Naval History and Heritage Command

National Museum of the U.S. Navy

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USS Constitution (Frigate)

Designed by Joshua Humphreys and launched on October 21, 1797, at Boston, Massachusetts, USS Constitution began her service as the oldest commissioned warship in the U.S. Navy by participating in the Quasi-War with France, 1798-1800, and in the First Barbary War, 1801-05.  During the War of 1812, she was victorious in battle against HMS Guerriere on August 19, 1812 (where she gained her nickname Old Ironsides), HMS Java on December 29, and HMS Cyane and HMS Levant on February 20, 1815.  By 1833, Constitution needed repairs and was about to be scrapped when Oliver Wendell Holmes' poem Old Ironsides helped to save her.  Recommissioned in 1835, she served in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Pacific, where she became the first U.S. warship to conduct a show of force against Vietnam in May 1845.   While serving with the African Squadron in November 1853, Constitution captured American slaver H.N. Gambrill, her last prize.  Decommissioned in 1860, she then trained midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy.  Following reconstruction in 1870 and training sailors in the Atlantic, she returned to Boston to serve as a receiving ship and was saved again from destruction in 1905.   Renamed Old Constitution in December 1917 due to her name assigned to a projected battle-cruiser, Constitution regained her name in 1925 after the Washington Navy Treaty cancelled the warship.   Following restoration that began in 1925, she was recommissioned in July 1931 and sailed on a 90-port tour along United States' coasts.  In May 1934, she received the classification of IX-21, which was rescinded in 1975.   Reconstructed in 1995 and 2015, Constitution still makes an annual Turnaround Cruise in Boston Harbor on July 4th and serves as a educational and outreach symbol of the U.S. Navy's great days of fighting sail and of courageous and patriotic naval service. 

Two models of Constitution can be found in The Forgotten Wars of the 19th Century section of the National Museum of the U.S. Navy.    

Image: KN-2781:  Action between USS Constitution and HMS Guerriere, August 19, 1812.  Artwork entitled, "Dropping Astern" by Michel Felice Corne (1752-1845).  Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum.