Posts tagged ‘USS Constitution’

FRIDAY FOTO (December 25, 2020)

Happy Holidays

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Grant G. Grady). Click on the photo to enlarge the image.

The USS Constitution displays holiday lights and decorations during a snow storm while moored to the pier at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Massachusetts.

Constitution is the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, and played a crucial role in the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812. Dubbed “Old Ironsides” in 1812 when British cannon balls seemed to bounce off the ship’s sturdy oak hull, Constitution actively defended sea lanes from 1797 to 1855.

Here at 4GWAR blog we wish everyone a safe and joyous holiday time to help put this very trying year behind us.

Please stay safe: keep your distance at least six feet apart and wear a mask or face-covering when you can’t. It they can do it under these circumstances, you can too.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist George M. Bell/Released)


December 25, 2020 at 12:36 am 2 comments

FRIDAY FOTO (August 31, 2018)

Prepare to Repel Boarders.


(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Casey Scoular)

OK, this is not your standard Navy drill — anymore. But in the Age of Sail, these long, spear-like poles with sharpened points on the end were a good way to discourage enemy sailors (or pirates) from trying to force their way aboard your ship.

Boarding in the Age of Sail was more difficult and dangerous than in previous eras of open-decked sailing vessels. Defenders could seek cover in “closed quarters” in the ship’s roundhouse or foredeck, shooting through small loopholes at the exposed boarders.  If not in closed quarters, defenders sometimes resorted to the boarding pike, trying to kill or wound boarders while keeping them at a distance, and of course might use any of the weapons that the boarders themselves used, according to a Wikipedia article on naval boarding.

These sailors, assigned to the historic USS Constitution, are conducting War of 1812-era boarding pike drills during weekly heritage training in Boston, near Old Ironsides’ berth at the Charlestown, Massachusetts Navy Yard. Launched in 1797, the Constitution is the oldest commissioned naval vessel in the world still afloat.

August 31, 2018 at 1:53 pm 1 comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (February 15-February 21, 1815) [Update]


COLUMBIAN CENTINEL, Boston, Massachusetts, February 22, 1815

COLUMBIAN CENTINEL, Boston, Massachusetts, February 22, 1815

Updates to add details to items on Harford Convention and USS Constitution and correct number of canon balls embedded in Constitution’s hull.

February 15-18, Washington City

The day after the peace treaty (already ratified by the British) arrives in Washington, President James Madison submits it to the Senate, which under the Constitution, must ratify all treaties for them to take effect. On February 16, the Senate ratifies the treaty unanimously — even though it does not resolve any of the issues that led to war: the impressment of American sailors by the Royal Navy; British attempts to incite Native Americans in the Upper Midwest against U.S. settlements; freedom of the seas for U.S. naval and merchant vessels. Instead both sides agree to return to borders and boundaries before the war: the British will evacuate Maine and the areas of the Upper Midwest they have seized and the United States will relinquish the bit of Upper Canada (Ontario) it captured.

Madison signs to treaty and on February 18 proclaims the United States and Great Britain are at peace officially. The war declared by the U.S. Congress on June 18 1812 is finally over.

Sometime between the word of Jackson’s victory at New Orleans and the delivery of the peace treaty, delegates from the Hartford Convention in New England arrived in Washington. They had  with them proposals hashed out in private in Hartford, Connecticut in late December 1814-to-early January 1815. All the New England states (except and Maine which was still a part of Massachusetts and not yet a state in its own right), sent at  least one delegate to Hartford. Secret_Journal_of_the_Hartford_Convention

New Englanders, mostly members of the Federalist Party, were disturbed that the war, which they did not support, was ruining their economy — especially maritime commerce after the British extended their naval blockade to New England.  They also felt that the Southern and new Western states and the Democratic-Republican Party were taking over the country and its political system. While there were brief discussions about possible secession from the union, it was not taken seriously. Instead, delegates drew up several proposed amendments to the Constitution. They ranged from requiring a two-thirds majority vote for all future declarations of war to limiting presidents to one term and ending the three-fifths compromise language of 1787, which counted slaves as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of both representation in Congress and the direct taxation of states. Another proposal would have barred men from the same state from succeeding each other as president.  (Except for Massachusetts’ John Adams, every U.S. president up until then had hailed from Virginia — including pro-war-with-Britain Thomas Jefferson and Madison).  With the war with Britain over, and patriotic fervor at a fever pitch following the victory at  New Orleans, the Hartford Convention’s ideas are ignored or laughed off in Washington.

February 20, Off the West Coast of Africa

The 44-gun frigate USS Constitution, unaware that peace has come, plies the South Atlantic looking to disrupt British commerce. Four days after the peace treaty is ratified,  the fabled ship — known as “Old Ironsides” encounters two Royal Navy ships, the 34-gun HMS Cyane and the 21-gun HMS Levant off the coast of Africa.

USS Constitution takes on HM Cyane and HMS Levant. (

USS Constitution takes on HMS Cyane and HMS Levant.
( C

Constitution’s captain, Charles Stewart, first defeats, Cyane, and after a running gun battle, Levant strikes her colors. The British ships suffer about 40 killed and 80 wounded, while Constitution’s  losses are four killed and 11 wounded. Constitution suffers little damage although 12  32-pound British canon balls are found  embedded in Old Ironsides’ hull — but none penetrated the ship’s interior.

Stewart  places some of his officers and crew aboard the two British ships to sail them back to the United States as prizes of war. But after a stop in the Cape Verde Islands, Constitution and her two prizes encounter a three-ship British squadron, which re-captures Levant. But Stewart and his other prize get away. Cyane reaches a U.S. port in April. Constitution continues its raiding cruise but during a stop in Brazil to drop off her British prisoners, Stewart hears a rumor the war may be over and sets sail for America, arriving in New York May 15.

Following the rules of the day, Cyane is ruled a prize of war and not returned to Britain, but renamed USS Cyane and absorbed into the U.S. Navy.

February 16, 2015 at 12:58 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: “Old Ironsides” Last Voyage — for Now

Heading to Dry Dock.

USS Constitution gets underway in Boston Harbor for the ship's 217th birthday cruise. This is Constitution's last scheduled cruise before entering dry dock in 2015 for three years of restoration work.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Kinney)

USS Constitution gets underway in Boston Harbor for the ship’s 217th birthday cruise. This is Constitution’s last scheduled cruise before entering dry dock in 2015 for three years of restoration work.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Kinney)

The oldest commissioned vessel in the U.S. Navy —  USS Constitution, better known as “Old Ironsides  — is heading for dry dock soon for several years of repairs and renovations.

Old Ironsides made a final tour of Boston Harbor on October 17 to commemorate the U.S. Navy 239th birthday and her own 217th birthday, according to the Navy.

The ship received  a 21-gun salute off Fort Independence on Castle Island in South Boston before  the 44-gun frigate returned to her berth at Charlestown Navy Yard.

More than 500 guests — individuals and organizations with long-standing ties to both the ship and the Navy — accompanied Constitution on her fifth and final demonstration voyage of 2014. It was also the historic warship’s final Boston Harbor underway (but not under sail) until 2018. She is scheduled to enter dry dock in March 2015 for a three-year planned restoration period.

Officials have said the effort is intended to more closely align Old Ironsides with its historical shape after decades of repairs that did not follow the original design, according to the Boston Globe.

Among the efforts, the Constitution will get new copper plates for the hull to make the ship more seaworthy. Officials will check the blueprints of the Constitution’s sister ship, the USS President, as they design the repairs. The repair work will include de-rigging and removal of the ship’s upper masts and offloading the ship’s long guns. Constitution will be open for public tours from Thursday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting this week. The ship’s captain, Commander Sean Kearns, advises visitors who want to see the tall ship, should come and see her before she goes into dry dock in March.

The first time your 4GWAR editor saw the mighty frigate was back in the mid 1970s and she was in dry dock at Charlestown then.

To see a brief Navy video of The Last Ride, click here.

SHAKOSHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.



October 20, 2014 at 11:37 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (Feb. 9-Feb. 15, 1814)

At Sea

The U.S.S. Constitution, a three-masted heavy frigate, has been prowling the Caribbean Sea since New Year’s Eve, looking to intercept British shipping and commerce.

USS Constitution underway (Photo by xxxxxxxxxxxx)

USS Constitution underway
(Photo by Hunter Stires via Wikipedia)

This week, “Old Ironsides,” as the American frigate is known, will take the HMS Pictou a 14-gun schooner on Valentine’s Day 1814, near Barbados.

The Pictou, is escorting the armed merchant the Lovely Ann from Bermuda to Suriname, when it is spotted by the Constitution under the command of Captain Charles Stewart. The American warship captured the Lovely Ann, taking her for a prize and then fired on Pictou.

The 54-gun Constitution stopped Pictou with a shot through her sails, capturing the smaller British vessel. Stewart decides to keep the Lovely Ann but orders the Pictou destroyed. The Pictou was one of five British warships captured or destroyed by the Constitution during the War of 1812. In addition to Pictou, they were HMS Guerriere, Java, Cyane and Levant.

On this Caribbean cruise, Stewart and Constitution captured five British merchant ships and Pictou before problems with the main mast force the captain to take Old Ironsides back to port.

Constitution, one of the six original frigates authorized by Congress in 1794, remains in service today – the oldest, still functioning warship in the world. The other frigates, that formed the backbone of the U.S. Navy were: President, United States, Constellation, Chesapeake and Congress.

February 10, 2014 at 1:53 am Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (July 15-July 21)

War on the Great Lakes and at Sea

Surprise at Mackinac

Map courtesy of the Michigan Society, Sons of the American Revolution

In another instance of slow traveling war news, U.S. Army Lt. Porter Hanks and about 60 troops under his command at Fort Mackinac in northern Michigan Territory are unaware that the United States has declared war against Great Britain. Pronounced Mack-in-aw, the fort sits on an island commanding the Straits of Mackinac, a strategically important link between two of the Great Lakes: Huron and Michigan.

On the morning of July 17, 1812 a combined force numbering about two hundred British and Canadian troops, plus 100 or more Native Americans (Indians), landed on the island and stole up on the fort. The British fire their two canon on the fort, and Lt. Hanks – realizing his men were outnumbered and fearing a massacre by the Indians allied with the British — agrees to surrender the fort.

Shortly after that, two American schooners, the Chippewa and the Friends Good Will – also unaware that war had broken out and that the fort had been captured – sail up to Mackinac’s dock and are promptly captured by the British.

News of Mackinac’s fall unnerves Gen. William Hull who has crossed the Detroit River from Fort Detroit in Michigan to invade Canada. After failing to capture what is now called Fort Malden near Amherstburg, Hull will retreat back to Detroit in August.

Chasing U.S.S. Constitution

USS Constitution today. (U.S. Navy photo by Sonar Technician 2nd Class Thomas Rooney)

One of the U.S. Navy’s few large warships, the 44-gun frigate U.S.S. Constitution, sails out of Chesapeake Bay in early July with orders to join an American squadron already in the Atlantic. Late in the day on July 16, the Constitution spies four ships in the distance Capt. Isaac Hull thought they might be ships from the American squadron. But the lead ship fails to respond to Hull’s signals through the night and he begins to suspect it was a British warship.

At daybreak on July 17, the Constitution’s crew sees the other ship, now within gunshot range, is a British frigate with four or five more ships a mile or two behind it. Capt. Hull – who is  a nephew of Gen. Hull at Fort Detroit – determines that discretion is the better part of valor, especially when outnumbered, and flees south. But the wind dies and the British ships are gaining on Constitution. Hull dispatches his vessel’s crew into longboats with tow lines to row and tow the the 1,500-ton ship out of harm’s way – much the way Capt. Jack Aubrey’s ship evaded a French warship in the 2003 Russell Crowe film “Master and Commander.: The Far Side of the World.”

But the British also begin towing their ships and start drawing dangerously close to Constitution. That’s when one of the Constitution’s officers suggests the strategy of kedging: rowing out in front of the ship with two of its smaller anchors, dumping the anchors into the water and winding the ship’s capstan to pull the Constitution to where the anchors rest and then starting the process over again. In effect, the Constitution is dragging itself across the water – and away from the British – like a man crawling with two broken legs. Hull keeps Constitution’s sails rigged to catch whatever breeze might come. After a tortuous 60-hour slow motion race, the wind picks up again and Constitution escapes to fight another day and eventually earn the nickname “Old Ironsides.”

British Attack Repulsed

On July 19, the American brig U.S.S. Oneida and a shore battery repulse an attack on the U.S. Navy shipyard at Sackets Harbor, New York on Lake Ontario. The British attacking force consists of two sloops, two schooners and a brig. The 24-gun British sloop-of-war, HMS Royal George, is struck by canon fire that kills eight crewmen, and damages the ship’s top mast and rigging.

The British force withdraws. But because Sacket’s Harbor is a key Army supply base and the largest U.S. shipyard on the Great Lakes, the British will try again to take Sacket’s Harbor the following year.

First Battle of Sacket’s Harbor (Image courtesy of the Flower Memorial Library)

July 16, 2012 at 1:11 am 3 comments

FRIDAY PHOTO (March 30, 2012)

Old School

U.S. Army photo by Timothy L. Hale

In a world of computer network-linked weapons platforms, unmanned drones and radar-evading stealth aircraft, it’s important to remember one of the basics of warfare: well-trained boots on the ground.

The U.S. Army certainly thinks so. Here we have veteran soldiers from U.S. Army Reserve Command headquarters climbing an obstacle during a non-commissioned officer professional development event at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Very Old School

U.S. Navy photo by Sonar Technician 2nd Class Thomas Rooney

Meanwhile, the Navy is preserving skills from another century that might seem obsolete to the casual observer. Sailors place the sail on the yard of the mizzen mast aboard USS Constitution. Navy personnel assigned to the Charlestown, Massachusetts-based three-masted frigate routinely work to improve seamanship skills in preparation for possibly sailing the ship for the bicentennial of the War of 1812. The Constitution, affectionately known to generations of American school children as “Old Ironsides,” is the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat.

Note the obelisk in the background between the female sailor and her shipmates. It’s the Bunker Hill monument in Charlestown, commemorating the Revolutionary War battle.

March 30, 2012 at 12:14 pm 1 comment


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