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Sunday, August 19. 2012
Sails to celebrate a morale-boosting battle of 1812.
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They've been working towards this moment for along time - I'm glad to see her come alive once again.
The oldest commissioned ship in the United States Navy. May she keep on sailing.
I was in Marblehead MA in 1997 to witness the arrival in Marblehead harbor of the USS Constitution on its previous sail. Everyone lining the shore clapped and shouted. It was a sight to behold.
I was just outside the harbor when they brought her around Lighthouse Point. It was quite the sight indeed.
Whoops - did it again - must be getting old.
Anyway, do you know the story of the Constitution and her run to Marblehead Harbor?
No, my memory is a bit foggy on the details and a search of the Web to refresh my memory didn't help. But I do remember vividly where we were standing to watch. We walked down State Street, turned left down Front Street past the Barnacle (good lobsters there) in the direction of Fort Sewall, and then stopped along the open area where we could look across the mouth of the harbor in the direction of Marblehead Light on the Neck. I always have to search my brain to remember the name of the park where the light is located; it's Chandler Hovey.
All the original copper sheeting and fittings came from the forges of Paul Revere.
USS Constitution, as large a sailing ship as she is, could be the deck cargo for that other famous commissioned sailing ship --Nelson's Man o' War at Portsmouth --HMS Victory is 278' long and mounted 104 guns.
The American is a Frigate, 207' feet long and mounted 44 guns. But the Frigate was faster than a Man o' War --and could thus choose her fights, generally, against the bigger ships.
Those sailors lit out across the sea without radios and weather reports. Tough hombres.
Just recently for kicks I was trying to figure out the scale difference between warships of yore compared to a modern aircraft carrier. I used HMS Victory as my example of yore, U.S.S. Reagan for today.
Victory is not quite 1/4 the length of the Reagan, and could fit athwart-ships onto Reagan's flight deck at its widest place, though with a little overhang each side.
I couldn't quickly find a figure for waterline-to-tippytop on either vessel, but Reagan is certainly taller.
Joshua Humphries, the shipwright who designed them, may have been the master shipwright of the entire age of sail. The six Humprhies frigates were more powerful than their weight of metal would indicate, and her 44 guns were larger than the guns of ships of comparable size.
She could out-fight anything that could catch her, and out-run anything more powerful. They proved beyond all doubt that Britain's navy might be larger, but the American navy was now a force to be reckoned with.
both Constitution and Victory are both men-o-war, a poetic term for any warship. Victory is a first rate ship of the line, meaning it could take its place in the battle line and slug it out with similar enemies. towards the end of the age of sail, the smallest "liner" would have been third rate of about 70 or 72 guns.
Constitition is a heavy frigate, comparable in function to a WW2 era CA, or CB or BC type cruiser.
not the best of the American sailing frigates, but very good.
Years ago I came across a piece of information that this ship sailed in the waters of vietnam. I have yet to find any documentation of this claim and wondered if your wonderful and very well informed readers might know anything about this. Or was a sailor just stringing me along?
From http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/c13/constitution.htm:"She served as flagship for the South Pacific Squadron from 1839 to 1841" so it's possible.
I hate to bust bubbles but...
THAT U.S.S. Constitution is NOT the historical vessel... It's the second U.S.S. Constitution. It was revived as a morale booster early in America's WWII.
Next, the 44 gunner was a cheat -- and was re-rated up to 54 guns by the Royal Navy based upon the extraordinary amount of deck guns seen by the captured British captain.
The Admiralty put out the word: no British frigate was to tangle with these 'pocket battleships.'
That's right, the Kriegsmarine patterned her strategy after the USN of 1812-14 -- which featured running away from the main battle fleet to directly attack Britain's merchant fleet.
Whereas the Royal Navy was massively impressing un-landed blue collar labor for her fleet; America has so few vessels that only volunteers could be accepted. (!)
A 54 or 44 would be a fifth, even sixth rate ship.
A ship-of-the-line would be a third rate ship.
There were VERY few first and second rate ships.
The heart of all battle fleets turned on 74s and 80s -- the later a French design.
I would have to see a cite for that. Everything that I have read about her is that she has never been scrapped nor a new one built. The original USS Constitution has been repaired many times, before and after WWII, but I can find nothing that says she was decommissioned and her named reassigned during that time frame.
A losing captain would count every gun on the ship that beat his while counting only his main battery to make the loss look less egregious. If someone counted the small guns mounted in the tops or on deck for anti-personnel use, you can come up with 54, if you didn't count your own short range but heavy duty carronades, you could make yourself look even more helpless. you could inflate or deflate the count for every warship that way. but there were 44 guns in Constitution's main battery, and that's the number that counts, and what makes Constitution a "fifth rate" frigate, not a line-of-battle ship. of course this system was constantly evolving as ship armament crept upwards, and by the time of the US Civil War, the system was broken down, as the most powerful sailing vessels were the razee sloops of 20 guns (10inch shell guns, or 100 pounders).
if you think there was another USS Constitution, you need to explain that. are you talking about administrative rebuilds? are you confusing her with USS Constellation? are you talking about different ships? did you do your homework?
You are correct, he is absolutely and positively wrong!
I believe you are also correct that the source of his confusion is the history of the USS Constellation.
I installed the phone system for the Constitution Museum in Charlestown, they had displays of the hardware pulled out of the old ship during her many refits, and a few decades ago they found some hardware from the shop of Paul Revere.
Do you think Oliver Wendell Holmes would have written,"Ay tear her tattered ensign down..." for a copy?
Few naval developments anywhere in history were as dramatically revolutionary as the March 08 1862 combat debut of the CSS Virginia.
Nor as short-lived. The very next day Virginia joined the world's navies she had made obsolete the day before, going obsolete herself when the little two-gun USS Monitor steamed out to meet her.
One might imagine, attaching to those two days at Hampton Roads, a certain level of consternation appearing among the world's admiralties.
One if by land
Two if by sea
Blert made a blooper
in Old Ironsideree
It was not the number of guns that made the Constitution dangerous; it was the New World oak that was so plentiful it could be used to clad the hull. Most british ships made extensive use of oak for the "bones" of the ship where strength was critical but not the hull. The british Admirals were over confident and a lot of that confidence was based on their belief that numbers of guns trumped tactics. Over confidence by high level military leaders is behind every major military loss in history, well... over confidence and ignorance.