USS Constitution celebrates its 222nd birthday with a 21 gun salute at Fort Independence
By DOUGLAS HOOK | masslive.com | Published: October 19, 2019
(Tribune News Service) — Old Ironsides sailed out of its dock at Charlestown Navy Yard headed to Fort Independence on Castle Island to fire a 21-gun salute in celebration of its 222nd birthday and the U.S. Navy’s 244th.
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 according to USS Constitution Public Affairs Spokesperson Elliott Fabrizio.
Old Ironsides, whose nickname honors the ship's proud performance in the War of 1812, boasts being the oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat.
On its return back to the yard, the ship was scheduled to fire another salute as it passed Coast Guard Sector Boston, the former site of the shipyard where the Constitution was built and launched in October 1797.
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.
This has been recorded in British history as “The Great Chase” and U.S. history as “The Great Escape.”
The narrow escape demonstrated the Constitution’s sailing capabilities and readiness for war against the British that would eventually result in a new republic being formed.
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