Battery Crawford is an abandoned coastal gun battery in Watch Hill, Rhode Island at Napatree Point. This coastal gun battery was one of three gun batteries on Fort Mansfield.
The Creation of Fort Mansfield
Fort Mansfield was a coastal fort built in 1898 during the Endicott Period. The US government purchased 60 acres on Napatree Point, a long, narrow spit of land jutting out from Watch Hill, to build this fort. The fort was located at Sandy Point, a spit bend. The following year, work on building the fort began. When the fort was first occupied in 1901, it was recognized as a sub-post of Fort Trumbull in New London, Connecticut. Yet, in 1902, after it had employed all of its personnel, the fort’s status was changed to that of an independent battery. On Fort Mansfield, three coastal gun batteries—Batteries Wooster, Crawford, and Connell—were constructed.
Battery Crawford Construction
Construction on Battery Wooster began in 1898 and was completed in 1900. Following its completion, it was transferred to the Coast Artillery for use. It was put into duty on February 18, 1901. The government spent $11,600 to build this reinforced concrete battery. It was equipped with two 5″ M1897 guns mounted on M1896 Balanced pillar carriages. The guns were situated on the second floor of the structure and the magazines were stored on the first floor. To transport shells up to the guns, Taylor-Raymond shell hoists were utilized.
Fort Mansfield’s Positioning Flaw
In 1907, battle simulations were undertaken to gauge the fort’s durability. Regrettably, these simulations revealed the fort’s terrible weakness. It was discovered that the fort lacked full coverage because of a “dead angle.” The fort was actually so weak that a group of attackers could take it with only small-arm weapons if they hid in the dead angle. As a result, one of the observers for the simulation said, “I believe I could capture Fort Mansfield with a fleet of coal barges, outfitted with 6-inch rapid-fire weapons.” In 1909, the fort was given caretaker status after these discoveries led to its removal from the list of operational coastal artillery stations.
Guns Removed During World War 1
Large caliber coastal defense gun tubes were extensively removed for use in Europe as a result of the United States’ involvement in World War I. Many of the removed cannon and mortar tubes were taken to arsenals to be modified and mounted on railroad-mounted mobile carriages. On August 24, 1917, Battery Crawford received a dismounting order for its two 5″ guns for use overseas. On December 31, 1917, the guns were received at the Morgan Engineering Company. Morgan handled the shipping of the guns to Europe. They eventually arrived in France. Ultimately, the battery was never rearmed.
Battery Crawford Today
Today, visitors are welcome to check out the remains of the gun battery. Although the guns and carriages were removed, the structure itself is still fascinating to see. Visitors can park at the entrance to the Napatree Point Conservation Area and then walk along the barrier beach for 1.25 miles to Battery Wooster. There is a small path leading from the shoreline up to the old coastal defense. As of 2023, the battery is completely open and its doors are all open. This allows visitors to peek inside and imagine what life was like at the battery many years ago. Neighboring Battery Wooster has been completely blocked off, so Battery Crawford is much more natural and original. If you do choose to visit, always be safe and respectful.
- Year Established: 1900
- Year Abandoned: 1909
- Original Function: Endicott Era reinforced concrete coastal gun battery equipped with two 5″ M1897 guns mounted on M1896 Balanced pillar carriages
- Address: Fort Road
- Town: Westerly
- State: Rhode Island
- GPS: 41.306964, -71.885614
- Parking Notes: Public parking is available just off Main Street in the village of Watch Hill in Westerly, Rhode Island. Oftentimes during the summer, this parking lot can get very busy. It is wise to visit during the off-season, if possible. Also, during the off-season, visitors can park right at the Napatree Point Conservation Area trailhead at the end of Fort Road.
- Parking Directions: HERE
- Location Directions: HERE
Such a cool old abandoned fort! Wild to find it at the end of such a beautiful beach!
A true Rhode Island gem!
Photo form the inside of Battery Crawford
Battery Crawford captured from above on a chilly winter day! Sun was out though!