August 19th, 2007 by xformed
On this date 195 years ago, a historical naval battle took place, which spawned a legendary nickname for one of the first warships built in the course of our nation’s history: “Old Ironsides.”
Double shotted loads spoke in a single thunderous voice from the side of CONSTITUTION, and the entire structure of the ship shook from the blast, and the crew gave a triple cheer that was clearly heard aboard HMS GuerriÃ¨re. The result of this fire discipline? When the smoke cleared, the HMS GuerriÃ¨re’s mizzenmast had ruptured just above the main deck and falling into the sea and the mainyards were shot away, taking the sails, too. The American sailors gave another triple cheer.
It was in this interval, when an American sailor saw a British 18lb cannon ball bounce off the Ship’s side and said “her sides are made of iron!” The nickname for the USS CONSTITUTION was born.
Captain Hull maneuvers his vessel into position, providing the Marine sharpshooters the opportunity to fire at the confused British crew, then a second, close range broadside was loosed with the same fury against the enemy. The ships closed and became entangled, and boarding parties was called for. Stern chasers and bow guns were employed at close range, and the CONSTITUTION’s main batteries could still fire into the HMS GuerriÃ¨re. The heaving and plunging of the heavy seas finally tore the ship’s loose from each other.
The HMS GuerriÃ¨re was dismasted and most of her officer’s out of action, dead or wounded. Captain Dacres struck his colors at 6:30PM.
In 25 minutes, the US Navy won a victory, aided and abetted by the foresight of Joshua Humphreys. How? That will be the subject of tomorrow’s Monday Maritime Matters post.
This account was derived from the book “Six Frigates” by Ian Toll. The details of the battle covered there are presented in far greater detail.
In the mean time, the Historical Naval Ships Association site for the USS CONSTITUTION is here. Points of interest there include that the below poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes kept her from the scrap yards in 1830, and the money of school children collected in 1927 restored her to her 1812 condition.
Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!
Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
That banner in the sky;
Beneath it rung the battle shout,
And burst the cannon’s roar; —
The meteor of the ocean air
Shall sweep the clouds no more.
Her deck, once red with heroes’ blood,
Where knelt the vanquished foe,
When winds were hurrying o’er the flood,
And waves were white below,
No more shall feel the victor’s tread,
Or know the conquered knee; —
The harpies of the shore shall pluck
The eagle of the sea!
Oh, better that her shattered hulk
Should sink beneath the wave;
Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
And there should be her grave;
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,
The lightning and the gale!
Another website found while researching this material was The Captain’s Clerk, a site set up as “an archive specifically created to contain historically accurate stories and other information on that fabled frigate, the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”).”
Come back tomorrow to read how another field of my academic background is put to use to tell more of this story!
This entry was posted on Sunday, August 19th, 2007 at 9:38 am and is filed under Marines, Maritime Matters, Military, Military History, Navy, Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.