Little Bits of History

USS Constitution

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 21, 2011

USS Constitution

October 21, 1797: The USS Constitution is launched. It was one of the six original frigates resulting from the Naval Act of 1794. The ship was the third built using the design by Joshua Humphreys. These ships were larger and more heavily armed than ships coming out of Boston. The Constitution was built at the Edmund Hartt Shipyard at a cost of $302,718. Her early duties as part of the newly formed US Navy was to guard merchant ships.

The ship was instrumental in several altercations between the young nation and different adversaries. She was involved in the Quasi-War and the First Barbary War at the Battle of Tripoli Harbor and the Battle of Derne. The captaincy changed hands several times as the ship fought through various battles. In 1805, Captain John Rodgers assumed command of the venerable ship. As the flagship of a contingent of ships, she was instrumental in the war in the Mediterranean Sea. Relief was supposed to arrive but was detained. The Constitution was away from home for four years before returning to the States.

What the Constitution is most famous for, however, is her time in the War of 1812. She was able to capture many merchant ships and defeated five British warships. Now with Isaac Hull in command of the ship, several encounters with the enemy met with a successful outcome. During a battle against the HMS Guerriere, the Constitution gained the nickname “Old Ironsides” as well as much public approval. This was not the last battle she was famously involved in. She also was able to best the HMS Java.

Public notoriety saved the revered ship from being scrapped on several occasions. Today, this venerable ship is a museum ship. In 1900, she was scheduled for a restoration but no funds were allocated. Private funds were raised and the ship was saved. By 1925 the restoration was completed and the ship was taken on tour. She was docked in Boston for most of the century. But as time went on, another facelift was needed. In 1995, another restoration was needed. Over 200 years after her launch, she was in need of much repair. Today, she sails the seas in an effort to promote understanding of the Navy’s role in war.

“The winds and the waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators.” – Edward Gibbon

“It is the function of the Navy to carry the war to the enemy so that it will not be fought on US soil.” – Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz

“Control of the seas means security. Control of the seas means peace. Control of the seas can mean victory. The United States must control the sea if it is to protect our security.” – John F. Kennedy

“Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious.” – George Washington

Also on this day:
Suicide Pilots – In 1944, the first kamikaze attack took place.
Apple Day – In 1990, the first Apple Day was held in Covent Garden, London.

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