USS Westfield Lecture at Houston Museum of Natural Science (3/20/2012)

March 5, 2012

USS Westfield, A Civil War Shipwreck in Galveston Bay

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 06:30 PM

Robert Gearhart, Amy Borgens, Edward T. Cotham, Jr.
In the fall of 2009, a team of marine archeologists working under the direction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers supervised the recovery of artifacts from USS Westfield, a Staten Island ferryboat that had been converted into a Civil War gunboat after its purchase by the U.S. Navy in 1861. Westfield saw significant Civil War action, participating in battles at New Orleans, Vicksburg and other places along the Gulf Coast. Its destruction at the Battle of Galveston on January 1, 1863, was one of the most important and dramatic events of the Civil War in Texas. This audiovisual program uses rare historic documents and images to describe the conversion of a ferryboat to armored warship and examine the military career of this unique "fighting ferryboat" and its impact on the war in Texas. It retraces the series of events that led to the relocation of Westfield's wreck and the challenging project that resulted in recovery of tons of artifacts undergoing conservation at the Conservation Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University. Among the artifacts being conserved is a more than 4 ton Dahlgren cannon capable of firing a projectile almost 2 miles. Principal Investigator of the USS Westfield Project, Robert Gearhart is a marine archeologist and hydrographer at Atkins North American, Inc. Amy Borgens, project archeologist of the USS Westfield Project, is the State Marine Archeologist with the Texas Historical Commission. Edward T. Cotham, Jr., president of the Terry Foundation and USS Westfield Project historian, is author of Battle on the Bay: The Civil War Struggle for Galveston, which will be available for signing following the lecture.

Reviews and Awards

Chapter on Union Naval Strategy in Texas
"Devotees of American Civil War literature should find their horizons broadened and their understanding of the war enhanced by this book." —Donald S. Frazier, author of Cottonclads
“Ed Cotham has provided for posterity a fine rendering of one of the more amazing battles in American History. Not only was the Battle of Sabine Pass a heroic scale Texan victory, but Cotham tells that larger-than-life story with historical context and clarity that makes the story of Dick Dowling and his stalwarts that much more amazing.” Dr. Don Frazier, Chairman of the History Department at McMurry University and Executive Director of the Grady McWhiney Research Foundation
Released January 2006 by University of Texas Press Reviewers have said this about the book: "Journals of nineteenth-century U.S. Marines are rare, and Henry Gusley's is a truly outstanding account of the shipboard experiences and observation of an enlisted marine...Edward Cotham's scholarship in the introduction and in annotating the journal is outstanding, and he has drawn on the appropriate sources. This is one of the best jobs of editing in the field." Joseph G. Dawson III, Professor of History at Texas A&M University "I found Gusley's notebook fascinating, informative, and ultimately moving...Civil War historians will find the information about the inner workings and day-to-day life aboard U.S. naval vessels patrolling the Gulf of Mexico and the major river systems of the Trans-Mississippi interior highly informative...This book should also find a popular audience. Bright, literate, constantly upbeat, and good-humored despite the many difficult circumstances he found himself in, Gusley is good company for his readers." Patrick Kelly, Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas at San Antonio.