The New International Encyclopædia/Constitution, The
CONSTITUTION, The. A forty-four-gun frigate, the most famous vessel in the history of the United Stales Navy, sometimes called ‘Old Ironsides,’ from the hardness of her planking and timbers. She was launched on October 21, 1797, but was not completed and equipped until the following year, when she put to sea under Captain Nicholson for service against the French. During the war with Tripoli, 1801-05 (see Barbary Powers, Wars with), she was Preble's flagship, and in 1805 took part in three of the five bombardments of the port of Tripoli. In July, 1812, in command of Isaac Hull (q.v.), she escaped from a British squadron off the New Jersey coast, after a spirited chase of three days, and on August 10, off Cape Race, fought her famous battle with the Guerrière, Captain Dacres, a somewhat weaker English frigate, which she left a total wreck after an engagement of thirty minutes, the English losing 79 of their crew, the Americans 14. On December 29, under the command of Captain Bainbridge, she captured off Bahia, Brazil, the Java (38 guns, Captain Lambert, after a two hours' engagement, in which the British lost 300 in killed and wounded, the Americans 34. On February 14, 1814, under Captain Stewart, she captured the Picton, 16 guns, and a convoy, in the West Indies; and on February 20, 1815, she took the Cyane, 34 guns, and the Levant, 18 guns, after a fierce engagement—remarkable for the seamanship of the Americans and the gallantry of the English—between the Madeira Islands and Gibraltar. The English lost 19 killed and 42 wounded out of 320; the Americans, 6 killed and 9 wounded out of 451. Soon afterwards the Constitution was closely pursued by a strong British squadron, which recaptured the Levant. Reported unseaworthy between 1828 and 1830, she was ordered to be dismantled, but was retained in deference to the popular sentiment aroused by Holmes's poem “Old Ironsides,” and in 1833 was rebuilt. She went out of commission in 1855 at Portsmouth, N. H., was subsequently used occasionally as a training ship, was again partially rebuilt in 1877, crossed the Atlantic for the last time in 1878, and was stored at the Boston Navy Yard in 1897. Consult: Hollis, The Frigate Constitution (Boston, 1900); and Roosevelt, The Naval War of 1812 (New York, 1882).