History.com tells us that on this day – October 21, 1797, the USS Constitution – a 44-gun, wooden-hulled, three-masted, heavy frigate of the United States Navy – was launched in Boston Harbor. Named by President George Washington after the Constitution of the United States – she is the world’s oldest floating commissioned naval vessel. Her War of 1812 battle with the British ship Guerriere earned her the nickname of “Old Ironsides.” Witnesses claimed that the British shots merely bounced off the Constitution‘s sides, as if the ship were made of iron rather than wood. Her storied image and public adoration has repeatedly saved her from the scrap heap.
Since 1934 she has been berthed at the Charlestown Navy Yard – at one end of the Boston Freedom Trail. As a fully commissioned ship – Constitution‘s mission today is to promote understanding of the Navy’s role in war and peace through educational outreach, historic demonstration, and active participation in public events.
The USS Constitution, a 44-gun U.S. Navy frigate built to fight Barbary pirates off the coast of Tripoli, is launched in Boston Harbor. The vessel performed commendably during the Barbary conflicts, and in 1805 a peace treaty with Tripoli was signed on the Constitution’s deck.
During the War of 1812, the Constitution won its enduring nickname “Old Ironsides” after defeating the British warship Guerriére in a furious engagement off the coast of Nova Scotia. Witnesses claimed that the British shots merely bounced off the Constitution’s sides, as if the ship were made of iron rather than wood. The success of the Constitution against the supposedly invincible Royal Navy provided a tremendous morale boost for the young American republic.