California State Military Department
The California State Military Museum
Preserving California's Military Heritage
Historic California Posts
Fort Winfield Scott
by Gordon Chappell
Regional Historian, Pacific West Region
National Park Service
 
Kobbe Avenue entrance to Fort Winfield Scott (May 2001)
 

A source of confusion in any discussion of the military posts of San Francisco Bay is Fort Winfield Scott. 'Defining exactly what and where it was is no simple matter., and there were two phases to the use of the term, But for the purpose of understanding what it meant there are two central facts: Fort Winfield Scott was physically a part of what is generally understood as the Presidio of San Francisco; and since 1910 it has comprised in part a geographically separate and architecturally distinct set of buildings around a separate parade ground most of them built in 1910. 1921 and 1912. The layout of the buildings was in the form of a hook or -backwards "J" with the top of the letter to the north.

The earliest usage of the name was somewhat different, The masonry and brick fort built in the 1850s on the site of the old Spanish Castillo de San Joaquin did not., for more than twenty years after acquiring its first garrison in 1861. have a formal military name. The point of land on which it was built had been called-by the Americans "Fort Point" because of the location there of the old Spanish castillo and., subsequently., the American fort which replaced it. But that was not the official name of the fort. It was referred to in official army documents as "the fort at Fort Point.," but of course in common usage, the term "Fort Point" more often referred to the fortification itself than the point of land on which it stood,

Then on November 25, 1882, Headquarters of the Army issued General Orders No. 133 which officially named that fort at Fort Point., "Fort Winfield Scott.," after the general who was a hero of the Mexican War and who commanded the Union Army at the beginning of the Civil War. However., only four years later, the fort was downgraded to being a mere sub-post of the-Presidio of San Francisco with its none discontinued on September 15, 1886. In common usage, of course,, the name survived for many years more, although it had no administrative meaning.

Planning had been in progress in the 1890s as new types of breechloading long range guns were being emplaced around San Francisco Harbor for a garrison for the men to man those which were within the Presidio as well as a coast defense headquarters distinct from the Presidio. But this -was not actually constructed until 1909-1912, and when was finished the old name was resurrected, On June 18, 1912, in response -to instructions issued from the War Department in Washington on February 16, the Western Division published General Orders No. 11 which stated that "Fort Winfield Scott., California, is established as an independent coast artillery post, to take effect at 12 o'clock noon., June 19, 1912, and the headquarters of the Artillery District of San Francisco will be located thereat." Thus Fort Winfield Scott was a coast artillery garrison which comprised roughly the northwestern quarter of the land in the boundaries of the Presidio of San Francisco., and had responsibility for all the seacoast defense batteries , torpedo or mine facilities., and other supporting structures elsewhere in the Presidio, but principally along its northern and western edges. Defining the actual boundary of Fort Winfield Scott is virtually impossible as it seems never to have been consistently specified. The one and only true "entrance" to Fort Winfield Scott consists of lettering spelling out that name, flanked by the crossed-cannon-with-shell insignia of the Coast Artillery Corps, which are on the east side of the Highway 1 overpass over Kobbe Avenue (see photograph above.)

The key buildings of the new post were Mission Revival style barracks and other structures around the Parade Ground. The first built were buildings 1206, 1207 and 1208, reinforced concrete barracks with mess halls and kitchens included built in 1910 at the northwest corner of the Parade Ground. In 1911, two more of these were added., Buildings 1202 and 1203. In 1912 the largest amount of construction took place: Post Headquarters No. 1201, five more barracks with mess halls and kitchens included (1204, 1205, 1216, 1217 and 1218), a Band Barracks (1214), a Guardhouse(No. 1213) at the northeast corner of the Parade Ground, and the unlikely combination of a Quartermaster Storehouse and Bowling Alley (No. 1219), This comprised the basic Fort Winfield Scott artillery garrison complex.

Another complex of officers' quarters was absorbed into the new artillery post. These were the stately officers' quarters on Kobbe Avenue. The earliest of these, Nos. 1302 and 1304, were built in 1902. Then in 1910 three were added (1300, 1308 and 1310) and in 1912 seven more (1314, 1320, 1322, 1324, 1326, 1328 and 1334). A Bachelor Officers' Quarters with Mess (1330) was added in 1915, A general's residence across the street was erected in 1915 (1337) and another in 1943 (1332) to the southeast. Other buildings were added in later years.

Although always physically a part of the Presidio of San Francisco, Fort Winfield Scott functioned sometimes as a separate military command partially dependent on the Presidio for logistic support., sometimes as a sub-post of the Presidio itself'. answerable to the Presidio commander. On November 27, 1922 it was designated headquarters for the "Coast Defenses of San Francisco," but on June 9, 1925, that term was changed to "Harbor Defenses of San Francisco." As headquarters for that function., Fort Winfield Scott had at different times a number of sub-posts of its awn in the Bay Area: these included Forts Baker., Barry and Cronkhite in Marin County and Forts Miley and Funston in San Francisco. Neither the Presidio of San Francisco nor Fort Mason were ever sub-posts of Fort Scott, although both had some guns and other ancillary facilities (searchlights fire control stations, torpedo or mine facilities, etc.) that did come under Fort Winfield Scott's command.

Fort Winfield Scott's independent role., established in 1912, seems to have permanently ended on June 25, 1946, when it was designated a sub-post of the Presidio of San Francisco.. Although it was reclassified under the Commanding General of the Sixth Army on September 25, 1946.

Fort Scott had one other significance in history, On June 1, 1946, the army's Coast Artillery School was transferred from Fort Monroe., Virginia,, to Fort Winfield Scott., where it operated for a brief period before coast artillery defenses became obsolete when confronted with modern air power guided missiles,, and nuclear weapons., which of course made Fort Scott's own mission obsolete. Since then., Fort Winfield Scott's barracks have served other purposes., and in 1981 house the 504th Military Police Battalion.


Batteries at Fort Winfield Scott

Lancaster

 2

12 Inch M1895

 M1897 Disappearing

 1896

 1900

 1918 (1)
Lancaster

 1

12 Inch M1888MI

 M1896 Disappearing

 1897

 1900

 1918 (1)

Cranston

 2

10 Inch M1888MII

  M1896 Disappearing

 1897

 1898

 1943 (1)

Marcus Miller

 3

10 Inch M1894

  M1894 Disappearing

 1890

 1898

 1920

 Boutelle

 3

5 Inch M1896

 M1896 Ballanced Pillar

 1898

1901

 1918

 Godfrey

 2

12 Inch M1888

 M1892 Barbette

 1892

1896

 1943

 Dynamite

 3

15 Inch Pneumatic Dynamite

-

 1893

1894

 1904 (2)

 Saffold

 2

12 Inch M1888MII

 M1892 Barbette

 1896

1899

 1943

 Crosby

 2

6 Inch M1897MI

 M1898 Disappearing

 1899

1900

 1943

 Chamberlin

 4

6 Inch M1903

 M1903 Disappearing

 1904

-

 1943 (3)

 Baldwin

 2

3 Inch M1898

  M1898 Masking Pedestal

 1901

 1903

 1920 (1)

 Sherwood

 2

5 Inch M1900

M1903 Pedestal

 1900

 1900

 1917 (4)
Slaughter

 3

8 Inch M1888

 M1896 Disappearing

 1896

 1900

 1917 (1)

 Blaney

 4

3 Inch M1898

  M1898 Masking Pedestal

 1902

 1903

1920

 Howe

 8

12 Inch Mortar M1886

  M1891 Mortar

 1893

 1895

1920(5)

 Wagner

 8

12 Inch Mortar M1886

  M1891 Mortar

 1893

 1895

1920 (5)

 Stotsenburg

 8

12 Inch Mortar M1890MI

  M1896 Mortar

 1897

 -

1943 (6)

 McKinnon

 8

12 Inch Mortar M1890MI

  M1896 Mortar

 1897

 -

1943 (6)
Anti-Aircraft

 2

3 Inch M1917
M1917 Pedastal

 1920

 1920

 1925 (7)

 Gate

 2

 3 Inch M1902

 M1902 Ballanced Pillar

1942

1942

 1946 (8)

 Point

 2

 3 Inch M1902

M1902 Ballanced Pillar

1945

1945

 1946 (8)

Baker

4

90mm M1

 Fixed M3 and Mobile M1

 1943

 1943

 1946
Anti-Aircraft #3

 3

3 Inch M1917
M1917 Pedastal

1942

1942

?

(1) In 1933 the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge resulted in the burial of Batteries Slaughter and Baldwin. Battery Lancaster was partially covered by the toll plaza, but one emplacement remains just to the east.
(2) In 1942, Battery Dynamite was converted to the HECP-HDCP for San Francisco. It was inactivated in 1946. The National Park Service uses the area for storage today.
(3) Two of Battery Chamberlin's guns were removed in 1918. They were replaced in 1930s with two 6" M1900 guns on M1900 pedistal mounts. In 1976, the National Park Service replaced one 6" M1903 gun mounted in a working M1905LF disappearing carriage that was donated by the Smithsonian. This gun originally came from Battery Livingston, Fort Hamilton, HDNY. The two guns from that battery were re-emplaced in Battery Schofield at the West Point Military Acadamy for some time before given to the Smithsonian. The other gun is now located at Fort Pickens, Penascola, Florida.
(4) In 1917, temporary platforms were built for 8 mortars from Battery Stotsenburg-McKinnon. In 1919 two platforms were built for 5" guns from Battery Sherwood. The guns were removed later that year. Both emplacements have been buried.
(5) Sometime after all of the mortars were removed from Batteries Howe and Wagner, all but one of Howe's emplacements were buried.
(6) Two mortars each from Batteries Stotenburg and McKinnon were emplaced in Battery Walter Howe at Fort Funston in 1917. Battery Walter Howe was buried after its guns were removed.
(7) Fort Scott's AA guns transfered to Fort Funston.
(8) Four guns from Battery Yates were removed in 1942. Two were emplaced on top of old Fort Point and two were emplaced at Gravelly Beach, for use as Anti-Motor Torpedo Boat guns. Later the Gravely Beach guns were also moved to Fort Point.
Originally Published in 1981 for the annual meeting of the Council on Abandoned Military Posts. Reprinted with permission of the author

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