time when there was no viceroy or vice-king appointed. The additional coat of arms which several of these guns have in common is that of Spain. Four were cast in Lima, Peru, by Jose de Cubas, one by Alexo de Texeda, one by Antonio de Riva
.Spanish cannon from Castillio de San Joaquin
The cannon San Domingo
Reference: Douglas Watson, "San Francisco's Ancient Cannon . .. with some notes on the Castillo de Joaquin," Calif. Hist. Soc. Quart., Vol. XV, No. I (March 1936).
Castillo de San Joaquin by Colonel Herbert M. Hart, USMC (Ret)
One version of Castillo de San Joaquin, as it appeared in Bancroft's History of California, measured about 240 by 140 feet. An earlier sketch of fort put it 120 by 180 feet with the buildings in center rather than against rear wall. Still another version had it 120 by 100 feet. Probably all were correct for periods described due to constant remodeling, especially in 1799, 1805, 1808, 1810, 1816, and 1818. "The structure rested on sand and decaying rock," a 1796 report said, "The brick-faced adobe walls crumbled at the shock whenever a salute was fired; the guns were badly mounted and for the most part worn out, only two of the 13 24-pounders being serviceable or capable of sending a ball across the entrance of the port. The whole work, protected by an adobe wall with one gate, was commanded by a hill in the rear, and the garrison of a corporal and six artillerymen was altogether insufficient." Soon after Mexico took over California, a visitor wrote "I found St. Joachirn on his ricky throne, truly a very peaceful and well disposed saint; no one of his cannon in condition to fire a single shot." (Redrawn from Bancroft plate.)
Castillio de San Joaquin, 1794
This page was reprinted with permission from Old Forts of the Far West, published in 1965
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