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USS Constitution will host a virtual tour and 21 Gun Salute in celebration of July 4th

The USS Constitution is tugged through Boston Harbor to Fort Independence on Castle Island during ‘Old Ironsides' underway commemorating Independence Day, July 4, 2018.

CASEY SCOULAR/U.S. NAVY

By DOUGLAS HOOK | MassLive.com | Published: July 1, 2020

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BOSTON (Tribune News Service) — To safely celebrate Independence Day during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, USS Constitution is scheduled to host a series of virtual presentations on July 4.

“July 4th is one of our biggest events of the year, and we’re pulling out all the stops for this virtual celebration,” said Cmdr. John Benda, USS Constitution’s 76th commanding officer.

The series of live events will run for approximately three hours and will include a 21-gun salute, tours of the ship, climbing demonstrations, boarding pike drills, 19th-century gun drills and a public trivia contest, giving viewers a chance to win one of 21 saluting battery rounds fired from the ship.

With 80 active-duty sailors, the USS Constitution is the world’s oldest commissioned warship that is still afloat. It was launched on Oct. 21, 1797, and has a record of 33 victories.

USS Constitution was closed to the public on March 14 due to the coronavirus pandemic but continued to conduct more than 60 virtual tours on Facebook Live. The posts have received more than 1.2 million views.

At this time, no Sailors assigned to USS Constitution have tested positive for COVID-19, and USS Constitution is following all preventative guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Department of the Defense and Navy leadership.

“Our virtual tours have received an incredible response and opened our ship to new guests from around the country, even around the world,” said Benda. “So we’re thrilled to be celebrating America’s birthday with all of these amazing supporters.”

The USS Constitution started construction in 1794 at Edmund Hartt's Shipyard in the North End of Boston and took three years to complete.

Less than a month after the United States declared war on Great Britain on June 1812, Captain Isaac Hull and his crew found themselves in the midst of five British ships; the HMS Africa, HMS Belvidera, HMS Aeolus, HMS Shannon and HMS Guerriere.

A chase ensued and using a mixture of Hull’s seamanship and cunning, he was able to outrun his pursuers.

Having narrowly escaped the British, Hull turned toward Boston and arrived there with his ship and crew unharmed on July 27, 1812.

The ship earned the nickname, ‘Old Ironsides’ during the war of 1812 when British cannonballs were seen bouncing off the ship’s wooden hull.

This has been recorded in British history as “The Great Chase” and U.S. history as “The Great Escape.”

The schedule for the Facebook Live presentations are:

10 a.m.: Opening remarks from USS Constitution Commanding Officer Cmdr. John Benda

10:05 a.m.: Historic gun demonstration by Constitution’s Master Gun Team

10:30 a.m.: Climbing demonstration and Sailing presentation.

11 a.m. - Boarding Pike Drills.

11:20 a.m.: Remarks from USS Constitution Executive Officer Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Broyles.

11:30 a.m.: Ship Tours with a USS Constitution Museum Historian.

11:50 a.m.: Remarks from USS Constitution Command Senior Chief Jans Valdespou.

Noon: 21-Gun salute in honor of America’s 244th birthday.

12:05 p.m.: Public Trivia Contest to win a demilitarized saluting battery shell.

12:30 p.m.: 1812 Marines Presentation and Musket Volleys.

The event will be hosted on the U.S. Navy’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/USNavy/.

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