Type: Frigate (44 guns)
Length: 204 feet (overall)
"Old Ironsides" is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. USS Constitution is one of six ships ordered by President George Washington to protect America's growing maritime interests in the 1790s. Constitution soon earned widespread renown for her ability to punish French privateers in the Caribbean and thwart the Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean. The ship's greatest glory came during the War of 1812 when she defeated four British frigates. During the battle against the HMS Guerriere, seamen watched British cannon balls bounce off her 21-inch thick oak sides, earning the vessel her famous nickname.
After Oliver Wendell Holmes' poem helped save Constitution from scrapping in 1830, the ship performed many military tasks in the following century, including service as both a barracks and training ship. Constitution was restored in 1927 with contributions from the nation's school children. After being towed coast-to-coast, Constitution was moored at the Charlestown Navy Yard in 1934. Her basic lines have not been altered nor symbolic value reduced, as she exemplifies an 1812 appearance.
Constitution is towed into Boston Harbor for her annual 4th of July cruise, during which she fires a 21-gun National Salute. She also makes another six or seven cruises into Boston Harbor each year. Manned by an active duty U.S. Navy crew, Constitution is open year round for free public tours in the Charlestown Navy Yard. In the summer of 1997, Constitution sailed under her own canvas for the first time in 116 years. Nearby, the USS Constitution Museum and World War II destroyer USS Cassin Young are also open to the public.
USS Constitution is a National Historic Landmark.
USS Constitution vs. HMS Guerriere by Michel Corne, 19 August 1812
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