Little Bits of History

In the Stars

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 28, 2014
USS Constellation

USS Constellation

July 28, 1855: The USS Constellation is commissioned. She was the last sail-only warship designed and built by the US Navy. She was a sloop-of-war which means a single gun deck. According to the Naval Registry, the original USS Constellation – a frigate – was disassembled in 1853 at the Gosport Navy yard in Norfolk, Virginia and the sloop-of-war was then built at the same yard. Despite being a single gun deck, she was both larger and more powerfully armed that the original, her namesake. The sllop was laid down on June 25, 1853 and launched on August 26, 1854. She was commissioned on this day with Captain Charles H. Bell at the helm.

Constellation, now a museum ship, is 181 feet long at the waterline and 199 feet overall. She is 41 feet wide at the waterline and 43 feet at her most extreme. She has a 1,400 long ton displacement and her draft is 21 feet. When fully staffed, she carried 20 officers, 220 sailors, and 45 marines. She was armed with 25 guns, the majority of them 8-inch chambered shell guns. From 1855-58 she was part of the US Mediterranean Squadron and mostly performed diplomatic duties. In 1859, 1860, and 1861 she stopped three ships (one each year) which appeared to be part of the slave trade. Two of the ships were fitted out for transport of human cargo. One ship had 705 enslaved people aboard. They were set free in Monrovia, Liberia.

During the US Civil War, the Constellation remained in the Mediterranean Sea acting as a deterrent to Confederate cruisers and “commerce raiders”. After the war, she continued to sail near Europe and was part of the effort to bring food to Ireland during the famine. She also participated in bringing exhibits to the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1878. The Constellation also served as a floating barracks. During World War I, she was used as a training ship and over 60,000 recruits learned the ropes aboard her. She was decomissioned in 1933 but recommissioned in 1940 as a national symbol. She spent much of World War II as a relief flagship.

She was decommissioned again on February 4, 1955 and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on August 15 of that year, 100 years after her first commissioning. She was taken to Baltimore, Maryland and was designated a National Historic Landmark on May 23, 1963. She is the last intact naval vessel from the Civil War. In 1994 she was condemned as unsafe and taken in for a $9 million restoration project which was completed in 1999. Tours are regularly available and there is a cannon firing demonstration daily. The USS Constellation is now part of the Historic Ships of Baltimore.

If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable. – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

It is not the ship so much as the skillful sailing that assures the prosperous voyage. – George William Curtis

The effect of sailing is produced by a judicious arrangement of the sails to the direction of the wind. – William Falconer

You can’t believe how bleeding scary the sea is! There’s, like, whales and storms and shit! They don’t bloody tell you that! – Libba Bray

Also on this day: Dusting for Prints – In 1858, fingerprints are first used – sorta.
Motormouth – In 1958, Lord Jellico spoke for the first time in 19 years.
Plane Flies into Building in New York – In 1945, the Empire State Building was hit by a plane.
B-17 Flying Fortress – In 1935, a test flight for the WWII bomber was made.

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