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Less than a month after the beginning of the War of 1812, the U.S.S. Constitution experienced its closest call.  Under the command of Captain Isaac Hull the U.S.S. Constitution was heading to New York to join Commodore John Rodgers’ Squadron.

On, July 17, the Constitution spotted a large group of unknown warships.”One Frigate astern within about five or six miles, and a Line of Battle Ship, a Frigate, a Brig, and Schooner, about ten or twelve miles astern all in chase of us, with a fine breeze, and coming up very fast it being nearly calm where we were… Soon after Sunrise the wind entirely left us, and the Ship would not steer…” -Captain Isaac HullLetter to the Secretary of the Navy, 1812I am Old IronsidesThe ships were identified as British.  They were H.M.S.

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Shannon, H.M.S. Belvediera, H.

M.S. Guerriere, H.M.S. Aeolus, and Ship of the Line H.M.S.

Africa.  Captain Hull ordered the crew to lighten the load, so they dumped thousands of gallons of drinking water into the sea.  Then they douse the sails with water, letting pick up even the lightest winds.  Furthermore, a tactic called kedging was used.  Small boats went ahead, dropped anchors, and towed the Constitution forward.  The English did the same to move a single ship forward.  By 4pm on july 18, she had a ¾ of a mile lead on the British.  A squall came, reducing visibility.

 Hull ordered the sails to be pulled back but, when the British couldn’t see them anymore, they were unfurled and the Constitution raced away.A few months later,   the Constitution was equipped with 30 24-pound long guns, 1 18-pound long gun, and 24 32-pound carronades.  A carronade is a cast iron cannon with a short range.  The Constitution encountered the H.M.

S. Guerriere of the coast of Nova Scotia on August 19.  As soon as H.M.S. Guerriere got close to the Constitution, she opened fire on her.

 The two ships exchanged broadsides for 35-minutes.  During the course of the battle a sailor observed cannonballs bouncing harmlessly off her hull. “Huzza! Her sides are made of iron!,” he cried.  Henceforth, she earned the nickname “Old Ironsides.”  After the battle, the H.M.

S. Guerriere was completely destroyed.  So destroyed, that she was not worth towing, so she was set ablaze.

 Guerriere sunk to bottom of the sea while on fire on August 20.  Five months later, the U.S.S. Constitution was carrying 30 24-pound long guns and 24 32-pound carronades.  Under the command of Captain William Bainbridge, she was operating to “annoy the enemy and afford protection to our commerce.

”  On December 29, 1812, sailors opened fire on iH.M.S Java.  Java was a 38-gun ship and was small and fast.  She wounded the Constitution’s captain and damaged her rigging and spars.  The Constitution closed in fast and delivered a deadly broadside.  The British frigates bowspirit got tangled up in the Constitution’s mizzen rigging.  At that moment, Captain Bainbridge fired another broadside.

 Even though he was wounded, bainbridge maneuvered the Constitution for more than 3 hours. The British lost 60 men while the Constitution lost nine. At this point the British realized the power of the United States Navy.

 British Admiralty, the world’s leading maritime power, decrees that their warships would not engage American frigates.  Unless, they are in groups of 2 or more.  The Constitution arrived in Boston on 15 february to a great celebration.

 Bainbridge determined that Constitution required new spar deck planking and beams, masts, sails, and rigging.  After about a year, she had a new parts and crew.  By March, 1814, she had captured 5 merchant ships and the H.M.S Pictou.



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