USS Constitution

Last updated: 12 Oct 2021

One of the six original warships authorized by the 'Act to provide a Naval Armament,' signed by President George Washington March 27, 1794, which created the new United States Navy. Rated to carry 44 guns, the wooden-hulled Constitution is square-rigged -- three masts with horizontal yards on each mast to carry square sails -- and a frigate by class -- a square-rigged warship with one covered gun deck.
Built of the best materials available in the 1790s, principle designer Joshua Humphreys anticipated that the six frigates would outgun enemy warships of equal or lesser armament and outsail enemy vessels, including escaping, if necessary.


General Characteristics
Primary Function: USS Constitution is located on Boston's Freedom Trail of historic sites and is interpreted to the War of 1812 era, when the ship received its nickname "Old Ironsides" because of its thick oak hull. It is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world and America's Ship of State, and serves as the educational platform to teach U.S. Navy heritage.
Builder: Col. George Claghorne, Edmund Hartt's Shipyard, Boston, Massachusetts
Date Deployed: Launch Date: October 21, 1797; First Sail Date: July 22, 1798
Unit Cost: $302,718 (in the year 1797)
Propulsion: 1812 Propulsion: 48 sails, over 44,000 square feet of sail, equal to over 1 acre of canvas
Length: Overall 305 feet (93 meters); 207 feet (63.1 meters), billet head to taffrail; 175 feet at waterline (53.3 meters)
Height: Main mast, from the spar (upper) deck to the top of the mast, is 172 feet (54.4 meters)
Beam: 43.5 feet (13.3 meters)
Displacement: 1,900+ tons
Draft: 1812 Draft: 24 feet aft, when fully loaded (7.3 meters); Draft Today: 22.5 feet aft (6.9 meters)
Speed: 1812 Speed: 13+ knots (approximately 15 miles per hour, 24 km. per hour)
Crew: 1812 Crew: Over 450 Sailors and Marines; Crew Today: 3 officers, 85+ enlisted U.S. Navy men and women
Armament: 1812 Armament: Spar Deck: 24, 32-pound carronades, 4-8 crew, range of fire approx. 400 yards; one, 18-pound bow chaser; Gun Deck: 30, 24-pound long guns, 7-14 crew, range of fire approximately 1,200 yards
Landing/Attack Craft: 1812 Boats: Used for transporting officers and crew between ship and shore for communication purposes, landing parties, transporting goods and services for the ship, and shore leave
-36ft Launch (1)
-28ft whaleboat (2)
-27ft and 28ft cutters (4)
-Gig (1)
Homeport: Charlestown Navy Yard, National Parks of Boston

Point of Contact
The Naval History and Heritage Command
USS Constitution Public Affairs

USS Constitution

Building 5

Charlestown Navy Yard

Charlestown, MA 02129

(617) 799-8198


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