Wreck of Gunboat USS Westfield Recovery

USS Westfield image from gulfwrecks.netOne of my big areas of interest that I’ve yet to really delve into in Civil War history is that of the ferry gunboats. When President Lincoln immediately implemented a blockade in 1861, there simply weren’t enough ships in the Union Navy to seal off the Confederate ports. The government set to buying anything that would float, including New York City ferries. The idea of a Staten Island ferry, loaded with guns, sent south and made a warship practically in name only, has always fascinated me. At least a dozen of these ferries were sent to war — probably more — and proved so capable and useful as stable gun platforms due to their inherit design, that they continued to serve even after warship production caught up to the need.

One of those boats, the USS Westfield, was lost in battle in early 1863 off the coast of Galveston, Texas.  Found in 2009 during a survey for channel dredging, Westfield is being recovered by Texas A&M’s Conservation Research Lab.  She will be re-assembled as much as possible, using the actual ship’s parts, replicas where necessary, and probably a bit of “ghosting” as was done with the gunboat USS Cairo.

The Houston Chronicle website has a piece in the December 27th edition, and on their website, about the ongoing recovery operation.

Thanks to Andy Hall of the “Dead Confederates” blog for informing me about this project. I got in touch with Andy through the circuitous paths of the internet. He does some real thought provoking writing on the Civil War, and does some simply beautiful digital ship models.

*Additional thanks to Andy Hall for pointing out that my initial image of the Westfield was probably incorrect. I assumed as much, but didn’t have any idea of what to use. He pointed me at the above photo from Gulfwrecks.net

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