Heritage, Volume 10, Number 1, Winter 1992 Page: 18
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A History of Fortifications at Fort San Jacinto
Galveston Island, Texas
Editor's Note: The following article has been
compiled from a publication written by Martha
Doty Freeman and illustrated by Sandra L.
Hannum and Karen Gardner; Freeman was
assisted in the project by Elton R. Prewitt.
Part I of this article appeared in the Fall 1991
issue of HERITAGE.
1895-1900: The Building of Fort San
Between the end of the Civil War and
1895, military activity on Galveston Island
at Fort Point was negligible. As a result of
increasing friction between the United
States and Spain during the 1890s, though,
Galveston Island and its vicinity became
objects of intense scrutiny, and two years of
planning for new fortifications culminated
in three years of design and construction.
By early September 1899, Fort Point had
been renamed Fort Jacinto, and six months
later the installation was the location of a
mine control station, batteries for eight 12inch
mortars, two 10-inch breechloading
guns, two 4.72-inch rapid-fire guns, and
two 3-inch 15-pounder rapid-fire guns.
Support facilities included a railroad system
and a post for artillery units operating
and maintaining the batteries.
Construction on the various fortifications
at Fort Point began under the direction
of Major Alexander Macomb Miller
according to the terms of a contract signed
with builder Henry L. Breneman of Paris,
Texas. Work began on the 12-inch mortar
battery shortly before the south jetty was
completed on February 14, 1896, and
construction of the 10-inch gun battery
began about the same time. By the middle
of 1897, the torpedo mining casemate on
the north side of Fort Point was completed,
and the 10-inch and 12-inch batteries were
.almost ready to receive their weapons.
Arrival of the first big gun on February 25,
1898, set off a flurry of excitement in
Galveston where a newspaper report described
the gun as weighing 67,200 pounds
and being 30.6 feet long. The gun was
valued at approximately $30,000, and each
shot fired cost about $50. Its maximum
effective and accurate range was five miles.
The delivery of the first 10-inch gun was
followed by more.
The size of investment that the federal
government was making in the east end of
the Island appears to have been a source of
continuing concern because of legal issues
of ownership that were raised in the late
1800s. As a result, negotiations were entered
between the government and the
Galveston City Company, successor owner
of Menard's grant. Eager to see a continuation
of federal expenditures, the company
executed a special warranty deed to the
part of the Island north and east of the
1838 survey line.
Reassured at least temporarily of the
city's recognition of its claim to the eastern
reserve, the federal government moved
ahead, completing work on the 10- and 12inch
batteries and initiating work on two
While moving ahead with the fortification
plans, an inspector from the Fifth
Artillery visited Fort Point to examine the
completed emplacements.The resulting
report was not good; the inspector noted
that the base rings for all mortars were
distinctly out of level because the concrete
foundations had subsided and were tilting.
Lieutenant C.S. Riche, now in charge of
construction, responded immediately,
pointing out that earlier recommendations
for pile foundations had been rejected by
Washington because of the additional expense
involved. However, he noted that
pile foundations had been recommended
for all new batteries and that no further
problems with leveling the base rings should
In 1898, Lieutenant Riche submitted
construction plans suggesting that the 4.72inch
emplacement be located in a lowwater
area where it would be necessary to
build an island for the battery. Such an
island could be constructed by placing sheet
piling and riprap around the site, pumping
sand into the space, and driving 20-foot
foundation piles under the concrete portions
of the battery. While the cost for such
an emplacement would be high, Riche
pointed out that the other alternative involved
raising the entire military reservation
about six feet above mean low tide, an
option that probably could not be funded
in 1898 but would have to be done eventually.
Riche's plans for the 4.72-inch battery
location were approved, and construction
proceeded on a railroad that would be
needed to carry materials and supplies to
the fortification site. More armaments were
arriving now, including two 4.72-inch
rapid-fire guns. In addition, Riche submitted
plans for the last fortification to be constructed
at Fort Point -- two emplacements
of 3-inch 15-pounder rapid-fire guns that
would be located in a battery built on a
In the meantime, Captain Riche had
strong concerns about the condition of the
first two fortifications built on the reservation.
He reiterated that because pile
foundations were not installed due to their
cost, severe settlement had occurred. In
particular, the carriages for the eight mortars
were in bad condition, a situation that
had been made worse by the fact that the
artillery garrison that had been responsible
for maintenance since the summer of 1898
had not kept the mortar pits in which the
carriages were mounted dry. Riche stated
that the ordnance material had been
transferred to the garrison but the forts
themselves had not, and he requested
permission to complete the transfer so that
fortifications and the ordnance in them
would be under the sole charge of the
artillery company at Fort Point. Subsequently,
on October 25, 1899, the forts
were turned over to the artillery by Riche.
At this point, construction of the four
major batteries was all but complete, and
there was time now for several miscellaneous
tasks. Fort Point had already been
renamed Fort San Jacinto by September
1899, and the Secretary of War directed
the Chief of Engineers to suggest names for
all forts and batteries not officially designated.
Eventually, the War Department
chose to designate the 12-inch mortar bat
18 HERITAGE * WINTER 1992
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 10, Number 1, Winter 1992, periodical, Winter 1992; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45418/m1/18/: accessed December 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.