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""Old Ironsides," the USS Constitution" USS Constitution - Charlestown Navy Yard Tip by smschley


Better known as "Old Ironsides," the USS Constitution can be found at anchor in her berth at the Charlestown Navy Yard. It is the oldest commissioned ship in the U.S. fleet along with being the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. Its a vestige of the days of "wooden ships and iron men", when she and her crew of 200 succeeded at the perilous task of asserting the sovereignty of an improbable new nation. Every July 4 and on certain other occasions she's towed out for a turnabout in Boston Harbor, the very place her keel was laid on October 21, 1797.

It is a beautiful sailing ship that had its brass bell; many of its copper fittings; and it’s bottom sheathed in copper, all supplied by .Paul Revere. Her hull was made of white oak from the sea islands of Georgia. the toughest wood grown in North America. Her principal service was during Thomas Jefferson's campaign against the Barbary pirates, off the coast of North Africa, and in the War of 1812. In 42 engagements, her record was 42-0 with 20 vessels captured. The nickname "Old Ironsides" was acquired during the War of 1812, when shots from the British warship Guerrière appeared to bounce off her tough oaken hull.

Today she only has about 8%-10% of her original wood remaining in place, though her heart, the “keel” is original. The ship was retired from combat in 1815, and was rescued from destruction when Oliver Wendell Holmes's poem Old Ironsides launched a preservation movement in 1830. She underwent a major restoration in the early 1990s, and only about 8%-10% of her original wood remained in place (the keel, the heart of the ship, is original). This was in preparation for its bicentennial in 1997, when it sailed under its own power for the first time since 1881.

Men and women of the regular navy maintain a 24-hour watch. Free tours have sailors showing visitors around the ship, guiding them to her top, or spar, deck, and the gun deck below

Address: Charlestown Navy Yard
Directions: Expect to have your bags searched, and you'll probably have to pass through a metal detector. Call ahead if the national terror alert is high; the navy yard closes to civilians at the first sign of a serious threat.
Phone: (617) 426-1812

Review Helpfulness: 4 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Feb 26, 2005
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