Throwback Thursday: ‘Old Ironsides’ Was Launched in Boston Harbor 218 Years Ago
Happy (sort of) birthday to the USS Constitution, first floated in Boston Harbor on October 21, 1797.
It’s a day that calls for celebration—sea legs included—because it wasn’t any old ship that was launched from Charlestown Navy Yard harbor 218 years ago on Wednesday. The USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world, complete with a crew of naval officers.
The ship is the last remaining vessel from the six original frigates of the Navy, when George Washington requested that they be built to protect the new nation.The Constitution got her nickname “Old Ironsides” a few years after launching, during the War of 1812. While she’s indeed made of layers of wood, Old Ironsides was never defeated in battle. She sank numerous British ships, and gave a tough beating to the HMS Guerreire. The Guerreire fought hard, but Constitution crew members observed the cannonballs fired at their ship seemed to bounce off of its sides—thus the nickname was born.
Later, in 1830, Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote a poem called “Old Ironsides,” helping to save the ship from being dismantled. Good thing, else modern-day Bostonians couldn’t set foot on the Constitution, which has a permanent home in Charlestown Navy Yard. It’s open for self-guided exploration during the ship’s operating hours. For those who want to celebrate but can’t make it to the ship, the Constitution is open for tours 24/7 on Google Maps.