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Welcome

1797 1803-1805 1812


Aboard...
1830 1897 1931-1934 1997
Construction of USS Constitution USS Constitution serves as flag- In a short and fierce battle during the
is completed at Edmund Hartt’s
USS Constitution is rumored to After spending nearly 40 Restored, USS Con- Newly restored, the USS Constitution, known affec-
ship during the Barbary Wars, War of 1812, USS Constitution de- be scrapped until Oliver Wendell years as a training ship USS stitution embarks on ship sails under its own
Shipyard in Boston. The frigate is defending American shipping feats the British frigate HMS Guerri- Holmes’ poem “Old Ironsides” Constitution is permanently a three-year tour of sail power for the first
tionately as “Old Ironsides,” is
launched as one of the first six ships interests in the Mediterranean ere and earns the famous nickname sparks public outcry. returned to Charlestown America’s East, Gulf time in 116 years to cel- the oldest commissioned war-
of the new United States Navy. Sea. “Old Ironsides” Navy Yard. and West Coasts. ebrate her bicentennial. ship afloat in the world.
The helm is the ship’s
primary steering At 210 ft., the mainmast is 13 Launched October 21,
The ship’s command- mechanism. It is at- feet shorter than the nearby 1797, from a shipyard
Bunker Hill Monument and The Charlie Noble
ing officer maintained tached to the rudder
holds the main topsail, as is the smokestack for
USS Constitution displayed just a stone’s throw from
through a series of
accomodations for large as a regulation basket- the camboose, or gal-
several figureheads (with her berth today, she was
business and comfort ropes and pulleys. figure) and billetheads (with-
ball court. ley stove, used to cook a marvel of warfare sci-
in the sizable cap- out figure) in her time, includ-
tain’s cabin.
meals for almost 500
ing Hercules, President An- ence and America’s most
The capstans, which men on the gun deck
The main hatch, a large below.
drew Jackson, and a dragon advanced symbol of diplo-
are located on the
spar and gun decks,
opening in the spar deck cov- winding down her bow. macy.
ered with wooden latticework,
are used to manuever
allowed supplies and long

Decks...
heavy objects such as A thick hull incorporating Live
guns into the ship.
sails and anchors.
Oak, a tree unique to the southern
United States, contributed to
SPAR “Old Ironsides’” cumulative
33-0 engagement record. The
sweat, dedication and sacri-
GUN fice of her U.S. Navy crew vir-
tually ensured it.
BERTH
Crewed, maintained and
operated by the U.S. Navy
ORLOP to this day, USS Constitu-
tion stands as an active re-
The hull is a white oak/live oak/ minder of America’s mar-
white oak “sandwich” design time heritage, its struggle
The wardroom is Most of the ship’s 400 men that repelled or absorbed gun to preserve its freedom,

Welcome to America’s
where the ship’s offi- shot and earned the ship its fa-
slept in four-hour shifts in
mous nickname. At points, the
and national pride.
cers lived. The acco- hammocks that packed the
modations were less berth deck. hull is 24 inches thick.
comfortable than the
Made of white oak, the keel is
captain’s, but consid-

Ship of State!
original to USS Constitution,
erably more so than The ship’s surgeon per-
The diagonal riders being laid at the ship’s con-
the rest of the crew. formed his work in the The long guns weighed
were technological inno- struction. It acts as the “back-
surgeon’s cockpit, a about 6,000 pounds and
vations incorporated into bone” which supports the rest
cramped space where could hurl a 24-pound
USS Constitution’s de- of the ship.
the tools, while the best solid iron shot across a
sign. Massive lengths of
available for the time, 1,200 yard range . It took
wood transfer the ship’s
now appear harsh after a team of 7-14 men to op-
weight evenly along the
200 years of medical erate the unwieldy guns.
keel to prevent it from This brochure designed by the USS Constitution Public Affairs Office and approved by the
progress. Commanding Officer, USS Constitution. All images by USS Constitution Public Affairs. Photos
Background painting courtesy Mike Haywood. “hogging” (warping). are public domain unless otherwise noted. October, 2009.
A History
- War of 1812 -

of the Ship...
combined batteries were heavier. Captain Charles Stewart’s
skillful maneuvering prevented them from regrouping and
In 1812, Great Britain had been for 19 years at war with overpowering him. Nearly five hours later, Cyane and Levant
France. The Royal Navy reigned supreme and needed ever had surrendered.

-In Transition-
increasing number of sailors. American merchant ships were
seized to prevent trade with France and American crews were “im-
pressed” into British service. Rallying to “Free Trade and Sailor’s
In 1830, it was rumored that Constitution was to
After the Revolutionary War, new United States economy Rights,” America declared war on Great Britain, June 18, 1812. be condemned and scrapped. A poem by Oliver Wendell
depended upon seaborne commerce with other nations. Mer- On August 19, southeast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a
ship was sighted and Constitution made Holmes, Sr., entitled “Old Ironsides”, aroused popular feel-
chants who traded in the Mediterranean ing amongst Bostonians; eventually Congress appropriated
found it increasingly difficult to conduct trade. for her with all sails set. It proved to be
money for restoration in 1833.
The Ship at a Glance...
American merchant ships, left vulnerable by HMS Guerriere , the British 38-gun frigate
infamous for terrorizing American ships. From 1835-55, Constitution made numerous voyages,
the disbanding of the Continental Navy in including her 1844-46 cruise around the world under Captain
1785, were attacked by Barbary (North African) When Constitution was still far astern, Guer-
riere began firing. Constitution bore down John Percival, when she covered 52,370 miles in more than
corsairs who captured the ships and enslaved War of 1812 Era 500 days at sea. From 1853-55, “Old Ironsides” patrolled the
American sailors. upon the enemy in silence. The gun crews
Armament stood patiently at their quarters awaiting the west coast of Africa searching for illegal slave traders.
Recognizing the threat to our economy Rated 44 Guns, she carried: During the American Civil War, “Old Ironsides” was used
and the lives of American citizens, President order to fire. Cannon shot from Guerriere’s
(24) 32-Pounder Carronades smaller 18-pound guns continued to impact as a U.S. Naval Academy training ship. In 1878 she went on
George Washington argued for a Navy. Con- her last trip across the Atlantic, carrying American exhibits to
gress responded on March 27, 1794 with the Crew: 4-8 / Range: ~400 yards but did remarkably little damage to Constitu-
tion’s solid oak hull and an unknown Sailor the Universal Exposition at Paris, before returning to service in
Naval Armament Act, authorizing six frigates to the Apprentice Training Squadron for newly enlisted men. Her
be built along the eastern seaboard. (30) 24-Pounder Long Guns shouted, “Huzzah! Her sides are made of
iron!” Thus Constitution long career at sea closed in December, 1881
Constitution was designed by Joshua Crew: 7-14 / Range: ~1200 yards
when she was decommisioned, stripped

Visiting Us...
Humphreys and Josiah Fox to be powerful gained the renowned title
of “Old Ironsides.” of her rigging, and, in 1882 converted to a
enough to defeat any enemy within her class (1) 18-Pounder Bow Chaser Navy receiving ship - used for administra-
and fast enough to out sail a stronger op- The inspired crew
was ready to take the tive purposes - in Portsmouth Navy Yard,
ponent. Ship’s Stats Kittery, Maine.
Built at Edmund Hartt’s shipyard in fight to Guerriere , but USS Constitution is open for public
Speed: 13+ Knots (~15mph)
not until the ships were
-Into the 20th Century -
Boston, the wood for her construction came visitation year-round and can be
Sail Area: 42,710 Square Ft. nearly abreast did Cap-
from various places along the east coast, from found via internet mapping sites at
Maine to Georgia. Constitution, the largest tain Isaac Hull give the Charlestown Navy Yard
Crew Composition word, “Now, boys, pour
ship to be built in Boston up to that time, was 1 Constitution Rd. In 1897, John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald,
450-500, Including: into her!” A whole broad-
launched October 21, 1797. Charlestown, MA, 02129 a Massachusetts Congressman and grand-
55 Marines / 8-10 Ship’s Boys side struck Guerriere and
father of future president John F. Kennedy,
-The Barbary War-
30-40 Officers & Midshipmen for 15 minutes the ships
exchanged fire before her
For directions, visitor hours, and drew public attention to “Old Ironsides,” by
aft mast fell. Constitu- more, visit our website at spearheading action to bring Constitution
USS Constitution Today http://history.navy.mil/ussconstitution back to Boston, for her centennial.
tion passed ahead and
For centuries, the Barbary States of Foremast Height: 190’ 11”
sent a raking broadside All visitors to the ship are required From 1927-31, “Old Ironsides” un-
Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli had levied Mainmast Height: 210”
crashing down the entire to go through a security screening derwent a major restoration. Funds for the
tribute on even the most powerful European Mizzenmast Height: 175’ 4” length of the enemy’s process to ensure the safety of the restoration were generously donated by the
nations. If payment was refused, ships were Displacement: 1,900+ tons decks, which cut away ship, its guests and crew. people of America, with some of it raised
captured and the crews sold into slavery. Be- Length: 207’ (Billethead to Taffrail) much of the rigging. in a “pennies campaign” by school children
fore building our Navy, America paid hundreds Guerriere ’s fore across the nation. The remaining balance
of thousands of dollars in presents and tribute Crew Composition: and main masts fell, and, necessary was appropriated by Congress.
to Algeria, Tripoli, and Tunis. The Bashaw of 70 Active Duty U.S. Navy Sailors helpless, Captain James Dacres surrren- From 1931-34, Constitution toured the East, Gulf
Tripoli, however, enraged that other nations 3 Officers, 4 Chiefs, 63 Crew dered his ship. The British lost 78 killed and and West coasts, transiting the Panama Canal, as thanks to
were receiving more tribute than he, cut wounded while the Americans suffered only America. The voyage began in Boston on July 2 and covered
down the flagpole at the American consulate seven dead and seven wounded in a battle more than 22,000 miles and 76 ports. “Old Ironsides” returned
on May 14, 1801, thus declaring war on the that lasted approximately 35 minutes, one to the Boston Navy Yard on May 7, 1934, after hosting more
United States. of the shortest in history. than 4.6 million visitors.
Constitution was Commodore Edward Preble’s flagship It was a dramatic victory for America and for Constitution. On July 21, 1997, in celebration of the ship’s 200th year,
in the Mediterranean in 1803. Upon arrival, American forces In half an hour, the United States “rose to the rank of a first- Constitution sailed for the first time in more than 116 years,
blockaded Tripoli Harbor and bombarded fortifications and armed class power” and the country was fired with fresh confidence thrilling millions of patriotic Americans and proving once again
Tripolitan boats. and courage in the unpopular War of 1812. that she is truly America’s Ship of State. The ship carries out
On June 3, 1805, a peace treaty was drawn up in Constitu- On February 20, 1815, Constitution had her last great fight. her modern day mission as the Navy’s ambassador to the
tion’s cabin. Trubute to Tripoli ceased and the American captives Two British warships the frigate HMS Cyane and the sloop-of-war public and is a representative of the thousands of Sailors and
HMS Levant were spotted off the island of Madeira. Although Marines that serve the United States proudly.
were released.
individually each was smaller and lighter than Constitution, their