A sailor makes a quick phone call during a July 4, trip of USS Constitution in Boston Harbor. Glenn Moyer Photo
CLARIFICATION: USS Constitution is the oldest warship afloat, but not the oldest in commission. The U.K. Royal Navy’s HMS Victory is still in commission but has been in dry dock since 1922.
ONBOARD USS CONSTITUTION — Commissioned in 1798, USS Constitution is the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat. Berthed in Boston, the ship was underway on July 4, in one of the last trips the ship will make before entering a maintenance availability that will keep the ship in the yard until 2018.
Naval History Magazine, December 2012
Hull, Bainbridge, Stewart—the roll call of Old Ironsides’ commanders during the War of 1812 conjures a series of sea fights that helped put the young U.S. Navy on the map.
The outbreak of the War of 1812 in June of that year pitted a U.S. Navy of fewer than two dozen ships of all sizes against the elephantine Royal Navy, which had almost that many ships of 100 guns or more. Furthermore, the officers and men manning that fleet had had nearly two decades of real-world combat experience. Among our fledgling officer corps of that day, only one senior seagoing officer had experienced a ship duel (and, ironically, he never managed to gain the glory of another during the new conflict). The frigate Constitution , one of the largest American warships, had three captains and two crews between 1812 and 1815, virtually none of whom had any combat experience—and yet they managed to amass an unbroken string of victories. These were those leaders.