USS ''Constitution''

  • Warships Of History
  • 4 mins

By Crusader1307

One of the oldest still commissioned, active-duty warships in The World, the USS “Constitution” (aka “Old Ironsides”), was one of 6 Frigates constructed by the young US Navy (all 6 constituting it's entire force). Construction began in 1794 and was completed in 1797. She displaces some 2,200 tons and is 305 feet long. ''Constitution'' sits almost 45 feet tall (beam) in the water with a 200 foot Mainmast. Consisting of 4 decks, she was armed with 52 cannon of different types (her largest compliment is 30 24-pounders). Crewed by 450 Officers, men and a detachment of US Marines, “Constitution” was a mighty wooden warship during her heyday. Named by then President George Washington, in honor of The US Constitution - an innovative design known as “cross planking”, gave her hull added strength and ability to withstand enemy cannon shot. Imported copper (from England), served to reinforce her hull and protect her from the Shipworm marine organism. “Constitution” was first tasked to suppress the Barbary Pirates during The Barbary War (who had been plaguing US shipping at that time). “Constitution” participated in The Quasi-War with France from 1798 to 1800. She effectively harassed French commerce and military attacks directed against American interests. It was during the Barbary Wars that “Constitution” and her sister Ships assaulted Tripoli Harbor. Although a success, two of her sister ships were lost in the battle. It was during The War of 1812 (with Britain), that “Constitution” earned her name “Old Ironsides”. She was engaged in combat with the HMS “Guerriere”. A scant 25 yards in distance, both ships poured broadside after broadside into each other. At one point, so close – that both ships had become interlocked with one another. Still “Constitution” continued her broadsides. The resulting vibrations and motion of the sea and wind eventually snapped the Mainmast and rigging of HMS “Guerriere” (setting both vessels free). As a result, over a third of “Guerrieres” crew was killed. “Constitution” was in relative good condition (especially from the deckside down to her hull). The American crew cried “Huzzah, our sides are made of iron!” The nickname stuck. “Consitution” would continue her service throughout much of early American history. She also circumnavigated The World. She was drydocked as technology (steam), began to develop (deemed too costly to convert). “Consitution” served as a naval training ship from around 1850 until the start of The American Civil War (1861). She was deployed with The South Atlantic Squadron and participated in the naval bombardment of Confederate held Fort Sumter in 1863. Afterwards, she returned to Port in Maryland (resuming her duties as a training ship). For the following years, she sat unused and became badly deteriorated due to lack of care and the elements. She was towed to Philadelphia (where she was considered to destruction). She was repaired (just barely, due to funding) – to represent The US at the 1873 Paris World Expo. Unfortunately damaged in Paris, she was towed to England for repairs. After repairs, “Constitution” was put back into training status and their she remained until 1897. Docked at Boston Harbor (MA/US), she was left to rot. In 1900, the US Congress voted to restore “Constitution” as a piece of American naval history (all her other sister ships had long since been lost or destroyed). It took many years to restore her (the US Government backed out of her funding and it was left up to private Public donations). An “Interest Cruise” was set in 1925 to spur up Public interest. “Constitution” made Port in most US Harbors and Ports. The interest worked and renovation was begun to return her to “training ship” status. Much of her renovation work was stopped due to World War II. In 1970, renovation was done again (this time not as extensive). Her last detailed work was in 1995. She is berthed in Boston Harbor and serves as promotion of US Naval tradition and US history in general. Her period-uniformed crew are specially selected by the US Navy (it is considered special and honored duty). The USS “Constitution” still attracts many visitors to view her and tour her nearby Museum.