22 Aug 2008 – We visited Fort Stevens again for the express purpose of touring Battery Mishler. Battery Mishler is closed to the public with the only access by guided tour. Catching the last guided tour of the day at 4 p.m., we were the only two on the tour with two volunteer guides, Shirley and Gary. They took us around the top of the West Batteries and down to the padlocked door for Battery Lyman Mishler.
Battery Mishler was one of a very few ARF (All Round Fire) concrete coastal defense batteries built during the Endicott Period, housing two 10″ rifles on disappearing carriages. Each rifle had a 360° field of fire and was mounted in a 35′ diameter circular pit. Shells, powder and control mechanisms were housed in a completely enclosed underground gallery. In 1941 both emplacements were sealed and covered over with the guns in place. Without removing the cover, the guns and carriages were later cut up and taken out.
We began at the lower level entrance gallery which runs the length of the battery into gun position #2. The battery is wet in most places and you can see stalactites and stalagmites forming at the entrance. We went up a flight of stairs to the emplacement and it became clear how big the battery is and how the roof structure works. You can see the beveled edge of the inner circular gun pit; the concrete roof laying on that edge is supported by a series of square concrete pillars placed to buttress the roof across the open part of the pit. Lighting is extremely limited so flashlights are a must; it’s so dark that when our guides turned off all the lights you could not even see your hand in front of your face.
We moved to gun position #1 past the shell hoist openings and observed several long tunnel- like rooms spoked around the side of the circular gun pits. The tunnels provided the room necessary for the gun crews to ram home the shells and powder as well as to swab out the guns after firing. We went back down the stairs from gun position #1 and viewed the shell rooms and the magazine.
The magazine is a large rectangular room that initially stored the powder for the guns and later served as the Harbor Defense Command Post. Even later it served as the operations room for the U.S. Air Force Radar Squadron. Our guide mentioned a large fire that occurred here during the 1960′s that caused the battery to be sealed up for several months while the fire burned itself out. You can see the evidence of fire damage in the magazine.
Visible throughout the battery are wall niches originally used for lanterns, and the speaking tubes for communications remind you that this battery is from another era. This is a great tour and should not be missed if you visit Fort Stevens.
This post was written by JohnStanton on August 24, 2008