Benicia Arsenal

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Benicia Arsenal (1851-1964) - A U.S. Army arsenal established in 1851 by 2nd Lt. (Bvt. Captain) Charles P. Stone (Cullum 1237), Ordnance Department, in present day Benicia, Solano County, California. Closed in 1964.

Benicia 1860 Arsenal Commandant's Quarters
Benicia 1859 Arsenal Clock Tower Building
Benicia 1872 Arsenal Barracks Building


Benicia Arsenal 1876
Benicia Arsenal 1855 Camel Barn - Now a Museum
Benicia 1872 Guardhouse-Firehouse Building
Benicia Arsenal 1942 Headquarters Building now an Office Building

See also Benicia Military Reservation and Benicia Barracks.

Established by 2nd Lt. (Bvt. Captain) Charles P. Stone, Ordnance Department, on 19 Aug 1851 for the storage and issuance of military materials; it was the first Ordnance Supply Depot in the West. In 1852, the US government designated the Benicia Arsenal as one of the country's five permanent arsenals.

Permanent arsenal buildings were initially built in two locations. At the north end of the reservation two large stone storage/ammunition shop buildings (1855), a guardhouse/laboratory (1856), a magazine (1855) and a large stone magazine (1857) were constructed. Further south in the central portion of the reservation two sets of quarters were built, one for the arsenal commandant (1861) and one for his adjutant (1862). Also built at this location was a main arsenal building (1859) with a distinctive clock tower. All of these buildings remain today although some of them have suffered damage over the years and have been restored.

Construction continued through the 1860s and 1870s that added additional quarters, barracks and three large stone shop buildings at the southern end of the reservation. Many of these buildings remain today but have been repurposed as private quarters and commercial enterprises.

During World War I and World War II construction further expanded the post on the south side with shops, storage and quarters. In 1942 a new headquarters building was built near the main entrance. On the north side additional magazines were built.

Personnel employed by the Arsenal naturally surged during major conflicts and in World War II civilian employment went from 85 civilian employees prewar to 4,545 at the end of October 1942. The Korean War saw 6,700 civilians employed at the arsenal.

In 1859 Fort Tejon received 28 camels as a part of an experiment to determine their usefulness in the southwest. The camels were transferred from Fort Tejon to Drum Barracks and then finally to Benicia Arsenal. At Benicia Arsenal the camels were housed in two large storage buildings built in 1855 that are now known as the "Camel Barns". The Camel Corps was disbanded in 1863.

From the beginning of the Endicott Period through the end of World War II Benicia Arsenal provided support for the large caliber gun batteries of the west coast harbor defenses. These fortifications guarded the harbors at San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, the Columbia River and Seattle. Guns as large as 16" and the ammunition for them processed through Benicia Arsenal.

At the start of World War II, in the first 24 hours after the Pearl Harbor attack, the Arsenal loaded up 125 separate truck convoys with arms, ammunition and supplies and dispatched them to coastal fortifications and defensive positions. The arsenal completely exhausted its supply of ammunition, small arms and high explosives in this initial effort. The arsenal continued to support the coastal fortifications throughout the war including the World War II upgrade program.

Closed in 1964 and privatized.

Benicia Arsenal Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1851 1856 Bvt Captain Stone, Charles P. 1237
1856 1860 Captain Callender, Franklin D. 993
1860 1864 ”Colonel McAllister, Julian 1334
1864 1867 ”Lt. Colonel Wainwright, Robert A. 837
1867 1886 ”Colonel McAllister, Julian 1334
1886 1889 ”Colonel Aspin, Silas N/A
1889 1890 ”Maj. Marye, William A. 1977
1890 1899 ”Colonel Babbitt, Lawrence S. 1947
1899 1902 ”Colonel Mordecai, Alfred 1941
1902 1903 ”Lt. Colonel Greer, John E. 2163
1903-07-21 1903-09-07 ’1st Lt. King, David M. 3523
1903 1904 ”Maj. MacNutt, Ira 2329
1904-03-16 1904-07-10 ’1st Lt. King, David M. 3523
1904 1905 ”Maj. Hobbs, Frank E. 2719
1905-04-15 1905-05-18 ’1st Lt. King, David M. 3523
1905 1911 ”Lt. Colonel Benét, James W. 2860
1911 1913 ”Lt. Colonel Ruggles, Colden L'H. 3335
1913 1914 ”Lt. Colonel Joyes, John W. 3568
1915 1917 ”Lt. Colonel Schull, Herman W. 3886
1917 1919 ”Colonel Baker, Frank 2415 This officer's first name was
legally changed after this date,
to Francis.
1919 1923 ”Colonel O'Hern, Edward P. 3569
1923-07-17 1925-07-06 ”Maj. Smith, Thomas J. 4655
1925 1928 ”Maj. Partridge, Clarence E. 4766
1928 1932 ”Colonel Lemon, George F. N/A
1932 1935 ”Colonel Kiehl, Philip J.R. 4381
1935 1938 ”Colonel Nickerson, Lewis A. 5025
1938 1940 ”Lt. Colonel Krupp, Oscar N/A
1940-09 1942-01-05 ”Colonel Kiehl, Philip J.R. 4381
1941 1942 ”Lt. Colonel Rogers, George D. 6439
1942 1943 ”Colonel O'Leary, Herbert 4878
1943 1946 ”Colonel Rutten, Paul G. N/A
1946 1950 ”Colonel Nickerson, Lewis A. 5025
1950 1953 ”Colonel Chavin, R.S. N/A
1953 1955 ”Colonel Hall, Francis G. N/A Cullum 9464 not online yet
1955 1958 ”Colonel Lawther, J. Paul N/A
1958 1959 ”Colonel Moats, W.B. N/A
1959 1961 ”Colonel Wells Jr., Albert C. N/A
1961 1962 ”Colonel Sherden, John P. N/A
1962 1964 ”Maj. Kuehl, Gregory N/A
Dates are formatted in yyyy-mm-dd to sort correctly.
The Cullum Number is the graduation order from the United States Military Academy by year and class rank and links to a page for the officer on the website version of the Cullum Register. Listings without a Cullum Number indicate that the person was not a graduate of the United States Military Academy.

Current Status

Some of the original (1850s) arsenal buildings now part of a city Park and museum complex in Benicia, Solano County, California. Later arsenal buildings on the south side of the reservation have been repurposed and house private residences and commercial businesses. Most of the old arsenal buildings on the south side are accessible externally but internal access is restricted.

Location: Benicia, Solano County, California.

Maps & Images

Lat: 38.054036 Long: -122.135561

See Also:



Visited: 16 Nov 2013

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