USS Constitution Sails Again



This year is not only important just because it is a presidential election year, but also it marks the bicentennial of the War of 1812, who some refer to as “Second Revolution”. In fact, it was merely a war defending against an invader – the British – not a revolutionary action for independence.
The USS Constitutionis the oldest commissioned warship in the world to be still operational, and 2012 is an important year in its history because it will be only the third time it has sailed from its berth as a floating museum. It is a sacred symbol of the United States Navy and its heritage. The ship is open year round for free guided tours in Boston, Massachusetts. Each tour is narrated by several active-duty United States sailors assigned to the USS Constitution with four stations set up in its top three decks. The tours begin every half-hour from 10am to 3:30pm, each tour accommodating up to 80 people.

The USS Constitutionwas one of six naval vessels approved by Congress to be constructed in March of 1794 in order to protect the United States from growing aggression of Britain and France. Joshua Humphrey designed all six ships, including the USS Constitution. It took three years to build (1794-1797) and more than 1,500 trees from the eastern seacoast to complete it; white oak for the hull and white pine for masts. George Washington selected the ship’s name from a list of proposed names for the six new ships.

Thirty-two of the 44-gun ship’s guns were 24-pounders, each weighing 3.25 tons that were made in Rhode Island. Paul Reveremade the copper fastenings for the ship’s interior. Its anchor cable was 22 inches in circumference and 720 feet long. It became the second frigate of the US Navy, the first being the USS Constellation.
When completed in October 1797, the USS Constitution was christened and ready to launch, but because of its weight was stuck in mud. In March of 1798, after two previous attempts to launch the large ship, the USS Constitution finally joined the naval fleet. Boston became her homeport.
The USS Constitutionis a 44-gun; three-mast frigate built in 1797 and continues its commission by the US Navy with an active 60-person crew. It served America during the blockade of Tripoli in 1801 and defeated a five-ship British fleet in the War of 1812. It was on active duty until 1881 and designated a museum in 1907. Only sailed from its berth only two times since its retirement: 1931 and 1997; and it is sailing again this year, 2012.
The USS Constitution’s nickname is “Old Ironsides” – given by a sailor who noticed that the British cannonballs were bouncing off the triple-thick sides of the American frigate. It defeated British naval ships that included a frigate in the War of 1812, the British Navy being the largest and strongest navy in the world at the time. It is most famous for defeating the HMS Guerriere, a formidable frigate.
Between 1803 and 1806, President Thomas Jefferson sent the USS Constitutionto the Mediterranean to protect US ships from pirates. Captain Edward Preble was in command and demonstrated to the world what the American frigate could do.
In 1839, the USS Constitutionwas assigned as the flagship for the Pacific Squadron and visited ports in western South America.
In 1849, Pope Pius IX boarded the USS Constitution and provided a 21-gun salute in his honor for it was the first time a Pope had visited United States territory.  
During the American Civil War, the USS Constitution was assigned as a training ship, outfitted with gaslights and steam pipes for heating.
In 1876, the USS Constitutionwas overhauled; however, the work quality was so poor it was retired and decommissioned in 1881. It was restored for a second time by order of the US Congress in 1900 with private funding to commission it as a museum ship in 1907.
Facts and Nomenclature:
Builder: Colonel George Claghorn, Edmond Harrt’s Shipyard, Boston, MA.
Date Deployed: October 21st 1797.
Cost: $302,718.
Propulsion: 42,710 sq. ft. sail on three masts.
Length: 204 feet; 175 feet at waterline.
Height: Mast height: foremast = 198 feet; mainmast = 220 feet; mizzenmast = 172.5 feet.
Beam: 43.5 feet
Displacement: 2,200 tons.
Speed: 13+ knots (14.95 miles per hour).
Crew: 450 that included 55 Marines and 30 boys in 1797.
Armament: 32, 24-pounder long guns; 20, 32-pounder cannonades; and two 24-pounder bow chasers.
Landing/Attack Craft: One 36-ft long boat; two 30-ft cutters; two 28-ft whaleboats; one 28-ft gig; one 22-ft jolly boat; and one 14-ft punt.
Anchors: Two main bowers (5,300 lbs.); one sheet anchor (5,400 lbs.); one stream anchor (1,100 lbs.); and two kedge anchors (400 to 700 lbs.).
Homeport: Charlestown Navy Yard; Boston, MA.
Events:
August 24th2012: Sailors assigned to USS Constitutionprepared sails prior to the ships mission during the Chief Petty Officer Heritage Week. In Boston Harbor, USS Constitution fires a 21-gun salute toward Fort Independence on Castle Island.
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