Huzzah! Aboard the U.S.S. Constitution

Last Friday, I stepped aboard the U.S.S. Constitution in the Charlestown Navy Yard of Boston Harbor. I joined Commander Timothy M. Cooper, his crew, and 150 members of the Wounded Warrior Project for an underway commemoration of the Battle of Midway. The ship honored injured service members from Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom and commemorated the Navy’s victory at Midway Island in World War II.

Archivist stepping aboard Old Ironsides

The Archivist stepping aboard the U.S.S. Constitution
(Photo Courtesy of the U.S.S. Constitution)

The U.S.S. Constitution is the oldest commissioned ship in the world. Christened on October 21, 1797, she is a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the U.S. Navy. She earned the nickname “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812 when, in a 35-minute battle with the HMS Guerriere off the coast of Nova Scotia, 18-lb British iron cannonballs bounced off her 25-inch oak hull.

I grew up in Beverly, Massachusetts and remember my mother telling me how she had collected pennies to help save the U.S.S. Constitution when she was young. Having served a four-year enlistment in the U.S. Navy as a hospital corpsman during Vietnam, the underway was a memorable experience for me. It was a moving tribute to those who won the Battle of Midway and to our present-day heroes who have made tremendous sacrifices to serve our country.

Shortly after 8 a.m. we got underway into the Boston Harbor. Around 9:30 a.m. the Constitution fired a 21-gun salute at the mouth of the harbor, which was answered by a 21-gun salute from Fort Independence on Castle Island. Around 11 a.m. we returned pier-side.


1817 Sail Drawing of the U.S.S. Constitution from the records of the National Archives

This past April, Commander Tim Cooper and four of his crew came to visit the National Archives in Washington, D.C. We looked at the ship logs for the U.S.S. Constitution from the War of 1812. The sailors, very knowledgeable about their ship’s history, knew instantly the details and battles the logs described.

In the ship logs for April 1814, we saw the entry describing when the U.S.S. Constitution was chased by two British frigates, Junon and Tenedos, up the coast into Marblehead Harbor, Massachusetts. I remember this story from growing up in the area. The citizens of Marblehead protected the Constitution by assembling cannons at Fort Sewall. The British called off their pursuit and the Constitution made it safely to Boston Harbor for repairs to her mainmast.


The April 1814 Ship Log for the U.S.S. Constitution

The sailors’ love for their ship and her history became readily apparent as we looked through the ship logs. As ambassadors for the history and tradition of the U.S. Navy, these active-duty United States Sailors share their passion by providing important educational programs to the public throughout the year. Our most beloved “Old Ironsides” is well-served by their dedication.

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6 thoughts on “Huzzah! Aboard the U.S.S. Constitution

  1. Great post, I enjoyed reading this. Nice mix of old and new images. I don’t know if that is a NARA or a U.S. Navy photo. If NARA’s, are there others you might be sharing on Flickr? NARA’s Flickr collection has some great older pix. I’ve enjoyed checking it both as a former NARA employee and as a current fed (historian). It’s also a good place to share images of current events at the agency.

  2. Hi Maarja,

    Thanks for the suggestion about adding these images on Flickr. The ship log and sail drawing are from the NARA holdings. We will add them to our Flickr photostream (

    I agree that Flickr is a great place to share current event photos. Our existing photostream is part of the Flickr Commons (, so we need to keep its focus on our holdings and collections. We are looking into creating a new NARA photostream to highlight current events.

    Thanks again!
    – Jill
    Social Media Team Lead
    National Archives and Records Administration

  3. Ah, yes, good point, you don’t have a NARA specific photostream outside your collections on Flickr Commons. It would be great if you could develop one. Thanks so much for responding, Jill!

  4. To avoid confusion about who has custody of photographs and documents that appear in this and other NARA blogs, please include proper citations for each item. If you are not sure of how to do this, I refer you to NARA’s General Information Leaflet, Number 17: “Citing Records in the National Archives of the United States”(

    Items not in our holdings, should at minimum, provide a citation to the agency or non-governmental source that created such items. (Example: Photo courtesy of the US Navy, or being as specific as possible “Still Image: 090704-N-1928O-022

    USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned warship, fires a portside cannon during a 21-gun salute in Boston Harbor July 4, 2009, during Fourth of July celebrations in Boston. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Mark O’Donald/Released)
    Photographer’s Name: MC1 Mark O’Donald
    Location: Boston
    Date Shot: 7/4/2009
    Date Posted: 7/16/2009
    VIRIN: 090704-N-1928O-022” To view this image visit:

    Proper citation will allow readers of the blog(s) to learn more about our holdings through online, or on site, records searches, thereby enhancing the role of the National Archives and Records Administration in the life of our country and our citizens, as well as foreign visitors.

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