St. John's Bluff Siege Battery
St. John's Bluff Siege Battery (1898-1898) - A temporary Spanish American War Battery established in April 1898 on St. John's Bluff, near Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida. Abandoned in May 1898.
With the explosion and sinking of U.S. Battleship Maine on 15 Feb 1898, a fervor of activities that would lead to a war with Spain began, and the construction of coastal defenses became an urgent priority. The Jacksonville District Engineer, Lieutenant Colonel William H. H. Benyaurd received instructions on 4 Apr 1898 to construct on "...the select site for four modern siege guns which will be sent you." Agreement on the site location and acquisition of a suitable battery site was quickly arranged and John M. Cook was hired as superintendent. On 11 Apr 1898, work began on the battery. The chosen site was near the remaining earthworks of a U.S. Civil War Confederate fort and since both sets of guns were on wheeled carriages the battery construction was not complicated.
Superintendent Cook built the emplacement revetments and ammunition magazines with 10" by 10" timbers, covered with a sand embankment partly surfaced with "swamp muck". There were two transverse magazines in the rear of the battery lined with these timbers and banked with sand.
On April 12, the Florida Central & Peninsula Railroad brought gun carriages from the arsenal at Rock Island, Illinois, into its yard at the foot of Julia Street in Jacksonville. There were two 5-inch and two 6-inch rapid-fire wheeled carriages, which had to be modified for the guns at St. Johns Bluff.
By mid-April 1898 the wharf was completed and a roadway from the riverbank to the bluff was finished. It had been decided to lay rail track from the wharf up the bluff and to use a stationary engine to haul materials including the carriages and the guns to the top. The tracks from the wharf went up a ravine, or a man-made cut, to the battery on the bluff.
On 22 Apr 1898, the guns for the bluff arrived from New York state. Two 5-inch breech-loading rifles and two 7-inch breech-loading howitzers. The gun emplacements were nearly ready, but there was no place to store the guns at the bluff so they waited on a railroad siding.
The four guns were shipped downriver on a barge and then brought up the tramway and mounted. The guns at St. Johns Bluff were never fired or serviced by troops during their short stay at St. John's Bluff. On 25 Apr 1898 the United States declared war on Spain and on 27 Apr 1898 the order was issued to build a 2 gun 8" battery at St. Johns Bluff and the temporary siege battery was no longer required.
The siege battery guns were soon dismounted and on 18 May 1898, the four guns and carriages were sent to Tampa. The guns and carriages were destined to be used by the Army Expeditionary Force being readied at Tampa for the invasion of Cuba.
To replace the dismounted guns, four 12-pounder Napoleon field guns were brought from Jacksonville. These were muzzle-loading, smoothbore guns and of no use against modern armored ships. They were apparently mounted only to providing a threatening appearance and were never serviced or test-fired.
Visited: 17 Aug 2021