Friday, October 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, Old Ironsides!

Old Ironsides at dock in the Charlestown Navy Yard, near Boston

The USS Constitution was launched on 21 October 1797 from Hartt’s Shipyard in Boston, Massachusetts.
In researching my 4x great grandmother, Catherine Plummer Jones (1799-1828), I learned that her sister Agnes (1816 -1890) married William N. Hart (1812- 1878) on 5 November 1837 in Boston.   The Joneses and Harts all lived in Boston’s North End, and are buried in Copp’s Hill Burial Ground.    Edmund Hartt, a distant relative and the owner of Hartt’s Shipyard, is also buried at Copp’s Hill.  He built the USS Boston, the USS Argus and the USS Independence.   Most of the relatives in this branch of my family were mariners, ships carpenters, sailmakers, ropemakers or from other sea faring occupations.

The USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) was designed by Joshua Humphrey and built out of pine and southern live oak.   Her name was chosen by President George Washington.   During the War of 1812 she earned her famous nickname "Old Ironsides" when British soldiers swore they saw cannon balls bounce from her sides.   In this era wooden warships were expected to last about fifteen years.  In 1830 an article in the Boston newspaper Advertiser erroneously gossiped that she was about to scrapped, which began a letter writing campaign to save her.  Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote his famous poem “Old Ironsides” during this time.   The Constitution was saved, and her sister ship Congress was scrapped.
Your tour guide is a US Navy crew member
in 1812 uniform

During the Civil War the USS Constitution was saved by the Union Navy and towed to New York City from Annapolis, where it was feared she would fall into the hands of the South.   See this link for that story:    Again, by 1900 her fate was up in the air as it was suggested she be used for target practice and sunk.  Protests led to another restoration in 1906, and then she began to serve as a museum ship in the Charlestown Navy Yard.  She was restored in 1925, and reconstructed in 1995 and 2010. The USS Constitution is still a commissioned warship of the US Navy, and will participate in a re-enactment of the famous battle versus the HMS Guerriere for the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.
The USS Constitution is still a commissioned
warship of the US Navy

For the truly curious:

Genealogical History of Samuel Hartt from London, England to Lynn, Massachusetts, to 1903, by James Morrison Hart, Printed and bound by the Rumford Printing Company, Concord, NH, 1903  available at the New England Genealogical Society CS71.H326.1903.

For more information on the USS Constitution see

The story of Old Ironside's rescue during the Civil War

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

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