History Of The USS Constitution; Old Ironsides

In the winter of March, 1794, the United States government gave its final approval for construction of 6 naval vessels. One of which was the USS Constitution; Old Ironsides.

In the winter of March, 1794, the United States government gave its final approval for construction of 6 naval vessels to protect the young nation from being taken over by hostile British and French forces. Joshua Humphrey's began designing the ships. One of the most famous ships this man designed was called the USS Constitution. Her name was given to her from the Constitution of the United States as well as President George Washington. She is also the oldest war ship today.

From 1794 - 1797, Old Ironsides was built. It took more than 1,500 trees from along the eastern sea coast. The iron was casted from Rhode Island. The state also provided the cannons and the cannon balls, which the proud ship used to sink enemy ships.

In October, 1797, Old Ironsides was christened and was to be launched that day. As the forces of nature would have it, she would be too heavy to launch in the first 2 previous attempts. In March of 1798, the USS Constitution finally made its first introduction into the naval fleet.

Captain Samuel Nicholson began his command on July 22, 1798. He took the war ship to the West Indies to protect the US Ships from more pirates as well as attacks.

The USS Constitution would not see battle until 1803 - 1806, when President Thomas Jefferson sent her to the Mediterranean to protect other US ships from pirates. Pirates as well as attacks from other ships had posed a terrible problem to the smaller ships. Much cargo was lost due to these ruthless attacks. Finally, with Captain Edward Preble at her helm, Old Ironsides showed the rest of the world what she could do. She saw battle at Tripoli for the first time. Old Ironsides had her first victory! This caused Tripoli to sign a peace treaty agreement with the United States in 1805.

During the year of 1811, the majestic ship was sent to the Washington Ship Yard for maintenance and repairs. During the year of 1812, she was launched again during the War of 1812. Again, she would see battle with the British. In July of 1812, Old Ironsides was met by 5 British war ships. This meeting led to piece of naval history known as "The Great Chase." Needless to say, Ironsides was able to elude her assailants.



In August of 1812, the USS Constitution met in battle with the British war ship named HMS GUERRIERE. It took only 20 minutes to sink the British war ship. According to logs, a British sailor was heard hollering the USS Constitution's sides were made of iron. Sailors of the USS Constitution had witnessed an iron cannon ball strike her sides. The HMS Guerriere was sunk by Old Ironsides. Hence her famous nicknamed was formed.

In December of 1812, Old Ironsides was again engaged in battle. This time by the HMS JAVA. Though the mighty war ship, received damaged, her captain was able to salvage the HMS Java's steering wheel and replace Old Ironside's wheel. HMS Java was badly damaged and was unrepairable thus she was sunk. Another victory for Old Ironsides!

In the winter of 1815, Old Ironsides was set sail to the Madeira Island. Here is where she encountered the British ships called the CYANE and LEVANT. It seemed Old Ironsides was going to be defeated. The captain strategically bombarded the Cyane and rendering the war ship useless. Captain Charles Stewart directed the USS Constitution to bombard the Levant. He easily rendered the ship too. The Levant crippled and useless, made its way back to England while the captain of the USS Constitution took control over the Cyane. The Cyane was now known as USS Cyane. Another victory for Old Ironsides!

From 1815 until 1821, Old Ironsides was docked for costly repairs. During the times of 1822 until the 1860's, Old Ironsides was a show ship and in charge of many expeditions of the waters.

With the verge of the Civil War breaking out in 1860, she was commissioned once again to defend her fleet. Instead of seeing battle, Old Ironsides was used as a training ship. It is also said at this time, she was the fastest moving ship during her time as sea. Up until the 1900's, this gallant war ship had stayed in ship yards and was used as a training vessel.

In 1907, US Congress had declared Old Ironsides a national monument.

In 1925, the United States Congress set aside monies to have her repaired. Even children had donated their monies to see the majestic ship repaired. In deed, this grand war ship had caught the hearts and attention of Americans everywhere.

Her tours as a traveling monument began in the year of 1931 but in 1954, the United States Congress passed a law to protect and to preserve Old Ironsides. She will be used a national monument only and will not see war again.

In the summer of 1998, the USS Constitution was honored in her part of the stabilization of American History. Naval fleets from all over the world came to Boston to pay tribute to the USS Constitution.

The wonderful ship now rests in the Boston Harbor. She is truly part of what America stands for!

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