TEXAS CITY — A nearly 10,000-pound gun from a Civil War ship that sank in Galveston Bay begins its 140-mile trip to the Texas City.

The 9-inch Dahlgren gun from the USS Westfield will start its trek from the Conservation Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University in College Station, where archaeologists undertook painstaking conservation and analysis work of the gun and other artifacts from the wreck, to the Texas City Museum.

With permits from the U.S. Navy and the Texas Historical Commission, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contracted with Global Atkins to excavate the ship in 2009.

The USS Westfield sank in Galveston Bay on Jan. 1, 1863, when Confederate forces retook Galveston from the Union. The Westfield was scuttled to keep her from being captured, and the remains of the ship sat in the bay until a Corps of Engineers project to widen and deepen the Texas City Ship Channel led researches to the remains of the ship.

Now, the powerful Civil War gun is the first of many artifacts to make their way back to the Texas City Museum, 409 Sixth St. N.

The gun will reach Texas City today and will be moved into the museum Wednesday, said Justin Parkoff, conservation phase project manager with the Conservation Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University.

“This is a massive project,” Parkoff said.

The heavy gun will be loaded onto a flatbed trailer today by a forklift usually used to lift other forklifts, he said. The gun will be stored in Texas City, then the delicate process of moving it into the museum will begin Wednesday.

Steel or thick plywood reinforcement will need to be put down outside the museum to keep the weight of the gun from crushing the sidewalk, Parkoff said.

“This thing will literally just sink into the sidewalk,” he said. “It’s that heavy.”

Once off the trailer, it will be placed onto a dolly system that will allow a crew to push the gun into the museum. In the museum, a gantry or A-frame system similar to an engine hoist, will be used to place the gun on to its carriage, Parkoff said.

The heavy lifting and moving is being done by Perry O’Brien with DOMAC Inc. The Texas City company is donating all its labor to the project, Parkoff said.

“We would not be able to do this without these guys,” he said.

If everything goes to plan, visitors to the museum will get to look at the Dahlgren gun by Wednesday afternoon, with the understanding that it is a work in progress, said Dennis Harris, co-director of the Texas City recreation and tourism department.

More items from the USS Westfield, including personal effects of the crew and pieces of the ship’s boiler engine cylinder, will be moved into the museum throughout the year.

“We’re definitely excited,” Harris said. 

Contact reporter Christopher Smith Gonzalez at 409-683-5314 or chris.gonzalez@galvnews.com.

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