Today in History: Constitution defeats Guerriere; 19 August 1812

Today, August 19, marks the 197th anniversary of the historic battle between USS Constitution and HMS Guerriere during the War of 1812. This was a critical battle for the early republic; it showed that the startup US Navy could take on, and more importantly defeat, the British Navy – unquestionably the most powerful naval force at the time.

Constitution defeated and burned Guerriere, and took her crew prisoner, in the battle. It was in this battle that Constitution gained the nickname “Old Ironsides”, when a sailor watched British cannonballs bounce off her sides, and exclaimed that she appeared to be made of iron. If you go below deck on Constitution, you can see why they bounced off: that is one SOLID hull.

The Naval Historical Center in Washington, DC, has some information about the battle, and the War of 1812 site has more about the specific battle, too.

I remember a great ballad about the battle, and found the lyrics online along with a really annoying MIDI file of the music, that doesn’t much do it justice. Oh, well. The ballad is still fun.

If you’re in Boston, you might want to attend a commemoration of the event, today. The USS Constitution Museum — next to, but not directly affiliated with, the ship — is having a celebration on Saturday, the 22nd, from 11am to 4pm, too.

Huzzah!

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