Battery Varnum

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Battery Varnum (1901-1943) - Battery Varnum was a reinforced concrete, Endicott Period 12 inch coastal gun battery on Fort Wetherill, Newport County, Rhode Island. The battery was named in G.O. 78, 25 May 1903, after MG James M. Varnum, Continental Army, who served during the Revolutionary War and who died 10 Jan 1789 at Marietta, Ohio. Battery construction started in June 1898, was completed in August 1899 and transferred to the Coast Artillery for use 15 feb 1901 at a cost of $ 146,703.50. Deactivated in 1943.

Fort Wetherill, Battery Varnum Upper Level
Fort Wetherill, Battery Varnum Lower Level

Endicott Period

Part of the Harbor Defense of Narragansett Bay.

Originally built as an Endicott Period concrete coastal gun battery with two 12" M1888 guns mounted on M1892 Barbette carriages. This was a two story battery with the guns on the upper level and two magazines on the lower level. Shells were moved from the magazine level to the gun loading platform by two front loading Taylor-Raymond electric shell hoists installed in 1907 and accepted for service 30 Oct 1907. The shell hoists were modified for the newer long point shells in 1913. Electric power for the hoists and lighting is supplied from the emplacement power plant at the rear of the battery across the road from gun emplacement #1.

Battery Varnum Armament (edit list)
Model Serial
Manufacturer Carriage Service
1 12" Rifle 440" M1888 5 Watervliet Barbette, M1892, #23, Morgan 1901-1943 See note 1
2 12" Rifle 440" M1888 14 Watervliet Barbette, M1892, #24, Morgan 1901-1943 See note 1
Source: RCW Form 1, 1 Nov 1927, Coast Defense Study Group, Berhow, Mark A. ed, American Seacoast Defenses: A Reference Guide, 2nd Edition, CDSG Press, McLean, VA, 2004, ISBN 0-9748167-0-1, pages 136-137, 205.
Note 1: CDSG Gun Card Collection from NARA
Battery Varnum Plan

World War I

The U.S. entry into World War I resulted in a widespread removal of large caliber coastal defense gun tubes for service in Europe. Many of the gun and mortar tubes removed were sent to arsenals for modification and mounting on mobile carriages, both wheeled and railroad. Most of the removed gun tubes never made it to Europe and were either remounted or remained at the arsenals until needed elsewhere. Battery Varnum was unaffected by the World War I redistribution and the following 1920 disarmament program.

World War II

The abandonment and salvage of guns and carriages was directed on 27 May 1943.

Current Status

Part of Fort Wetherill State Park, Newport County, Rhode Island. No period guns or mounts in place.

Location: Fort Wetherill, Newport County, Rhode Island

Maps & Images

Lat: 41.477831 Long: -71.358411

  • Multi Maps from ACME
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  • Elevation: 46.67'


  • U.S.Army, Supplement to the Harbor Defense Project of Narragansett Bay, (HDNARB-AP-45), 1 Feb 1945, CDSG


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