History for the Rest of Us

USS Constitution

USS Constitution

Mar 13, 2013

The USS Constitution was one of the original six frigates of the United States Navy and is perhaps the most famous ship in US History. US President John Adams was in attendance when it first launched from Edmund Hartts shipyard in Boston Massachusetts on October 21, 1797. The ship was named in honor of the then-new US Constitution by President George Washington. The copper bolts and breasthooks of the ship were forged by Paul Revere. In Battle The Constitution captured the French merchant ship Niger during the Quasi-War and was involved in the defeat of the Barbary pirates in the First Barbary War. During the War of 1812 the Constitution defeated four British warships: HMS Guerriere, HMS Java, HMS Cyane, and HMS Levant. She was given the nickname of ‘Old Ironsides’ after her encounter with the HMS Guerriere. To the astonishment of the crew, during the battle many of the shots from the Guerriere rebounded harmlessly off the hull of the Constitution’s hull. Reportedly, an American sailor shouted, “Huzzah! her sides are made of iron!”. Saved from being Scrapped On September 16, 1830, a poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. was published as a tribute to the USS Constitution. Two days earlier, an article had appeared in the Boston Advertiser claiming that the Navy intended to scrap the Constitution. Public indignation was ignited and efforts to save ‘Old Ironsides’ were successful. The poem written by Holmes is as follows: Aye tear her tattered ensign down long has it waved on high, And many an eye has danced to see That banner in the sky; Beneath it rung the battle shout, And burst the cannon’s roar;– The meteor of the ocean air Shall sweep the clouds no more. Her deck, once red with heroes’ blood, Where knelt the vanquished foe, When winds were hurrying o’er the flood, And waves were white below, No more shall feel the victor’s tread, Or know the conquered knee;– The harpies of the shore shall pluck The eagle of the sea! Oh, better that her shattered hulk Should sink beneath the wave; Her thunders shook the mighty deep, And there should be her grave; Nail to the mast her holy...