The USS Constitution was given the affectionate nickname “Old Ironsides”. There is only a handful of endearing ships that have belonged to the US Navy and this ship, this magnificent ship, tops that list.
Large and swift, she commanded the sea during the early 1800’s and is one of the only ships from that era still in commission today.
Longevity has a name, The USS Constitution.
The Constitution was built of hard and resilient live oak with some of her boards a full seven inches thick.
This ship was built to sail the pre-steel seas and she did a great job of that task for over a decade.
Paul Revere had a hand in supplying the ship with its formidable skin fashioning the ships copper spikes and skirt ring.
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In 1803 she was designated the flagship of the Mediterranean squadron under the watchful eye of Captain Edward Preble. She saw her first real action protecting American interest in Africa off The Barbary Coast. Tripoli was her next stop, blockading the port and bombarding the fortifications until the Tunisians struck a peace treaty.
The ship patrolled the waters off the coast for nearly two-years after the peace accord was signed, to enforce the order. Returning to the friendly confines of The US, she would be re-fitted in Boston and prepared for her next cruise. The year was 1812 and relations with the United Kingdom had deteriorated to the point of war. As the war with Britain seemed inevitable, the ship was sent to rendezvous at sea with a squadron of ships and prepare for war.
During The War of 1812 “Old Ironsides” saw plenty of action against the British, the first would be against the British frigate, The Guerriere. The Brits found her off the Eastern coast of America and the battle began. The shots from The Constitution found their mark and
The Guerriere found herself drifting hopelessly in the Atlantic as the ship kept brushing off the cannon fire from the British sailing ship, as if they were rubber balls thrown against a wall. Earning her namesake. The Guerriere was so badly damaged the sailors scuttled her leaving her to sink to the bottom of the ocean, another victim against The Constitution.
A second battle would be fought in the open sea when the British frigate, Java, met The Constitution. Different frigate, same result. The Java can still be dove upon by divers, resting peacefully at the bottom of the sea.
After defeating the two British ships at sea, The ship was given a heroes fan fare when she returned to port and the United States was seen as the worlds leading naval power, from then on. The morale of the American people was the highest it had been since the Revolutionary War, these were good timed indeed.
The Constitution would continue to put her wood at the backsides of the British naval forces and the Peace Treaty of 1815 was signed. Once again the United States had fought and won a predominately sea war and crowned herself Queen of the World.
The only action the ship saw during The Civil War was in the field of training. “Old Ironsides” had seen her last days of fighting but could still be a valuable resource for training sailors.