Battery Walbach is an abandoned reinforced concrete coastal gun battery in present-day Fort Wetherill State Park in Jamestown, Rhode Island. It was constructed during the Endicott Period and originally equipped with three 10-inch M1888MII guns mounted on two M1896 Disappearing carriages and one M1901 Disappearing carriage.
Battery Walbach Establishment
Masonry forts and smoothbore cannons were rendered obsolete by improvements in weapons made during the Civil War. In order to create a modern defense system, the US government launched the Endicott Board in 1885. The Endicott system was constructed between 1890 and 1910, and some of its components were still in use in 1945. Nowadays, this time period is known as the Endicott Period.
During the Endicott Period, the government examined the Harbor Defenses of Narragansett Bay and made a number of recommendations for improvements. The Army decided to officially establish Fort Wetherill in Jamestown, Rhode Island in the year 1900. There were dozens of structures built on Fort Wetherill including Battery Walbach.
Construction of Battery Walbach began in May 1901 and it was eventually completed in June 1904. The Coast Artillery then took over and put the battery into service on May 7, 1908. The battery cost nearly $120,000 to build. This was a two-story coastal gun battery with three magazines on the lower level and three guns mounted on the upper level. The guns at Battery Walbach were 10-inch M1888MII guns mounted on two M1896 Disappearing carriages and one M1901 Disappearing carriage.
This battery was named after Colonel John Baptiste DeBarth Walbach. He served with distinction in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Mexican-American War.
Disarmed during World War 1 and 2
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. Several of the removed cannon and mortar tubes were taken to arsenals to be modified and mounted on mobile carriages. The majority of the dismantled cannon tubes were either remounted or left at the arsenals until they were required elsewhere, most never made it to Europe. On July 24, 1917, the three guns at Battery Walbach were ordered to be dismantled for use overseas. Later, it was decided to keep and remount two of the guns at Battery Walbach. On December 13th, 1918, the third gun was delivered to Fort Greble on Dutch Island.
On Dec 2, 1936, the two remaining ten-inch guns were transferred to Fort H.G. Wright on Fishers Island to increase the Long Island Sound Defense System. After these final two guns were removed, the battery was disarmed.
As a part of the first significant scrap drive of World War II, the remaining two M1896 disappearing carriages were ordered to be destroyed on November 4, 1942. Battery Walbach was then abandoned.
What Remains Today
Today, the battery is located in Fort Wetherill State Park which opened to the public in 1972. It is the westernmost gun battery at the state park, which consists of 7 total coastal gun batteries. Visitors are welcome to walk on top of the Battery Walbach and also within it. As of 2023, many of the doors are open and stairways allow people to explore all levels. This is an abandoned structure, so it is extremely important to be careful while exploring. The battery is mostly covered in graffiti.
Fort Wetherill was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 16, 1972, and this listing includes Battery Walbach.
- Year Built: 1904
- Year Abandoned: 1942
- Original Function: Endicott Period coastal gun battery equipped with three 10-inch M1888MII guns
- National Register of Historic Places: #72000021
Battery Walbach Location
- Address: Fort Wetherill Road
- Town: Jamestown
- State: Rhode Island
- GPS: 41.478500, -71.368306
- Parking Notes: Fort Wetherill has ample parking. There are several parking areas and hundreds of spots. The first parking lot is closest to Battery Walbach. Entrance to the park is free year-round.
- Parking Directions: HERE
- Location Directions: HERE