USS Constitution Celebrates Anniversary of Historic Battle with HMS Java

Story Number: NNS181231-04Release Date: 12/31/2018 12:09:00 PM
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From Seaman Donovan Keller, USS Constitution Public Affairs

CHARLESTOWN, Mass. (NNS) -- USS Constitution commemorated the 206th anniversary of the naval battle with Her Majesty's Ship Java, at Pier One, Charlestown Navy Yard, Dec. 29.

Constitution's 75th Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Nathaniel R. Shick, opened the ceremony with statements pertaining to the events leading up to the War of 1812, and impacts after the engagement. 

Folding in period research compiled by the USS Constitution Museum and Boston historians, Shick stated, "The war made manifest the importance of the oceans to America. At the end of the war there was no more talk about putting the Navy back into ordinary, as had been done following the Quasi-war with France and the Barbary Wars against the Dey of Algiers and Pasha of Tripoli. Rather, the discussion was about how to augment the Navy. Because of charismatic leadership and heroic efforts on the part of our Sailors and Marines during the War of 1812, the Navy became identified as the defender of national honor, economic interest, and individual freedom."

USS Constitution Museum's Gallery Operations Manager, Gary Foreman, offered words capturing the individual Navy and United States Marine Corp personalities serving on Constitution during the war.

"What motivates an individual in the midst of the chaos and carnage to perform acts of courage that rally and inspire others?" asked Foreman. "Through the study of such individuals and the historic events in which they went above and beyond the call of duty, we commemorate their efforts and by reflection we hopefully learn a little about ourselves as well."

Following Foreman's statements, one round was fired from USS Constitution's saluting battery, followed by a moment of silence in memory of those lost on both sides of the battle.

Under orders to "annoy the enemy and to afford protection to our commerce," Captain William Bainbridge, 9th Commanding Officer of USS Constitution, headed to the Brazilian coast in search of British merchant vessels. Finding the HMS Java, the two ships engaged in battle. The battle saw USS Constitution's spars and rigging damaged, her wheel completely shattered, and her captain wounded in both thighs from shrapnel. Despite these setbacks, Constitution was able to best her enemy, and the Java struck her colors after a hard fought three and a half hour battle.

The defeat of the HMS Java was a significant turning point for the naval fight during the War of 1812. Having lost their third frigate in just four and a half month's time, the Royal Navy revitalized gunnery training, larger frigates were built to counter the American ships, and effective immediately, no frigate of the Royal Navy was to engage an American 44-gun ship in single combat. The effectiveness of USS Constitution's design was proven, and American citizens began to believe that their small, upstart Navy, just might have a fighting chance against their British opponents.

USS Constitution, America's Ship of State, actively defended sea-lanes against global threats from 1797-1855. Now a featured destination on Boston's Freedom Trail, Constitution and her crew of active duty U.S. Navy Sailors offer community outreach and education about the ship's history and the importance of naval sea power to more than 500,000 visitors each year. 

Constitution's mission today is to offer community outreach and education about the ship's history. 

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