coast defense

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Fort Ruckman

Fort Ruckman, built in 1904-1907, covered an area of about 45 acres at Bass Point, on the southwest side of the Nahant peninsula. This location, jutting out into Broad Sound, was ideal for protecting the northern approaches to Boston Harbor. In WW2, it housed the Group Command post for the northern district of the harbor defenses of Boston and also the two long-range 12-inch guns of Battery Gardner.

These guns, which were installed in 1922-1923, were Model 1895 A2 guns on surface-mounted barbette carriages, M1917 Model E. The use of the barbette (instead of disappearing) carriages allowed the guns to elevate as much as 35 degrees and gave them an estimated maximum range of 29,300 yards (about 16.6 miles). This would have enabled them, for example, to cover an arc extending from Gloucester in the north to North Scituate in the south. From 1925 until WW2, Battery Gardner was the second most powerful battery in the Boston Harbor defenses, next to the 16-inch Battery Long at Fort Duvall.

At the beginning of WW2, Battery Gardner's guns were covered with reinforced concrete casemates (Slide 3), reducing their range, but making them much better protected from attack. Each gun had a total weight of 151 tons. The centers of the two gun positions are roughly 425 ft. apart.

Today, most of the area within the fort's WW2 boundaries has been converted into residential real estate, recreation, or park land for the Town of Nahant. The extensive concrete galleries between the north and south firing positions of Battery Gardner housed ammunition storage, crew quarters, and other activities and have been buried under 20 or so feet of earth during the casemate construction process. These subterranian galleries are still accessible and are used by the town for storage.

On the surface of the buried galleries are a series of large and smaller concrete chimneys that ventilate the galleries below. A geodetic marker, MY0039--RUCKMAN RESET (Slide 5), was emplaced in 1943, over the plotting room for the battery and as a reference for aiming the guns. The author recovered (re-found) this marker in December, 2009.

About 800 ft. NNW of the northernmost gun position of Battery Gardner (see map in Slide 1) lay the center of a 3-gun battery of antiaircraft guns known as Location 130-2C, or the Boston Harbor No.4 AA Battery. The three guns were surface-mounted, standard barbette carriage 3" guns, Model 1917-A2. The gun centers formed a roughly equilateral triangle 150 ft. on a side. The gun positions were constructed in 1934, but were not armed until 1942. Final construction on the battery commenced on May 5, 1942, and was completed in less than a month. Today, the battery positions appear (from Google maps) to have been destroyed, but the center point of the battery would fall roughly at the left field foul pole of the first baseball field southeast of the corner of Castle and Flash Roads.

Between 1907 and the 1930s, Bayley's Hill at Ft. Ruckman (see Slide 1) was the site of of one of the most important fire control positions in Boston Harbor. A cemesto building, over 70 ft. above the harbor and protected by an earth embankment, housed four observation bays and providing an observation post for Fire Command No. 6 and the secondary base end stations for both mortar batteries at Ft. Banks (Kellogg and Lincoln) and for the 12-inch guns of Battery Winthrop at Ft. Heath. [The primary base end stations (and Battery Commanders' stations) for these batteries were located about 3 miles away at Fort Heath on Grovers Cliff in Winthrop. The Bayley's Hill FCS also contained sleeping quarters for enlisted men and officers involved with fire control tasks. Although this building was torn down sometime after 1935, the precise coordinates of its observing instruments are still carried in the NGS database.

In 1947, the Army declared that it had no further use for Battery Gardner and thus it had no need to retain Fort Ruckman as a whole.

Ft. Ruckman Images

  • Ft-Ruckman-Map-Notes
    This map dates to perhaps 1944 and shows the outline of Ft. Ruckman. Almost all of the structures shown are temporary WW2 buildings, most of them likely barracks. The buried casemates of Btty Gardner are shown as a dashed line. The location of the 3-gun AA battery, now on Town playing fields, is indicated. The author has drawn in the locations of the fire control tower and the survey disk shown in Slide 5 below. (U.S. Army Engiineers)
  • Tower-and-Gun-1
    This image looks northwesterly from Bayley's Hill at the casemate for Gun 1, one of the two 12-inch guns of Btty Gardner. Originally these guns were barbette mounted, unprotected on the surface. They were casemated in the late 1930s. The 6-story Harris St. (Ruckman) fire control tower is shown at left. (PG 2009)
  • Gardner-Gun2
    This image, taken in December, 2010, looks northwesterly, up the access road that leads to the gun platform for Gun 2. Dirt has been piled up against the embrasure to try to keep kids from using the gun position as an access point for the casemate of Btty Gardner. The railing at top is a modern addtion, protecting an overlook at the park above the gun position. (PG 2010)
  • 12-in-M1917-pic
    This is the same gun as those at Battery Gardner, and this is how the guns looked before they were buried within protective concrete casemates. (Courtesy Coast Defense Study Group)
  • 12-inch-in-casemate
    This casemate is very similar to what exists today at Btty Gardner. The 12-inch gun protruding from the casemate is the same as those at Btty Gardner too. An idea of scale is provided by the soldier standing on the gun tube. (Courtesy Coast Defense Study Group)
  • MY0039-Ruckman-Disk
    This survey marker is set over the plotting room of Btty Gardner and served to locate the battery for fire control purposes. The mark is assigned the Permanent Identifier (PID) MY0039. It was set in 1934 when the battery was on the surface, and reset in 1943 after the battery was transformed into a buried casemate. The mark was recovered (re-found) by the author on Pearl Harbor Day, 2009, after not having been reported for 30 years. (PG 2009)