Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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USS Constitution vs HMS Guerriere

USS Constitution, under the command of Captain Isaac Hull, sailed from Boston on August 2, 1812 to off the coast of Halifax, Nova Scotia. On the afternoon of August 19, 1812 Hull and his crew sighted the British frigate HMS Guerriere, under the command of Captain James Richard Dacres.

As Guerriere closed to within a mile of the Constitution, the British hoisted their colors the two ships engaged in a fire fight. The Constitution’s thick hull, composed of white oak planking and live oak frames, proved resilient to enemy cannonballs. During the engagement, an American sailor was heard exclaiming, “Huzza! Her sides are made of iron! See where the shot fell out!”. After intense combat, the severely damaged Guerriere  was forced to surrender.

The next morning, Hull made the difficult decision to scuttle Guerriere. Constitution sailed for Boston and arrived on August 30. News of Constitution‘s victory quickly spread through town and throngs of cheering Bostonians greeted Hull and his crew. A militia company escorted Hull to a reception at the Exchange Coffee House and more dinners, presentations and awards followed in the ensuing weeks, months, and years. USS Constitution, for her impressive strength in battle, earned the nicknamed “Old Ironsides.”