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‘Old Ironsides’: USS Constitution Will Sail Again On Sunday

The USS Constitution, the US Navy‘s oldest commissioned warship will set sail under its own power for the second time in more than 100 years on Sunday in commemoration of the battle that won it the nickname “Old Ironsides.”

The USS Constitution will be tugged from its berth in Boston Harbor to the main deepwater pathway into the harbor. From then, the ship that was first launched in 1797 will sail the open seas for a 10-minute cruise before heading back to its home, reports The Huffington Post.

The short yet memorable cruise marks the day 200 years ago when Old Ironsides bested the British HMS Guerriere in a fierce battle in the war of 1812. This is the first time the USS Constitution has been to sea under its own power since its 200th birthday in 1997.

While Old Ironsides is sometimes tugged into the harbor for historical display, before 1997, it hadn’t sailed under its own power since 1881. Chief Petty Officer Frank Neely, a Constitution spokesman and crew member, hopes that Sunday’s sail hopes to honor and preserve the over two century old ship. Neely stated:

“This ship is a national icon to us…. She’s very special to us. We think she’s very special to the United States.”

The New York Daily News notes that Captain Issac Hull commanded the USS Constitution during the battle with the Guerriere off of Nova Scotia on August 19, 1812. The two ships engaged in a battle that lasted 35 minutes, during which the Guerriere appeared to be no match for the American Constitution. The ship’s 24-pound cannonballs easily took out the Guerriere’s mast, but the British ship’s 18-pound cannonballs failed to significantly damage the Constitution.

Matthew Brenckle, a historian at the USS Constitution Museum stated that a sailor’s memoirs recorded one cannonball slightly penetrating the ship before dropping into the sea. The sailor then cried out:

“Huzzah, her sides are made of iron! See where the shot fell out!”

From then on, the Constitution was nicknamed Old Ironsides. Brenckle added that:

“Strategically, it really did nothing to change the course of the war. But the morale boost that that provided for the American cause, I think was quite important.”

Sunday’s sail will include the Constitution’s 65-person crew, as well as 150 sailors selected to be involved in the event. The US Navy’s oldest commissioned warship will unfurl four of its 36 sails and tugs will be standing by as a precaution, though the Constitution is expected to sail on its own.

The USS Constitution recently underwent a three year long restoration project, including restoration of the ship’s three large masts. Check out more information about the USS Constitution and her history below: