The USS Westfield, Union flagship at the battle of Galveston in late 1862, was originally a side-wheel steam ferryboat belonging to Cornelius Vanderbilt. Her statistics were: tonnage 822, length 215 feet, beam 35 feet, depth 13½ feet. After acquisition by the Union Navy on November 22, 1861, she was armed with a 100-pound Parrot rifle, a nine-inch Dahlgren smoothbore, and four eight-inch Dahlgren smoothbores. The Westfield was commissioned in January 1862 under Commander William B. Renshaw. From the Westfield Renshaw commanded the Union mortar flotilla that captured the defenses of Galveston on October 4, 1862. Six days later the city formally surrendered. On January 1, 1863, when Confederate forces staged a surprise attack and recaptured the city, the Westfield ran aground near Pelican Spit in Galveston Bay; she could not be dislodged and had to be destroyed to prevent capture. Renshaw and a boat crew were killed when she blew up prematurely. One story had it that they waited until the explosion should have occurred, then returned to the ship thinking that the fuse must have gone out. In May 1864 the hard-pressed Confederate Ordnance Department ordered the salvage of the Westfield's hollow and forged side-wheel shafts, which were then made into gun barrels.
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Civil War Naval Chronology, 1861–1865 (Washington: Naval History Division, Department of the Navy, 1961–66; rpt. 1971). Charles C. Cumberland, "The Confederate Loss and Recapture of Galveston, 1862–1863," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 51 (October 1947). Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (8 vols., Washington: U.S. Navy, 1959–81).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
J. Barto Arnold III,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 25, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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