coast defense

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The Performance of Coast Artillery Guns

The table below lists the ranges of the principal guns of the Coast Artillery that defended Boston Harbor between 1898 and 1946. [NOTE]

Ranges of Boston Guns and Mortars
Gun/Mortar Yards Miles
16-inch Army M1919 on BC 49,100 27.8
16-inch (Navy Mk II M1) on BC 44,680 25.4
12-inch M1895 A2 on BC 29,300 16.6
12-inch M1888 on DC 15,134 8.6
12-inch M1895 on DC 11,636 6.6
12-inch mortar (M1890) 14,610 8.3
10-inch M1900 on DC 14,162 8.0
10-inch M1888 M1 on DC 12.259 7.0
6-inch (M1) on BC 26,250 14.9
6-inch (M1900) on BC 14,400 8.2
3-inch (M1903) 11,000 6.3
90mm (M1) 8,000 4.5

In Boston, for example, harbor defense in the Endicott-Taft Period (1895-1915) was provided principally by 10-inch and 12-inch rifles on disappearing carriages (DC) in the harbor forts, supported by many batteries of 3-inch rapid fire (RF) guns. As the table shows, this gave the harbor defenses an outer reach of some 7 to 8 miles. If we take average range as 7.5 miles, this would be roughly the distance between Battery Stevenson at Fort Warren (the 12-inch guns on Georges Island) northerly to East Point in Nahant or southeasterly to the coast in Hingham just below the base of the Hull peninsula. This would mean that the guns on Georges Island could engage enemy ships positioned roughly 12 miles from the State House in downtown Boston.

The table also underlines the importance of 12-inch mortar batteries during this early period. They exceeded all but the 12-inch M1888 (DC) in range, and possessed wide fields of fire (360 degrees, although most were not expected to be employed in this manner). [NOTE]

In the 1920s, Boston's defenses were up-gunned, with the addition of the 12-inch barbette carriage (BC) guns of Btty Gardner in Nahant. These guns had almost three times the range of the 12-inch DC guns emplaced only 10-15 years earlier. The 16-inch guns of Btty Long on Hog Island were also added during the 1920s, using the Navy guns displaced by naval treaties between the wars, This extended the range of Boston's armament to 25 miles.

Then, as WW2 dawned, the older DC guns and the mortar batteries were scrapped (after a life of only some 25 years), and the defenses were augmented by newer (M1) 6-inch batteries that offered almost twice the range of their earlier (M1900) counterparts and by 90mm guns for rapid fire, close-in defense. Selected batteries of older 3-inch guns were retained throughout WW2.

Range Characteristics

In the earlier Endicott-Taft period (1895-1915), the longest-range guns in the Boston defenses had a range of about 7.5 miles. Later, during WW2, Boston's 16-inch gun batteries were designed to hit targets from 25 to 27 miles distant.