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U.S. Frigate Constellation

“Constellation” Dock,
Inner Harbor,
Baltimore

The ship you see before you is the U.S. Sloop-of-War Constellation. It is a civil war era sloop that was named in honor of it famous forbearer, U.S. Frigate Constellation. The frigate was a larger vessel than this Civil War sloop.

The original frigate's construction was authorized in 1794 by President Washington, along with five other ships including Constitution and “Old Ironsides”. Washington dubbed this Baltimorean Constellation in honor of the fifteen stars in the new flag. Designed by Joshua Humphreys and Josiah Fox, then built by David Stodder as a thirty-eight guns frigate. She was built in his shipyard on the west bank of Harris Creek, somewhat south of the present Patterson Park, in the vicinity of what is now the foot of Boston Street and Kenwood Avenue. This is near the present day Tindeco Wharf Apartments. A vestige of Harris Creek lingers today as the boat lake at Patterson Park. The vessel slid down the ways in September, 1797, to the lonely sound of a muffled drum.

Constellation lost very little time in acquiring renown. You may consult and read more at Historic Ships. Here is a condense history of the original Frigate Constellation:

She was the first U.S. Navy vessel to put to sea.

During 1798-1800 the United States Navy Regulations were composed aboard her by her skipper, Captain Thomas Truxtun.

In February, 1799, she defeated the French frigate L’Insurgente in the Caribbean, to achieve America’s first important victory over an enemy man-o’-war on the high seas.

Constellation, commanded by Captain Charles Stewart, at the outbreak of the War of 1812. The Constellation was dispatched to the Hampton Roads and moored at Gosport, the Navy Yard opposite Norfolk town. There a considerable British fleet contrived to keep her bottled up throughout the conflict. But the fact of her presence, aside from pinning down enemy vessels, protected the harbor of Norfolk and the American fortification on Craney Island. Her armed boats twice detected and repulsed British fleet forays. On a third occasion her guns helped sink three British fleet boats assisting a 700-man invasion force, of which ninety became casualties and forty-three prisoners of war.

The decade of the 1840's saw Constellation circumnavigate the globe as flagship of Captain Kearny's squadron. In 1840 this “Yankee race horse,” as she was labeled because of her speed, because the first American man-o’-war to penetrate the inland waters of Imperial China.

She was laid up in ordinary at Norfolk from 1845, and fully decommissioned in 1853 and broken up at that location. The U.S. Navy started her namesake sloop shortly there after and commissioned her in 1855.

Sources

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