20 August 2012

USS Constitution sails again

USS Constitution and HMS Guerriere by Anton Otto Fischer 
On August 19, 2012, the venerable USS Constitution set sail to commemorate its defeat of the British frigate HMS Guerriere 200 years ago. Built at Edmund Hartt’s shipyard in Boston, the three-masted heavy frigate was launched in 1797 to provide U.S. Navy protection for American merchant ships. Although made with a wooden hull, the Constitution earned its nickname as Old Ironsides during this fierce 35-minute battle.

As part of the 200th year celebration of the War of 1812, the USS Constitution left its dock at the former Charlestown Navy Shipyard with 285 passengers and crew. It traveled for 17 minutes under its own power, about 1,100 yards at 3.1 knots, before tugboats took the warship to Fort Independence on Castle Island. There, in front of a large crowd, Old Ironsides fired a 21-gun salute. 

In 1812, the British Empire was deeply involved in its war with France and did not anticipate some of its actions—such as the impressment of American sailors, trade restrictions, and support for Indian raids—would cause its former colonies to turn against the mother country. The War of 1812, however, truly defined the United States of America as its own nation. Despite its name, the War of 1812 lasted two years and eight months, ending with the Treaty of Ghent in February 1815. The USS Constitution and Francis Scott Key's "The Star Spangled Banner" are two of the best-known symbols of the War of 1812.

Genealogists are commemorating the War of 1812 too with the Preserve the Pensions project to digitize the War of 1812 pension files and make them available free of charge. 

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