Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Remains of USS Westfield Being Explored

Divers and archaeologists have been working in the Texas City Ship Canal this past month in an attempt to recover items and especially a 10,000 pound cannon from the USS Westfield which was sunk in the Battle of Galveston in 1863.

Divers have been hindered by bad weather, strong currents and ship traffic.

However, it is now or never, because what remains of the wreck will be destroyed by the deepening of the channel by the US Army Corps of Engineers in a $71 million project that will deepen it to 40-45 feet to enable today's larger ships to use it.

As part of the project, $3 million has been set aside for preservation efforts.


It was a former Staten Island ferry bought from Cornelius Vanderbilt. It was armed with a 100-pdr. Parrott, 9-inch Dahlgren, and six 8-inch Dahlgren cannons. It served as the flagship of the Union fleet inder Cmdr. William B. Renshay.

On January 1, 1863, Confederates attacked Union troops and two Confederate cottonclad ships went after the fleet. The Westfield ran aground and was blown up to prevent capture.

However, the charge ignited too soon, killing Rensay and 13 sailors who were leaving the ship. Confederates removed all the cannons except the 9-inch Dahlgren.

Divers are attempting to remove it and ten other large items that have been located. These will be sent to the Conservation Research Lab at College Station, Texas.

Then a dredge will scoop the bottom and dump the contents into containers which will then be sifted and categorized.

Something from the Past Recovered. --Old B-R