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USS Constitution

The USS Constitution

Welcome to the dedicated page for the USS Constitution, one of the most iconic and historic ships in the United States Navy. Known as “Old Ironsides,” the USS Constitution has a rich history that spans over two centuries, symbolizing the strength and resilience of the American spirit.


Name: USS Constitution
Type: Frigate
Year Built: 1797
Builder: Edmund Hartt’s Shipyard, Boston, Massachusetts
Owner: United States Navy
Specifications: 2,200 tons, 204 ft length, 43 ft beam, 22 ft draft
Armament: 44 guns (24-pounder long guns, 32-pounder carronades)
Speed: 13 knots (maximum)

Construction and Design

The USS Constitution was constructed as part of the Naval Act of 1794, which authorized the building of six frigates to protect American merchant ships from Barbary pirates. Designed by Joshua Humphreys, the Constitution was built with a unique combination of strength, speed, and firepower.

Key Features:

  • Hull Design: The ship’s hull was built with live oak, a dense and strong wood that gave the ship its legendary durability. The hull was also designed with a diagonal rib system to provide extra strength.
  • Armament: The Constitution was heavily armed for its size, with a mix of long guns and carronades, allowing it to engage effectively at various ranges.
  • Sail Plan: Equipped with three masts and a complex sail plan, the ship was capable of achieving high speeds for a vessel of its time.

Historical Significance

The USS Constitution played a pivotal role in the early years of the United States Navy, serving with distinction in multiple conflicts and earning a reputation for being unbeatable in battle.

Key Dates:

  • Launch: October 21, 1797
  • Quasi-War with France: 1798-1800
  • First Barbary War: 1801-1805
  • War of 1812: 1812-1815

Notable Battles

Quasi-War with France The USS Constitution patrolled the Caribbean and captured several French privateers, protecting American merchant ships and asserting the young nation’s naval power.

First Barbary War The ship played a crucial role in the conflict against the Barbary States, helping to secure American interests in the Mediterranean and contributing to the eventual peace treaty.

War of 1812 The USS Constitution achieved fame during the War of 1812 with a series of victories over British warships, earning the nickname “Old Ironsides” after cannonballs were seen bouncing off its strong oak hull.

Key Battles:

  • HMS Guerriere: August 19, 1812 – The Constitution defeated the British frigate HMS Guerriere, boosting American morale and proving the effectiveness of the young navy.
  • HMS Java: December 29, 1812 – Another significant victory where the Constitution captured and destroyed the British frigate HMS Java.

Preservation and Legacy

The USS Constitution remains a commissioned warship in the United States Navy and serves as a museum ship in Boston, Massachusetts. It is the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat and continues to symbolize the enduring legacy of the U.S. Navy.

Preservation Efforts:

  • Restorations: The ship has undergone multiple restorations to preserve its structure and historical integrity, including major restorations in the 1920s, 1970s, and 1990s.
  • Museum: The USS Constitution Museum, located near the ship in the Charlestown Navy Yard, provides educational programs and exhibits about the ship’s history and significance.

Visiting the USS Constitution

Visitors can tour the USS Constitution and learn about its storied past through interactive exhibits and guided tours. The ship is berthed at the Boston National Historical Park in the Charlestown Navy Yard.

Visitor Information:

  • Location: Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Hours: Open daily, hours vary by season
  • Admission: Free, donations accepted

Further Reading and Resources


  • “A Most Fortunate Ship: A Narrative History of Old Ironsides” by Tyrone G. Martin
  • “Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy” by Ian W. Toll
  • “Old Ironsides: Eagle of the Sea” by David Fitz-Enz


  • “USS Constitution: America’s Ship of State”
  • “Old Ironsides: The Warrior’s Ship”