Angel Island, 1846 - 1876
The U.S. Army began construction on Angel Island in September 1863, when carpenters began erecting quarters for engineers. A company of artillery was stationed on the island on September 21, 1863, and established Camp Reynolds in the valley between Points Stewart and Knox.1
The troops constructed an unofficial battery at Camp Reynolds that contained five 32-pounder smoothbores, scheduled for eventual placement at Point Blunt. The Engineer Department never recognized the existence of this battery because it was never part of an approved project. The water battery at Camp Reynolds contained two 32-pounders and three 24-pounders. In February 1864, a wharf was completed at Camp Reynolds, greatly improving the unloading of supplies and equipment. Construction of the wharf at Camp Reynolds would prove to be a strategic blunder; when Colonel Alexander examined the batteries on Angel Island between November 1867 and April 1868, he determined that the battery at Camp Reynolds might be useful for firing salutes and for purposes of drill only, since it fired directly over the wharf.1
Construction of the battery at Point Stewart began in November 1863. By June 1864, a road had been constructed from the wharf to the battery, and engineers were in the process of erecting a large wooden magazine. Three 32-pounders and a columbiad were mounted at the battery in July of 1864. Point Stewart turned out to be much too small and narrow to contain the large battery originally contemplated for the site; consequently a third location, Point Knox, was chosen for a battery on Angel Island.1
A survey for a ten-gun battery at Point Knox was undertaken in November 1863, and construction of the earthen parapet commenced soon after. Point Knox's armament -- seven 32-pounders, one 8-inch Rodman, and two 10-inch Rodmans -- were mounted by September 1864. This battery was considered to be located at the most strategic location, although the irregular ground required several different heights for the guns.1
The site was surveyed in November 1863, but construction on the seven-gun battery did not begin until March 1864. Excavation of earth and rock and the construction of a stoneless earthen parapet were completed by April. Six 32-pounders and one 10-inch Rodman were mounted in the summer of 1864, but severe rains in December 1864 caused heavy damage to the parapet, which slid 5 feet forward.1 In June 1865,the Inspector of Artillery and Ordnance for San Francisco Harbor reported that the battery was not serviceable and that settling continued. Repairs were not attempted, and in February of 1866 Lieutenant Colonel E. R. Platt, Commanding Officer of Camp Reynolds, declared the battery “utterly useless” and asked permission to dismount the guns. A month later all guns were removed and the battery abandoned.2
1. Thompson, Erwin N. Historic Resource Study: Seacoast Fortifications, San Francisco Harbor. California: GGNRA, 1979.
2. John Soennichsen, Historian, Angel Island Association, email communication, April 2005.
Did You Know?
To take a hike on the seafloor, explore any of the trails around the Golden Gate headlands, where you are surrounded by slabs of ocean crust that have crept thousands of kilometers on a tectonic journey to end on dry land.