The Conservation and Analysis of Small Artifacts from the Site of USS Westfield



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In the early hours of 1 January 1863, USS Westfield grounded hard in the sand off the northeast side of Pelican Spit in Galveston Bay, Texas. The gunboat was building up steam to cut off two Confederate cottonclads before they reached the other Union ships in the bay. Hours later, an explosion ripped through the hull, sinking the vessel in the shallow water. Scuttled by the captain, William B. Renshaw, Westfield lay in the sands of Galveston Bay until the remains were excavated in 2009 and 2010 by PBS&J, now Atkins Global, under the supervision of the Texas Historical Commission and the U.S. Navy. The artifacts were brought to the Conservation Research Laboratory on Texas A&M University?s Riverside Campus where they were sorted, documented, and conserved.

This thesis begins with a detailed account of Westfield?s history, starting with the vessel?s use as a New York ferryboat, the conversion to a gunboat and commission in the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, and, finally, the explosion and sinking during the Second Battle of Galveston and subsequent Confederate salvage attempts. Following this is a summary of the conservation methods used for Westfield artifacts, including an experiment on the treatment of waterlogged cast iron from the ship. A catalog of the artifacts, providing research on the various types of materials in the collection and a short summary of the artifact types, is also presented.