On this date in 1797, one of six frigates authorized by the Naval Armament Act of 1794 was launched in Boston.
Safe to say, it outlasted the other five.
The frigate Constitution entered service to battle pirates and protect a young country’s global maritime concerns, but its success during the War of 1812 began a legacy that’s lasted more than two centuries.
It’s impossible to sum up the history of the world’s oldest active commissioned warship afloat in a few words, but this passage from the London Times, courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command’s Constitution website, comes pretty close. Filed shortly after Constitution’s victory over HMS Guerriere in the Aug. 19, 1812, battle that earned the U.S. frigate its “Old Ironsides” nickname, the Brits wrote:
“It is not merely that an English frigate has been taken, after, what we are free to confess, may be called a brave resistance, but that it has been taken by a new enemy, an enemy unaccustomed to such triumphs, and likely to be rendered insolent and confident by them.”
America’s Navy: Rendered confident since 1812.
A recent visitor to the Constitution in Boston called the ship “a fantastic launching of America.”
That man knows a bit about launching: Buzz Aldrin made the comment on his Facebook page Friday, the same day he took a VIP tour of the ship from skipper Cmdr. Sean Kearns.
Aldrin, a retired Air Force colonel, made a fairly famous visit to a different Navy ship in July 1969, when the aircraft carrier Hornet served as Apollo 11’s welcome-home committee.