Fort Casey hardly counts as a forgotten place since it’s one of the highlights of summer camping in the NW. Still, it’s a very interesting place for exploring and photography, and full of local history. I’ve been there many times, but my first real journey with the camera was in July 2014. I chose an overcast day to capture a gloomy feeling, and to keep other passersby to a minimum, however by the time I arrived at the fort, overcast had turned to downpour. Needless to say, it was a wet, cold expedition, however the rain perfectly created the gloomy, sullen atmosphere I was seeking, and made a wonderful excuse to explore the tunnels and bunkers deep underground. To make it an even better trip, nearly all the tunnels and building were open, and I had free reign throughout the complex. Thank goodness for carrying a flashlight! This blog will be fairly in depth, for people interested in history or the operation of old forts, and such, so it’s not for everyone. Some pictures really only apply to those who are interested in what’s pictured, but I hope I also captured something of an atmosphere or mood as well as scenes.
Cantonment and garrison are to the NW in this photo. Near north center is the lighthouse and Battery Turman. To the south is the main line of batteries looking over the channel.
Fort Casey was built on a peninsula of land jutting out of Whidbey Island toward Port Townsend. The installation was named after Brigadier General Thomas Lincoln Casey, who served as the Army Chief of Engineers 1888-1895. Originally staffed by 32 men of Company B, 3rd US Artillery in 1899, the fort’s first battery was installed in 1902, the same year the first full garrison arrived, 203 men from Companies 63 and 71, Coast Artillery, from Alcatraz Island.
Admiralty Head lighthouse.
At the height of pre-war operation the fort was to consist of ten batteries, including two 12″ mortar, three 10″ cannon, two 6″ cannon, and three defensive batteries.
Batteries Worth, Moore, and Valleau
There are two main sections to Fort Casey’s batteries: the main line overlooking Admiralty Inlet, and the mortar emplacements slightly northwest of the cannons. I wasn’t able to get to the mortar pits this trip, so there’s already something to go back for!
The first location on the trip was Battery Worth. It should be noted that although the structure appears to be a single entity, it’s designated as a number of individual batteries, or emplacements and guns. Briefly, a gun is a cannon with rifling in the barrel to make the shot fly more precisely. It is called a gun rather than a cannon to separate how the two pieces of equipment are different. A battery is two or more guns under the guidance of a single commanding element. Because of this, a battery may refer to the physical objects, actual emplacements and cannons, or it may refer to the unit manning those cannons, which in the US Artillery is also known as a battery.
Battery Worth diagram from 1933 evaluation. At Fort Casey, most guns were assigned two to a battery. This is partly for command and control, and partly because most batteries were built two emplacements at a time. So while the long line appears to have five emplacements, it really represents two batteries built at two different times. Battery Worth is a two-story facility with magazine in the lower sections slightly below ground. Hoists lift the shells from the magazine to the loading deck, where carts were used to transfer the 300+ pound shells for reloading. Between the guns on the ground level is a small shack used as a plotting room. Behind the emplacement on it’s own concrete stand is the Battery Commander Fire Control booth, with view of both guns as well as the water beyond. This elevated room would have been equipped with sighting equipment to help gunners adjust fire onto targets.
Battery Worth as seen from Battery Moore’s Fire Control booth. Endicott forts seem to share a tradition of naming batteries after notable individuals, and to refer to them as such. Battery Worth was named after BG William S. Worth who served in the Civil War and Spanish-American War.
Coast Artillery Guns
Battery Worth’s northern cannon looms out of the grey rain.
Rain and gloom drape over Battery Worth’s BFC booth and cannons.
The guns are M1895 10″ (#26), manufactured by Watervliet Arsenal, 1903. They weighed 50 tons, and could fire a 300+ pound shell nearly 8 miles. Behind the battery is a hilltop complex with signals bunkers and battery coordinating plotting offices.
Gun emplacement. The carriage pivots, and when the gun is fired, the carriage collapses, bringing the breach down near the empty level for reloading. Battery Worth, position #1.
M1895 10″ gun in retracted position. Battery Worth, position #2.
The original guns were removed during WWI and set to Europe for service as rail cannons with the AEF. These display cannons were recovered from Fort Wint in the Philippines. Damage marks can be seen on the barrel, from the Japanese attack of Corregidor where this cannon was stationed during WWII. The US built Endicott fortifications in the Philippines following the Spanish-American War.
Firing the cannons for training.
Gunnery crew atop the cannon.
Battery Plotting Office
Plotting Office, between the gun emplacements on ground level. Plotting rooms converted data from observers into a form usable by gun crews for aiming. Observers triangulated targets to determine range, then sent that information to the plotters, who used a scale board of the field of fire of the battery to determine gun elevation and azimuth settings. This video describes in detail how plotting and firing are coordinated: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxmF6sEmzVU
Interior of plotting office under reconstruction. After 100 years, there’s nothing of note left to be found. Endicott fortifications made use of electricity for lighting and communication, however the tubes in the floor may also be from later modifications.
Battery Command Fire Control
Battery Command fire control booth. Observers helped to coordinate between the guns of the battery and plotting office, and adjust fire for targets. Inside each booth is a stanchion for aiming equipment or telescopic optics.
View from one of the gun emplacements.
View of Admiralty Inlet from the Battery Moore BCG.
Ground level of Battery Worth on a gloomy day.
The stairs lead up onto the gun emplacement from the first level. The door to the left leads into the Tool Room, and Oil Room beyond.
Ladder to a hatch exiting onto the top of the concrete apron atop the fortification. Rain pours down from the open hatch above.
Stairs leading to the emplacement above, as seen from the Oil Room.
Stairs from the interior of the bunker to the emplacement, right underneath the gun. The Tool and Oil Rooms are below, making it easy to carry equipment for servicing the cannon and carriage.
Steel platforms connect the concrete batteries on the second level. I don’t know the purpose of these little alcoves. The have tube and eye-hooks inside, possibly for cables or electrical lines of some sort. Each alcove has a steel sliding panel that can cover the front.
Ammo Transfer Hoist
Ammo was hoisted to the second level of each battery from the magazine deep below. The shells weighed more than 300 pounds each. A hoist carriage system of cradles on chains brought each shell up to a central console like this, where the shell was automatically offloaded.
Bumpers stopped the shells as they offloaded from the hoist-cradle. The shells were then loaded onto a cart to be carried to the guns. Metal strips on the floor acted as a guide to get the cart into place and prevent it from slipping or being too far from the shells, causing them to drop to the floor.
Hoist mechanism rusted from 100 years in the salty Washington air.
Schematic of a similar hoist system used in Endicott fortifications.
Into the belly of the beast. The entryway to the magazine leads into the deep dark stillness of the bunker.
Flashlights are a must for this level of bunker spelunking! Even then the darkness seems to swallow the light.
Deep in the dark magazine, the remains of the hoist system quietly rust.
Locked into Battery Worth is a restored hoist system. The shells were placed on struts and rolled onto a cradle connected to chains.
I honestly don’t know what this little room was for. It’s at the end of a hallway labeled “Splinter Proof” on the 1933 plan, just on the opposite side of the wall from the ammo hoists. It’s the only non-concrete wall I’ve found inside the bunkers, which is what makes it curious.
Powder Room. Again, absolutely no light and my flashlight wasn’t really cutting it. The room was interesting because it was lined with hollow bricks. I can only assume the bricks were to help absorb moisture while prevent sparks that might cause the powder to detonate. The brick lining is framed in wood from the original construction.
Named for Revolutionary War hero MG James Moore, this battery was completed in two parts. The first two guns were added in 1902, with a third added two years later. It is unknown why this battery deviates from the two-gun emplacement common to other Endicott fortifications. One interesting aspect of this battery is the addition of an electrical bunker.Battery Moore is connected to Battery Worth on its northern side.
Ground level looking south toward the electrical generator bunker. Battery Worth is being reconditioned, however Battery Moore remains fairly dilapidated.
Ground level looking south.
Battery Moore second level looking south.
Battery Moore and electrical bunker as seen from the Fire Control tower.
Battery Moore as seen from signal hill. Port Townsend lies 4 miles away across the inlet.
Stairs leading to the gun emplacement from the oil and tool rooms.The emplacements were originally M1895 guns on M1896 disappearing carriages, like Battery Worth.
During WWII the third emplacement was converted into an anti-aircraft turret.
Stairs leading up to the second level gun emplacements of Battery Moore.
Electrical Generation Bunker
The bunker became flooded with the heavy rain, adding to the gloomy atmosphere.
The 1933 plan labels this room as the electrical plant. These must have been stanchions for the generator.
This bunker has long galleries with various rooms along the corridors, all now empty and dark.
More flooded galleries and hallways in the electrical bunker.
Battery Valleau is on the southern tip of Fort Casey, overlooking the Inlet and shallow bay now used as ferry landing to the east. Named for 1LT John Valleau, killed in Canada during the War of 1812, the battery was completed in 1907, mounting four 6″ rifle cannons on disappearing carriages. Valleau used central stores for ammunition, and did not have a hoist system.
An elevated service road runs between batteries Valleau and Kingsbury to the top of the embankments.
Yet more tunnels and empty rooms.
Borrowed photo showing a whole battery and magazine.
Close up of the shared magazine for two emplacements.
Concrete stairs reminiscent of ancient Greek ruins.
Doors to the magazine lie past the gun pad.
Yet more of those curious alcoves with tubes and hooks in the wall.
Tiny bird sits atop the former gun emplacement.
Pump of some sort, probably water. I thought it was interesting that the concrete was molded around the pump.
Part 2: Batteries Trevor, Turman, Signal Hill, and more!
Sun briefly breaks through the clouds in time for a colorful sunset.