Fort Scott: Battery Dynamite (1895-1904)
Over the objection of the army, Congress appropriated $400,000 for the purchase of "pneumatic dynamite guns" in 1888. In non-technical terms, these were guns that fired charges of dynamite by means of compressed air. Subsequently, the army set up two experimental dynamite batteries of three guns each, one at Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and the other at Fort Scott.
The guns at "Battery Dynamite" could fire a variety of charges--from a 50 pound dynamite shell for up to 5000 yards (2.8 miles) to a 500 pound shell for up to 2000 yards (1.1 miles). Test-firings were conducted in December 1895; however, the army never adopted the weapons because of advances in conventional artillery. Consequentially, the dynamite guns were declared obsolete and scrapped by 1901.
The battery complex underwent was put to a variety of uses after its disarmament. The power plant built for the air compressors that propelled the projectiles was used to supply power to Fort Scott. During World Wars I and II, the complex served as the harbor defense command post and was used by Army Engineers for communications and storage until the army garrison was deactivated in 1994.
Origin of Name
Dynamite Battery was named unofficially for the type of gun it held.
Access and Current Condition
Battery Dynamite is located on the coastal bluffs north of Baker Beach. It can be reached either by driving along Ralston Avenue to Fort Scott--where the rear of the battery and its supporting powerhouse are visible--or by driving along Lincoln Boulevard to view the front of the battery. Two lookout ports associated with the harbor defense command post also can be seen from Lincoln Boulevard. Parking along the road is available but limited. There is no access to the interior magazines or galleries.
Did You Know?
Major Jonathan Letterman--after whom the hospital at the Presidio was renamed in 1911--was the medical director of the Army of the Potomac. A founding father of military medicine, Letterman organized forward first-aid stations, mobile field hospitals, and ambulance services during the Civil War.