St. John's Bluff 8" Battery
St. John's Bluff 8" Battery (1898-1899) - St. John's Bluff 8" Battery was a concrete Spanish American War era 8" gun battery with modified 15-inch Rodman front pintle carriages near Jacksonville in Duval County, Florida. The battery was located on a 60' high bluff overlooking St. John's Creek but with a view of the St. John's River all the way to the Ocean. Battery construction started on 27 Apr 1898 and was completed by January 1899. The guns were mounted in January 1899 but were never serviced or test-fired. Deactivated in 1899.
Work began on the harbor defenses of Jacksonville on 1 Apr 1898, when laborers began to clear the brush on St. Johns Bluff. On 25 Apr 1898, the US declared war, and on 27 Apr 1898, an order was issued to build permanent emplacements on St. Johns Bluff for two 8-inch breech-loading rifles mounted on front pintle carriages. These carriages were modified versions of the type originally provided for l5-inch Rodman smoothbore guns. A total of 21, 8-inch gun emplacements of this type were authorized at various locations at the beginning of the Spanish American War.
On 12 Aug 1898, a peace protocol was signed, but work continued on the 8" gun battery. In January 1899, the two M1888 8-inch breech-loading rifles, each weighing 32,480 pounds, were mounted at the top of St. Johns Bluff. The war had ended a month earlier, and further work on the St. Johns Bluff batteries was suspended. The 8-inch guns were never serviced by troops nor test fired.
On 28 Sep 1899, a contract was awarded to remove the ordnance from the emplacements on the bluff. The two 8-inch guns were slated for shipment to Fort McRee.Later documentation indicates that two M1888MII, 8" guns (Sn 41 & 10) were installed in Battery Slemmer on Fort McRee.
Not until 4 Mar 1923 did Congress authorize the sale of St. Johns Bluff Military Reservation. On 1 Jun 1925, the government sold it to a private party for $53,839.38.
Construction of the 8" battery required the Corps of Engineers to greatly modify the infrastructure they had built for the smaller batteries. Initially, the Corps had cleared a roadway from the river bank to the top of the bluff and a wharf on the riverbank to receive the guns, carriages, and materials. They rented enough track to run a rail line from the wharf up a ravine to the top of the bluff but not to the batteries. At the top of the track, a stationary engine would bring supplies & equipment to the top and conventional transportation would move them to the sites. The order to build permanent emplacements for two 8" guns caused the Corps to extend the track another 1,200 feet to the site of the 8" battery in order to deliver the 32,480 pound 8" gun tubes directly to the battery.
In January 1899, with the guns mounted and the war over, work on the battery was suspended with the concrete cover over the magazine unfinished and without sand over the magazine. In post-war Congressional testimony on 26 Jan 1899, the U.S. Corps of Engineers indicated that the two 8-inch guns were mounted and that $32, 000.00 had been allocated for the construction of that battery.
Through a mix of private and public funds, $400,000 was raised to purchase the site. Ownership of the property was transferred to the National Park Service in December 2018. The site is listed as 2.96 acres, lot # 160356 0010.
No period guns or mounts in place. No public access yet, entrance is blocked by a locked gate and no trespassing signs (17 Aug 2021).