USS Constitution Launched

A game changer. A national treasure. A record holder. A museum. An absolute legend. USS Constitution has been a staple of the American Navy for 220 years.

Today is October 21, 2017, and on this date, 220 years back, in 1797, USS Constitution was launched.

Constitution, also affectionately known as Old Ironsides is a wooden-hulled, heavy frigate, measuring 304 feet in overall length, with a beam width of 43.5 feet. It’s sails, spread across three masts, have an area of 0.98 acres. It was originally crewed by 450 sailors, and it carries 52 cannons.

Constitution was one of the original six frigates built for the US Navy, and it is the only one still in existence. Chesapeake was captured by the British in 1813, then decommissioned in 1819. It was eventually sold for timber. President was also captured by the British, in 1815. In 1818 it was dismantled. United States was docked at Norfolk during the U.S. Civil War where it was captured by the Confederacy in 1861, only to be abandoned and reclaimed by the Union in 1862. It was dismantled in 1865. Congress and Constellation were never captured, and were broken up in 1834 and 1853 respectively. The five other ships combined for 197 years of existence compared to Constitution’s 220 years (and counting) of active service. Even more remarkable, the expected service life of ships of that era was 10–15 years, meaning that several of the original six frigates served well beyond expectations.

Constitution saw action in the First Barbary War, notably at Tripoli. In the War of 1812, scoring a major victory by taking out HMS Guerriere in an intense one on one battle. Soon after that, Constitution also defeated HMS Java. At the end of the war, she returned to New York undefeated in naval battle against the ever formidable British Navy.

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the poem Old Ironsides after hearing a rumor that the Navy was planning to scrap the ship. It’s publication captured the public’s imagination and a grassroots effort to save the Constitution began, even if it wasn’t completely necessary.

With its glory days behind it, Constitution served as a training ship, a museum ship, and a ceremonial emblem for celebrations and exhibitions, including the U.S. Centennial, Paris Exposition of 1878, and the U.S. Bicentennial.

Presently, the still commissioned Constitution can usually be found in Boston Harbor, having just completed a two year long restoration process. She is the oldest active naval warship in the world.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check back tomorrow for a failed prediction of the Second Coming of Christ.

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