Battery Wooster is an abandoned coastal gun battery in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. This coastal gun battery was one of three gun batteries on Fort Mansfield.
Fort Mansfield Establishment
Established in 1898, Fort Mansfield was a coastal fort during the Endicott Era. 60 acres on Napatree Point, a long, thin spit of land projecting out from Watch Hill, were bought by the US government to create this fort. The fort was situated on a spit bend known as Sandy Point. The fort’s construction got underway the next year. The fort was regarded as a sub-post of Fort Trumbull in New London, Connecticut, when it was initially inhabited in 1901. Nonetheless, the fort’s status was modified to an independent battery in 1902 when it reached its maximum staffing level. Three coastal gun batteries were built at Fort Mansfield and these included Battery Wooster, Battery Crawford, and Battery Connell.
Battery Wooster Construction
Construction on Battery Wooster began in 1898 and was completed on July 1, 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 $75,000 to build this reinforced concrete battery. It boasted two 8-inch M1888MI guns mounted on M1896 Disappearing carriages. The guns were situated on the upper level of the structure and the magazines were stored on the lower level. To move shells up to the guns, Taylor-Raymond shell hoists were installed.
The Fort’s Fatal Flaw
Battle simulations were held in 1907 to test the resilience of the fort. Sadly, these simulations demonstrated the fort’s catastrophic vulnerability. A “dead angle” was found and this revealed that the fort lacked complete coverage. In fact, the fort was so vulnerable that a party of invaders could capture the fort using just small-arm arms if they hid in the dead angle. This led one of the simulation observers to state, “I believe I could capture Fort Mansfield with a fleet of coal barges, equipped with 6-inch rapid-fire guns”. Following these findings, the fort was removed from the list of active coastal artillery posts in 1909 and placed in caretaker status.
Guns Removed During World War 1
Large caliber coastal defense gun tubes were extensively removed from the United States during World War 1. This occurred as a result of the United States’ involvement in World War I when it sought to strengthen its overseas allies. Many of the removed cannon and mortar tubes were taken to arsenals to be modified and mounted on wheel-mounted mobile carriages. The majority of the dismantled gun tubes from the United States were either removed or were left at national arsenals until they were required elsewhere. The two 8″ guns from Battery Wooster were ordered to be disassembled on August 24, 1917, in order to be used overseas. The cannons were transported to the Watervliet Arsenal in New York on December 21st, 1917. In May 1918, the carriages were destroyed. The battery was never rearmed.
Battery Wooster 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. Unlike neighboring Battery Crawford, Battery Wooster has been completely sealed up and fenced off. Visitors can walk along the roof of the battery and glance over the sides. It is very overgrown around the structure, so it is best to stay within the fenced-off area.
- Year Established: 1900
- Year Abandoned: 1909
- Original Function: Reinforced concrete coastal gun battery equipped with two 8-inch M1888MI guns mounted on M1896 Disappearing carriages
- Address: Fort Road
- Town: Westerly
- State: Rhode Island
- GPS: 41.306436, -71.884684
- Parking Notes: Public parking is available right off Main Street in the village of Watch Hill in Westerly, Rhode Island. During the summer, this parking area can be very busy. It is best 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