USS Constitution

Research by Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette

Aviation Art Store

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This is my painting of the USS Constitution.

Disclaimer: There may be some errors and mistakes in the stories below. This section of my web library is not yet complete. I am far from finished.

The many drawings below of the Constitution, cannon and nautical stuff are images I have scanned. They were all done by other artist. The only reason I did this was because I do not have time yet to do all of these drawings myself. I appreciate the artwork of other artist so I will use others art but never claim it as my own. Like I said, all art below is done by many wonderful artists so enjoy.

Read, enjoy, and come back every six months and see what I have done. Thanks! Sir Hamilton

If you have any suggestions, comments or correction then please contact me at the bottom of the page at my E-Mail address link and let me know. If you have painted or drawn some nautical art and would like to share it then please send me your artwork and your correct name so that I can give you proper credit. Thank you.

U.S.S. Constitution

“Old Iron Sides”

At the end of the Revolutionary War the newly formed United States reduced the size of the Army and the Navy. The reason was for the opportunity for peace between our new country, America, and the rest of the world. We were a new nation just emerging from a war between the largest and most powerful military in the world. England.

America had no Navy for nine years. The cost of a Navy and the burden of its great expense would have been sobering for the new nation. The nation’s leaders were well aware of the need for such an asset because a strong Navy is the very definition of “Assets.”

In March 1794 President George Washington requested for congress to build six frigates to help defend our nation’s seafaring commerce against several different enemies. Our first nemesis was pirates, next were the English, and then there were the French. This would be the start of a new Navy that would grow to eventually rule the seas. The date for congressional approval was March 27, 1794 in which a new American Navy was born.

Our status of a neutral nation at peace with the world lasted for a few years before one by one the pirates, English or the French started assaults against our shipping and sailors. The Algerian Raiders were also known as the Barbary Pirates. These raiders were a constant nuisance among commercial shipping traffic in the Mediterranean. The Barbary Pirates also roamed along the West Coast of Africa catching shipping as it returned to England and Europe from the Indian Ocean. The pirates would board and seize commercial ships and they also participated in the slave trade. American sailors that were seized were held for ransom. The pirates used blackmail for safe passage through their waters. For hundreds of years the pirates had extorted tribute from European nations.

The English also began seizing our commercial ships and forced our maritime sailors into the service on the English ships of war. France too was starting to seize our ships and looting the cargo. This was really pissing the United Stated government off!

War with France

In 1798 England and France were fighting the Napoleonic War. Both England and France were interfering with American commerce shipping with France being the most aggressive violating our nations neutrality. In retaliation the United States declared a “Quasi War” with France canceling all current treaties between the two nations. France had been our best ally and was instrumental in the winning of our country’s freedom from England yet now war existed between our countries. The French were doing poorly against the larger English Navy and any further conflict with another naval nemesis was a miscalculation the French did not anticipate from America.

Here is a model of the USS United States by Revell. Build your own Continental Navy.

Visit our Hobby Shoppe and see all of the different sailing kits we carry.

The Constitution sails for her first war tour.

On the evening of July 22, 1798 the U.S.S. Constitution cleared Boston harbor for not just her first war tour but as the first real warship representing America. Five new frigates, warships built by the best American talents from the carpenter to the draftsman. Manned by seamen who were seasoned, strong and determined.

The sprit of America filled the sails of the Constitution and ballooned her canvas as she sailed. Captain Samuel Nicholson was at the helm with a ships crew of veterans from the Revolutionary War.

The proud ship sailed quite peacefully out of the harbor into a dark bluish gray sky until it was out of sight form the docks and ware houses along the harbor. Its crew was full of vigor and confidence in themselves and their new ship. The Constitution sailed into the night and into maritime history.

Success for the Constitution on its first cruse was swift with the capture of a 24 gun privateer “Niger”. Old Iron Sides sailed back into Boston Harbor with the Niger in toe with 70 prisoners.

Clashes with French warships caused excess stress on the French Navy who was still reeling from one disastrous sea battle after another with England. France signed a peace treaty with the United States in 1801 ending the tensions between the nations.

The Barbary Pirates continued to pray on commercial commerce while wars in Europe raged. Pirates roamed the seas for hundreds of years before the United States claimed its sovereignty however now the new nation fell pray to these sea going professionals.

Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli were the homeports of these pirates. This area of northwest Africa that the pirates sailed ranged from the full southern shores of the Mediterranean from the Middle East west to Spain and down one third of the western shore of the continent of Africa. The pirates were in position to control the entire Mediterranean and the western shores of Africa.

At first the United States paid bribe money for safe passage considerations. In 1785 Algerian corsairs seized several American Merchant ships and held the crews for ransom. Records show that over one million dollars in presents and monies had been paid to the Dey or ruler of Algiers. This was in addition to an annual tribute payment of $22,000.00. The Bashaw or ruler of Tripoli was angered that the Dey and his corsairs were receiving more tribute money from America than he was so the Bashaw made an additional demand against the United States. He requested payment within six months or he would declare war against America.

At the end of the six months no word or no monies arrived so the Bashaw declared war against the United States and had the flagstaff at the American consulate cut down on May 14, 1801.

Little did the ruler of Tripoli know at the time and even before he was able to declare war officially that the American leaders had come to their on conclusion. The government ordered the Navy to send a squadron of ships to the Mediterranean to gain control of the area. For two years the presence of American warships deterred the countries Algiers, Tunis and Morocco from engaging American merchant shipping. The deceleration of war was mute as the ruler proclaimed war the American Navy was already on its way.

Though the strength of the American presence was technically weak the pirates did not know this and the American warships were avoided and not challenged. The presences of American Warships were enough to change the situation in the Mediterranean. This is an excellent example where with just the show of force can quell aggressive behavior. I also find it amusing that France or England were ever able to stop the pirates.

Here is a grand model of the USS Constitution by Revell.

Visit our Hobby Shoppe.

Ship Development

The U.S.S. Constitution from the very start was the request from President George Washington himself for the construction of six new frigates for a new American Navy. From the hand of our first President who signed the legislation for its construction, the U.S.S. Constitution was born.

With the development of any sea going vessel the size, shape, and armament is essential in comparing the subject vessel with other warships that would be encountered. One would want their warship to be faster and to be able to sail out of danger from larger enemy ships. Greater speed will also give you the ability to pursue and over take enemy vessels. You also want your warship to be able to go toe-to-toe side by side both delivering and receiving cannon fire from equal sized warships and survive.

Building a warship is in fact like building a floating fortress. Financial expense is great and the investment must be the best that taxpayer’s money can buy. However with mankind’s great need for waging war balanced in trying to discourage war we are able to use our intellectual minds to the finest potentials in developing war machines. At this period of time the Man-O-War sailing ship was the supreme war machine. It had been refined to the greatest of details. From sail sizes to cannon armament the construction of the warship was a science.

The Constitution was laid down the very year President George Washington and congress passed the bill for its creation in 1794. The architects were veteran ship designers Joshua Humphrey and Josiah Fox. The builder was Colonel George Claghorn who oversaw the first timbers of the ships ribs laid and fastened to each other. He was at the construction site daily until the raising of the masts at Edmond Hartt’s shipyard in Boston, Massachusetts.

At this time the American shipyards had skilled ship builders with great talents representing generations of experience. To be a shipbuilder was a trade taken with great pride. Our best woodcrafters and shipbuilders were citizens of a new nation which added greatly to their pride and their talents. They would indeed build this new nation a Navy to be proud of. America had recently defeated the English Navy with what warships America could muster. The ships used in the war with England were built by these same craftsmen. Pride. Pride in their craft. Pride in their new nation.

They would build the very best warships and ones that would change history. It was a great time for our country and a great endeavor to be part of. The best of all is that our citizens and craftsmen really knew that they were truly lucky to be part of this great change. Even Paul Revere provided the spikes and copper sheathing for the ships bottom. This combination of knowledge and talents could only be compared today to NASA and the space program. This was our best!

The construction of sea going sailing ships was an art and science. Men had now been sailing the seas for many hundreds of years. Ship designers and builders used different woods for different needs and parts of the ship. The construction of the Constitution used live oak, red cedar, white oak, pitch pine, and locust. These trees were harvested from forest from Maine to Georgia. This ship was made from the living forest of our great country. This ship and her sister warships are a part of us.

The live oak came from sea-islands off Georgia. Unity, Maine contributed the wood for the ships masts. South Carolina furnished the pine for the ships decks. Rhode Island provided much of the canvas and New Jersey contributed the keel and cannon balls. From Massachusetts came the sails, gun carriages, and anchors along with Paul Reverie’s copper hull contribution.

The armament of the Constitution was different from other warships of its class. At the time the frigate normally carried 18-pound cannon for their main guns. The construction of the Constitution was different in two ways. First was the shape of the hull and the next was extra construction supports given by the designers. The extra fame strength gave them the ability to increase the size of the cannon from 18 to 24-pounders. The difference in ballistics from the 18 to a 24 pound projectile was considerate. It was a lot more firepower.

The larger gun size would soon give an advisory an unwelcome surprise. Most of the British and French warships used the 18pounder and constructed their ships to withstand an impact from one of their projectiles the best they could. And they did. This was proved in one sea battle after another at the time. So they expected a broad side of 18-pounders only to find their ship shattered by 24-pounders. The Constitution was well armed and was designed to carry 44 guns but she usually carried a compliment of 46 to 55 guns. That is a lot of extra punch.

The Constitution slid into Boston Harbor on October 21, 1797 three years after the laying of the keel. As expressed earlier the investment into the Constitution was considerable. $302,718.00. An enormous amount considering that this was one of six warships of this size being constructed at the same time. Along with the six warships they were building complementary shipping that would be used to support these warships in their upcoming duties. The price was enormous. Again, this was like our present day NASA projects.

For this new nation the construction of a navy was considerable in the consumption of monies and resources. Yet a complete necessity when human aggression is nearby.

This vessel, this warship, this Constitution, “Old Iron Sides”, this brilliant creation of American minds and craftsmanship is full of every part of our countries beginning history. The U.S.S. Constitution is America. It represents every thing our country represents. Intellect. Well engineered. Well financed. Stable. Stately. Tall. Proud. Beautiful. And Strong!

The French and the English would both envy this sleek black beauty for its speed, its mobility, and both countries would fear its rage. Death can come in the form of beauty!

When the United States flew the flag; “Don’t Tread on Me” this was not a suggestion, or just good advice. It was a mandate from this time forward that swift retaliation was due to anyone or any nation that would transgress on our nation or our financial global holdings. The United States was now ready to stand up and share in the security of the oceans.

“Don’t Tread on Me”

Here is a grand model of the Charles Morgan by Revell.

The shipyards of America created a different hull shape that set the American ships apart from the French or English. The new hull shape was in the designs of the first American warships but the design was also introduced into commercial shipping. The Charles Morgan is a perfect example of this new ship hull design. Build your own whaler.

Visit our Hobby Shoppe.

The War of 1812

Battle with the HMS Guerriere.

August 19, 1812

On August 19, 1812 the Constitution was sailing southeast of the Gulf of Lawrence when a sail was sighted in the distance. Captain Isaac Hull pointed his ship toward the unknown sails. As the horizon gave way to the oncoming ship the lookouts on the Constitution identified the sail as a warship. Soon the English HMS Guerriere sailed into clear view. The Guerriere was a 38-gun frigate, which was now sporting 49-guns.

The Guerriere began firing at the Constitution before the American warship was in range. The English seamen watched the sleek black Constitution approach as she held her fire. Once the ships came abreast of each other Captain Hull ordered his crews to open fire. Over the roar of battle Captain Hull was heard yelling “Now, boys, pour it into them!”

A full broadside from the Constitution caught the HMS Guerriere square and staggered the warship. The English ship was actually knocked sideways a foot or two from the concussion of the full volley. The crew of the Guerriere was stunned and was struggling to recover as the Constitution’s gun crews took advantage as they quickly reloading their guns and rolled them out delivering another smashing volley directly into the English warship. The Guerriere was now losing sail as rigging debris fell onto the decks and the crew.

At this moment the true talents of the ships designers and builders made history. The return fire from the Guerriere was seen to simply bounce off the sides of the Constitution. The men on both ships who witnessed this told this very story for the rest of their lives. One of the Constitution’s crewmen was heard shouting above the roar of battle “Huzza! Her sides are made of iron!” This very statement gave the American crew a keen sense of invincibility.

Extra strength in moral during battle is worth more than the cost of the ship itself. A sailor must trust his ship and his captain. The Constitution had just earned the loyalty of ever man aboard. They knew this ship would bring them home safely from battle.

Both ships had marines in the ships rigging firing onto the gun crews and officers of the enemy ships. As cannon fire from the Constitution ripped through the masts of the Guerriere the English riflemen were seen thrown like rag dolls through the air to their deaths onto the deck or into the water.

Within 25 minutes the mizzenmast of the Guerriere had collapsed. The Constitution with full sail passed ahead and crossed the bow of the Guerriere. From this vantage the Constitution fired another broadside sending their cannon balls along the full length of the deck of the doomed Guerriere. Timbers were smashed, iron was snapped as pieces of wood splinters and bites of metal were scattered down the decks into the dazed English crew.

This was a disastrous blow to the crew cutting down many that were fighting and many that were trying to help the wounded. The deck of the Guerriere was covered with fallen sail and broken rigging. The strafing of the decks from stem to stern with cannon from the Constitution was impossible to escape. The deck was also covered with the dead, the dying, body parts, and it was washed in blood with men actually slipping in the life fluids of their fallen shipmates.

The fate of the Guerriere was written so the Constitution came in close to board the English warship. As the two ships neared the rigging of the Guerriere caught the rigging of the Constitution as both ships crews tried to board one another but the sea was too rough and the ships soon separated. However before the two ships were able to part the gunners on the Guerriere were able to load a few of their guns and they fired point black into the cabin of the Constitution starting a fire which was extinguished quickly.

After the separation of the two warships the last mast and sail of the Guerriere fell leaving the once proud warship a helpless hulk. Captain Dacres of the Guerriere struck his flag and surrendered. Captain Hull of the Constitution had his men board the smoldering hulk transferring the English prisoners and setting the ship on fire. The English lost 78 both killed and wounded while Captain Hull only lost 14 of his crew. The strong sides of the ship saved the lives of many that day and from that battle onward this magnificent warship would always be know as "Old Iron Sides."

The sea battle lasted less than forty minutes. The shortest naval battle in history at the time. The victory of this battle was invaluable to the moral of the citizens of the United States. Constitution gun compliment during this battle was 55 guns consisting of thirty 24-pounders on the gun deck. Twenty-four 32-pounders on the spar deck and one long 18-pounder called a bow chaser.

Battle with the HMS Java.

December 29, 1812

On December 29th the Constitution was sailing off Brazil, commanded by Commodore William Bainbridge. On this day a sail was sighted and after a time the lookouts on the Constitution recognized the ship as the HMS Java. Both warships bore down on each other and a battle began with a broadside from both ships. The Java was a 38-gun frigate, which with its first volley shot away the wheel of the Constitution. Commodore Bainbridge carefully maneuvered the Constitution avoiding being raked by another volley from the Java.

The Constitution’s gun crews were quick and accurate turning the lucky hit by the Java back on itself. In just two hours the Java was a helpless hulk. The English ship was described as dismantled. The commanding officer on the Java was a Captain Lambert who was killed as his successor surrendered the ship and crew. The crew of the Java were decimated and shell-shocked with a total of 161 killed or wounded. The Constitution lost only 34 men.

The Last Battle

Battle with the HMS Cyane and HMS Levant.

February 20, 1815

On February 20th the Constitution was sailing off the island of Madeira when two English frigates were spotted. The Cyane and the Levant were both smaller and faster than the Constitution so all three sized each other up as they tacked for better position. Both English ships had a combined armament that was superior to the Constitution and could be a great threat to the ship.

The Constitution was captained by Charles Stewart. Stewart was able to out maneuver both of the smaller faster frigates forcing them into combat one at a time and not together. This saved the Constitution from suffering from their combined gunfire. All three warships were locked into battle for four hours. Captain Stewart would zigzag back and forth working the wind bringing him into firing position on the Cyane and then crossing over and catching the Levant. The talent of the Captain and the proficiency of the crew were harmonious as they worked the ship together with the sea and its elements for their best advantage.

Captain Stewart then brought his ship around and came in for another intercepting course with the Cyane to deliver another volley. The warships danced on the waves chasing each in continuous chris-cross patterns. True master seamanship and masterly of his vessel delivered to Captain Stewart a smashing victory as both ships surrendered. Captain Stewart was able to control the battle which was brilliant. He was able to control a potential crisis for him, his ship, and his men by out thinking his advisories.

The Captain planned to sail both ships back to the States once he got them stable and their crew cooperating as needed. As Captain Stewart was bringing his two prizes back to port an English squadron of warships chased the Constitution. The Constitution was able to escape with only one of her war prizes, the Cyane. The English navy recaptured the Levant during the chase.

The Constitution has inspired some of our best and brightest, many tens of thousands of men and now women to join the Navy. The USS Constitution is based in Charlestown, Massachusetts and is the oldest naval warship in the United States Navy.

A History of Frigates of the United States Navy

The United States Congress passed an act on March 27, 1794 for the construction of six frigates. The Navy Department was officially formed on April 27, 1798. The Navy had been under the War Department since the Navy’s first conception during the Revolution. Benjamin Stoddart became the first Secretary of the Navy.

James Hackett had designed the frigates that fought in the Revolutionary War and he was again asked to consult in the development of the new frigates. Joshua Humphrey was commissioned to design the new ships. Humphrey’s designed the famous 44-gun frigate Constitution, United States, and President. All three ships were built in the same exact design.

The United States was launched in May 1797. During the War of 1812 the United States captured the British frigate Macedonian. The United States served the Navy till the Civil War when she was set on fire at the docks of Norfolk to prevent the ship from falling into Confederate hands.

Humphrey also designed the 38-gun frigates Constellation, Chesapeake and Congress. These three 38-gunships were also identical in construction.

Warships where classified by the size of the ship and the number of guns the ship carried. The largest of these floating forts were called “Line-of-Battle ships”, or “Ships-of-the-Line”. Ships-of-the-line carried up to 74 guns on three decks. Frigates were middle-sized ships carrying 28 to 44 cannon.

On the smaller USS Raleigh 6 pound cannon where on the upper deck and below were the larger smoothbore 9 and 12 ponders.

With the newly formed United States the need for an Army and Navy was critical. In 1776 Congress ordered thirteen frigates for the Navy. The larger "Ships-of-the-Line" was not considered because of the cost and the time frame America had to work with. Tensions between America and various advisories demanded the United States to set themselves up with a Navy quickly.

Guarding the coastline from Maine to the Carolina’s required a special fleet that was not only affordable but quick and dependable. The Frigates would be free to sail independently and cover the coast and would not sail in large fleets as were the order of the time. All the European and English Navy ships were much larger using their "Ships-of-the-Line" sailing as a fleet. The English and Europeans only used frigates as fast scouts and raiders. The large area of coastline America needed to secure with a minimum sized fleet would be a challenge. The area from Maine to Georgia is as long as the coast line of west Africa which is many times larger than England itself.

Frigates could be built quickly. The USS Raleigh had her keel laid on March 21, 1776. She was launched only 60 days later on May 21, 1776 from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This was a perfect example of American ingenuity that would continue to serve our country. In the 1940’s American ship builders we were able to build “Liberty” ships within a week.

In the planning of a new Navy our best naval ship builders were already seasoned with this line of work, which was often carried on for generations. Several major ship builders were well established in the New England area.

The USS Raleigh was captured by the English in 1779 and was sent to dry docks at Portsmouth, England where the ship was partially disassembled and studied in every detail. The English considered the capture of this ship a great prize because the English seamen had admired this swift, effective, and beautifully designed ship.

The English were envious of the American Frigates and how well they defended their waterways and protected their naval commerce against the English fleet.

James Hackett of Salisbury, Mass., was called to Portsmouth to build some of the ships of our first fleet. Hackett designed the Raleigh in 1776 and also the 18-gun Ranger, and the 32-gun Alliance in 1777.

The Raleigh carried 36 cannon and had a gun deck length of 131 feet 5 inches. The keel measured 110 feet 7 ¼ inches. Her beam was 34 feet 5 inches. The crew size for a 36-gun ship like the Raleigh was normally 240 men. The larger 44-gun frigates carried a crew of 280 men.

English ships were built with seasoned wood that would be submerged in the waters off the ship builder’s dockyards. This made the wood harden and mature to the finest quality available. Wood would be submerged for years before it would be used.

American ships were made from fresh cut oak woods and decked with yellow pine. This gave the American frigates an even better advantage because of their lighter weight. The shape of the hull, the arrangement of the sails, and the lightweight gave our frigates grace, with a sting.

I am looking for a buyer for the painting of the Constitution. I will use the funds to publish a print of the warship.

The original painting above is available for $2,300.00 The artwork size is 36"x48".

I can do a painting for you that is 24x36" for $1,200.00.

The investor who buys the original painting will also get 50 of the 350 Limited Edition Prints along with 50 poster prints.

Print size will be 18x24"

Limited Editions will retail for $75.00.

Open editions posters will be retail for $19.95.

The painting of the USS Constitution is available for some lucky buyer. The painting I did of the warship above has full rigging but no sails.

I want to paint another Constitution with full sail. The buyer can decide which profile they want.

An original painting of the ship in full sail will be available for $2,400.00. The size will be three feet by four feet.

I can print one smaller, 24x36" for you. $1,200.00.

This painting will look good where ever it is hung. In a Sea Food Restaurant, in a conference room, in a living room, or an office. The price also includes shipping.

Let me know if you are interested. It is best to contact me below at my E-Mail address.

I can do any ship. I would like to do a pirate ship. Let me know.

All research, writings and artwork are by Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette.

No one is permitted to republish any part of this story with out my personal permission.

Please call or e-mail me for any use of this story.

I do not mind sharing, I do not mind people or groups linking to this page, I just need to register them on my "LINKS" page. Thanks!

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All research, writings and artwork are by Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette.

No one is permitted to republish any part of this story with out my personal permission.

Please call or e-mail me for any use of this story.

I do not mind sharing, just call or e-mail and ask for permission.

Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette

Aviation Artist/Historian

107 Arthur Moore Drive

Green Cove Springs, Florida 32043

E-Mail Address; aviationartstore@peoplepc.com

Posted 2-9-07

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