Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 21, 2012

USS Constitution

July 21, 1997: The USS Constitution makes her maiden voyage, again. The ship was named by President George Washington. She is the oldest commissioned naval vessel still plying the seas. She was one of the six original frigates built after the passage of the Naval Act of 1794. She was a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate and was under the flag of the US Navy. The six ships were designed by Joshua Humphreys and were the new nation’s capital ships. They were, therefore, built larger and with heavier armament than was usual. Her first maiden voyage was on July 22, 1798.

The USS Constitution was used famously during the War of 1812. Once again fighting against Great Britain, the Constitution captured many merchant ships and defeated five British warships. The HMS Guerrier, Java, Pictou, Cyane, and Levant all lost to the boat nicknamed “Old Ironsides.” The public was enamored with the great ship and this adulation kept her from the scrap heap several times over the years. She actively served as a flagship in the Mediterranean and African squadrons during the 1840s. During the American Civil War, she was a training vessel at the US Naval Academy.

After her work career was over, she became a goodwill ambassador. The ship was displayed during the Paris Exposition of 1878 as her last act in service. She went on to become a receiving ship and then was designated a museum ship in 1907. In 1931 the USS Constitution began a three-year, 90 port tour of the nation. After the tour, she was docked in Boston and received about 100,000 visitors per year. A small crew was installed to watch over the venerable ship. During a hurricane in 1938, she was blown from the harbor and collided with another ship, sustaining only minor damage.

By 1970 it was evident Old Ironsides was getting older and needed some repair work. Commander Tyrone G. Martin took over as Captain and all restoration work was mandated to conform to the original standards of the 1812 configuration, when the ship had gained her original status and glory. The ship entered dry dock in 1992 for minor repairs. Instead, a major overhaul was undertaken. Using radiography and scans to look for hidden problems, it was obvious much work was needed. The most difficult part of the project was securing the proper wood in the proper sizes. All was accomplished and on July 21, 1997 she gracefully slipped from her berth, and once again set sail, 199 years after she first sailed. It was the first time in 116 years she had sailed 6 knots (6.9 mph) and it was the first time since 1934 she was out overnight.

USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, promotes the United States Navy and America’s naval heritage through educational outreach, public access and historic demonstrations, in port and underway.

At the outset of the War of 1812, USS Constitution had already won all of her engagements in two wars: the Quasi War with France (1798-1801) and the Barbary Wars (1801-1805).

Throughout the next four decades following the War of 1812, USS Constitution secured numerous bloodless victories until she was taken out of active service in 1855.

In the course of this 35-minute battle (against HMS Guerriere), an astonished sailor observed British 18-lb. iron cannonballs, bouncing harmlessly off USS Constitution‘s 25-inch oak hull, and he cried out, Huzza! Her sides are made of iron! Henceforth, USS Constitution carried the nickname ‘Old Ironsides.’ – all from the USS Constitution official website

Also on this day:

Brrrrrrr – In 1983, the coldest recorded temperature is captured at Vostok Station.
Destruction – In 356 BC, the Temple of Artemis was destroyed.
Wild Bill Hickok – In 1865, the first shoot out in the wild west took place.