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This Week In Military History: USS Constitution Launched

October 25, 2013

This week marked an important day in the history of the U.S. Navy’s oldest commissioned ship. On October 21, 1797, the USS Constitution was launched, our nations Ship of state. “Old Ironsides”, as it’s also known, was built in the Boston Navy Yard, originally called the Charlestown Navy Yard and later Boston Naval Shipyard. It is one of the oldest shipbuilding facilities in the United States Navy.

The USS Constitution hosted the formal reopening of all federally-funded national historical park sites in the Boston area featuring speakers representing the National Park Service and historical sites along Boston’s Trails to Freedom.


The USS Constitution, a 44-gun U.S. Navy frigate built to fight Barbary pirates off the coast of Tripoli, is launched in Boston Harbor. The vessel performed commendably during the Barbary conflicts, and in 1805 a peace treaty with Tripoli was signed on the Constitution’s deck.

During the War of 1812, the Constitution won its enduring nickname “Old Ironsides” after defeating the British warship Guerriére in a furious engagement off the coast of Nova Scotia. Witnesses claimed that the British shots merely bounced off the Constitution’s sides, as if the ship were made of iron rather than wood. The success of the Constitution against the supposedly invincible Royal Navy provided a tremendous morale boost for the young American republic.

In 1855, the Constitution retired from active military service, but the famous vessel continued to serve the United States, first as a training ship and later as a touring national landmark. Since 1934, it has been based at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston. Over the years, Old Ironsides has enjoyed a number of restorations, the most recent of which was completed in 1997, allowing it to sail for the first time in 116 years. Today, the Constitution is one of the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat.