WellesleyWeston Magazine


Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

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Page 67 of 195

History Is Us The oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world today, the USS Constitution was commissioned by President George Washington in 1793. At the time, the young coastal nation had the second largest merchant fleet in the world, but it lacked a navy to protect those ship- ping interests. Answering the call, President Washington commis- sioned six ships to be built in shipyards in Portsmouth, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Gosport, Virginia. Utilizing the tall pine trees of Massachusetts and Maine for her masts, copper fasteners for her hull molded by Paul Revere, and live oak planks from the swampy shores of the Southeastern United States, the USS Constitution took shape in Boston's seaport. Little did the shipbuilders know that the "Frigate D" that they were building would be the most effective warship of their time. A powerful force in the Quasi-War with France and against the Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean, the USS Constitution was instru- mental in the War of 1812. Less than 30 years after achieving independ- ence, the United States declared war on Great Britain—the most powerful nation on earth at the time— who had been challenging the sovereignty of the young republic by illegally restricting American trade 66 with the French and by impressing over 6,000 American soldiers to serve on her warships. An editorial in the London newspaper, The Statesman, reflected the seeming audacity of the United States: "America certainly can not pretend to wage war with us; she has no navy to do it with." The challenge that Great Britain posed to the United States' honor was a powerful motivator, however, a factor that the British miscalculated as they simultaneously engaged in the Napoleonic wars with France. Indeed it was at sea where the United States showed her strength initially, in large part due to the USS Constitution and her crew, who emerged victorious from every battle. The 44-gun frigate earned her nickname, "Old Ironsides," early in the war, in a fight against the HMS Guerriere. Despite continually coming under intense fire from the Royal Navy ship, the USS Constitution was able to severely damage its opponent within 25 minutes. In contrast, enemy cannon balls seemed to "bounce off" the hull of the Constitution, leading a member of her crew to exclaim, "Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron." And that is how her nickname came to be. What was the secret to her success? American design ingenuity, a well-trained crew that could execute highly coordinated moves flaw- WellesleyWeston Magazine | summer 2012

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