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Seacoast Fortification - Endicott System

1886 Endicott Board 1902 Actual1906 Taft Board added
1. Kennebec River, ME
2. Portland, ME
3. Portsmouth, NH
4. Boston, MA
5. New Bedford, MA
6. Narragansett Bay, RI
7. Eastern entrance to Long Island Sound.
8. New York, NY
9. Delaware River.
10. Baltimore, MD
11. Washington, DC
12. Hampton Roads, VA
13. Cape Fear River, NC
14. Charleston, SC
15. Port Royal, SC
16. Savannah, GA
17. Key West, FL
18. Tampa Bay, FL
19. Pensacola, FL
20. Mobile, AL
21. New Orleans, LA
22. Galveston, TX
23. San Diego, CA
24. San Francisco, CA
25. Columbia River, Oregon and Washington.
26. Puget Sound, WA
1. Penobscot River, ME
2. Kemiebec River, ME
3. Portland, ME
4. Portsmouth, NH
5. Boston, MA
6. New Bedford, MA
7. Narragansett Hay, RI
8. Eastern entrance to Long Island Sound.
9. New York, NY
10. Delaware River
11. Baltimore, MD
12. Washington, DC
13. Hampton Roads, VA
14. Entrance to Chesapeake Bay at Cape Henry.
15. Wilmington, NC
16. Charleston, SC
17. Port Royal, SC
18. Savannah, GA
19. St. Johns River, FL
20. Key West, FL
21. Tampa Bay, FL
22. Pensacola, FL
23. Mobile, AL
24. New Orleans, LA
25. Sabine Pass, TX
26. Galveaton, TX
27. San Diego, CA
28. San Francisco, CA
29. Columbia River, Oregon and Washington.
30. Puget Sound, WA
31. Lake Champlain
1. Eastern entrance to New York.
2. Southern entrance to New York.
3. Entrance to Chesapeake Bay.
4. Lake ports.
5. Kiska Island, Bering Sea.

1. Guantanamo, Cuba.
2. San Juan, Porto Rico.
3. Guam, in the Pacific.
4. Subig Bay, Philippines.
5. Manila Bay, Philippines.
6. Pearl Harbour and Honolulu.

Isthmus of Panama
1. Colon.
2. Panama.

Before the Civil War the seacoast defenses of the United States were excellent of their class. Their most important elements were masonry forts mounting smooth-bore guns in tiers, both in casemate and in barbette. They were models in design and fine workmanship, and were well placed. But the advance in the power of the guns carried by naval vessels rendered stone walls entirely vulnerable to attack from the sea, and reduced them to such a condition of destructibility that it was more dangerous to be within them than without them during an engagement. Battles waged during the Civil War demonstrated the vulnerability of masonry forts to long-range artillery attack. Instead of providing robust defense against enemy bombardment, their thick masonry walls had actually proven to offer scant resistance to modern rifled artillery fire. Fort Pulaski in Georgia fell to rifled artillery fire in 30 hours. Military planners feared that in this new era of warfare, a Fort's towering walls would only provide attractive targets to an attacking enemy.

After the Civil War it was recognized that these fortifications were obsolete, and that an entirely new system would be necessary to safeguard our great seacoast cities from naval bombardment. Notwithstanding this realization, there was great delay in taking up the subject. The art of gunmaking was in something of a transition stage between the great cast-iron Rodman smooth-bore guns, the capital pieces of the period just before the Civil War, and the modern built-up rifled ordnance. During this transition stage there were many doubts and many conflicting views as to what the character of the ordnance for the armament of our seacoast defenses and ships of war should be. Various boards were appointed to help in resolving the doubt concerning the character ot ordnance which should be adopted and used, and to advise as to the manner of procuring it and the places where it should be installed. Those which acted during the latter part of the period of transition were the Getty Board on Heavy Ordnance, appointed pursuant to an act of Congress in 1881: and the gun foundry board, appointed pursuant to the act of Congress approved March 3, 1883. Also the Senate appointed a. committee from its own membership, which made a report known thereafter as that of the "select committee on ordnance and warships."

In 1885, to remedy these deficiencies, the War Department convened the Joint Army-Navy Board on Fortifications and Other Defenses, or Endicott Board, named for the Secretary of War who served as its chairman. The report of this board, some 391 pages, shaped the development of American coastal ordnance for the next 30 years. The Endicott board analyzed coastal defense requirements by studying the characteristics of modern warships such as displacement, draft, and armament. Since warships which could not approach closer than 8,000 to 10,000 yards from shore could not reach land with their guns, the design of harbor defenses depended on the depth of the harbor. For example, the harbor at San Franciscowould admit deep draft vessels, but New Bedford's shallows would only admit lighter vessels. Therefore, a shallow draftharbor like New Bedford had no need for any heavy guns. This type of analysis, updated with the appearance of each new class of warship and naval ordnance, governed the strategy, tactics, and acquisition policies of the coast artillery up to the First World War.

On the basis of recommendations by the Endicott Board, convened in 1885, the Army already had begun an ambitious coastal defense construction program in the early 1890s. Experience gained in the Spanish-American War also brought some significant changes in the Army's coastal defense program. The hurriedly improvised measures taken during the war to protect Atlantic ports from possible attack by the Spanish fleet emphasized the need for modern seacoast defenses. Under the strategic concepts in vogue, construction and manning of these defenses were primarily an Army responsibility, since in wartime the naval fleet had to be kept intact, ready to seek out and destroy the enemy's fleet.

The Endicott plan contemplated the thorough fortification of 27 ports, to which the Puget Sound ports were afterward added. It involved the construction of 677 guns and 824 mortars, at a cost of over $97,000,000, and floating batteries, also, at a cost of over $28,000,000. The recommendations of the Fortifications Board, in which the plan was devised, called for an immediate appropriation of 21,500,000 and $9,000,000 annually thereafter. But the "watchdogs of the Treasury" and the necessities of "political economy" reduced the official estimates for coast defenses, embraced under the head of fortifications, as for no other branch of National expenditure. Where, since 1886, the original Endicott plan called for an expenditure of over $97,000,000, actual appropriations aggregated only $10,631,000 by 1895.

The history of the Endicott plan since its inception in 1886 revealed clearly the inherent weakness of the cause of coast defense in Congress. Twenty-one of the 45 States border on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Gulf of Mexico, and embrace 42, or nearly one-half, of the 90 Senators. But, in the House, the number of sea and Gulf districts, within which coast defense operations are contemplated, is comparatively insignificant; and the active, personal interest manifested in coast-defense appropriations is correspondingly small. Important as guns and fortifications are at the present juncture, when viewed in a National aspect, they do not appeal to half the Senate and to scarcely as many Representatives as Senators. Compared with the improvement of rivers and harbors, which abound in every Senate State and House district, or with public buildings, the demand for which among Congressmen was universal and unlimited, they are altogether a subordinate matter.

A generation of bare-bones budgets kept the Endicott coastal defense program, the Army's major peacetime defense project, perennially behind schedule. This lack of resource allocation, coupled with flawed coastal defense policy decisions in the generational development of the coast artillery fortification system, eventually eroded their defensive potential.

By 1895 antiquated smooth bores alone frowned through the portholes and from the parapets of Forts Wadsworth and Hamilton at New York Harbor. Fort Lafayette was a picturesque ruin. A beggarly array of mortars at Sandy Hook did evidence patriotic preparation in the art of national self-defense. Fort Hancock at the Hook had also been equipped with two 12-inch guns of modern make-the most formidable type of gun yet manufactured in this country for coast defense. Yet the harbor of New York is in a more advanced stage of defense than any other on two oceans and the Gulf of Mexico. Indeed, there were only two other harbors where the slightest beginning has been made. Boston and San Francisco each have 16 12-inch mortars in position, while a 15-inch dynamite gun battery for San Francisco has recently been completed. All other harbors were absolutely defenseless.

The basic infrastructure was in place by 1903, consisting of 70 forts in 28 locations, mounting 79 8-inch guns, 110 10-inch guns, 87 12-inch guns, and 192 12-inch mortars. In the approved projects for coast defense, based largely on the report of the Endicott Board of 1885, the 12-inch breech-loading mortar is given great prominence. In the absence of any decided use of mortars against fleets, the wisdom of allotting such a large proportion of this form of weapon had been frequently questioned. Considering the man-of-war simply in its defensive aspect, the weight of armor she can carry is necessarily limited. Some portions must thus be left entirely unprotected. The sides, and especially over the vitals, present the greatest thickness to penetration, while but little metal can be spared for deck or under-water protection. No armor at all can be placed on the bottom, while the protective deck is so reduced as to be easily penetrated by a falling shot.

A ship is thus necessarily most vulnerable to an attack from the bottom or from overhead, from mines, submarines, or from mortar fire. Such modes of attack have developed naturally from the inherent weakness of the ship in the respects stated. There can be no doubt of the havoc that would be wrought in even the most powerful man-of-war by the impact on her deck of an 800 or 1,000-pound mortar shell. During the summer of 1901 a series of tests was made by actual firing of the mortars in Fort Preble, Portland Harbor, ME The results were most satisfactory, and conclusively proved the usefulness of these pieces even against moving ships at ranges between 3,000 and 9,000 yards. Subsequent target practice had shown them to be accurate and effective up to 11,000 yards, and extreme ranges of 12,000 yards had been successfully used.

Stimulated by the larger appropriations and the war with Spain the seacoast defenses of the United States were, in 1906, about 67 per cent completed. Twenty-five of the principal harbors of the United States possessed a sufficient number of heavy guns and mortars mounted to permit of an effective defense against naval attack. A considerable portion of the light rapid-fire emplacements and guns were completed, while a beginning had been made of inaugurating the systematic installation of fire-control systems and searchlight apparatus for night defenses.

The tendency toward a reduction in caliber of heavy ordnance and the adoption of a disappearing carriage for the 12-inch gun has, up to the present time, enabled the United States to avoid costly experiments in armored turrets, cupolas, and casemates, which have been forced on European nations by their struggle for military and commercial supremacy. No definite numbers or calibers of rapid-tire guns were assigned in the earlier projects, but subsequent revisions have resulted in a regular programme for rapid-tire armament, a reduction in the number and caliber of heavy guns, a reduction in the number of mortars, and a general elimination of armored defenses. Marked economies have thus been secured without any sacrifice of defensive requirements.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:46:09 ZULU