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intended for a forty-four, was, in the end, dered that the senior lieutenant of the ship the smallest of the thirty-sixes. This to which the senior captain was attached was the ill-fated Chesapeake, a ship of should rank all the other first lieutenants, which the career in the navy was almost and the others should follow in the same oras disastrous as that of the subject of our der, down to the junior lieutenant of them present memoir has been glorious and suc all. The officer to whom the original comcessful. The unfortunate Chesapeake mand of the Constitution was confided was would seem to have been commenced in Capt. Samuel Nicholson, a gentleman who error, and to have terminated her course had served with credit throughout the war much as it was begun.
of the Revolution, and once had worn a The credit of presenting the plans for broad pennant. This gentleman, however, the three twenty-four pounder frigates is not to be confounded with his elder that were built under the law of 1794, brother, Capt. James Nicholson, who was belongs of right to Mr. Joshua Hum at the head of the list of captains in phreys, ship-builder, of Philadelphia, and the old navy, after Com. Hopkins was laid the father of the gentleman of the same aside. Capt. Samuel Nicholson was the name, who is now the chief naval con second in rank among the six captains apstructor. We are not certain, however, pointed by the law of 1794, and all the that the idea of placing such heavy metal Constitution's officers subsequently obin frigate-built ships is due to him, for tained similar rank in consequence. Barry the Indien, a ship built by order of Con alone ranked Nicholson, and the United gress, at Amsterdam, during the war of States may be said to have ranked the the Revolution, had Swedish thirty-sixes Constitution. in her, though she was not so long a ves The keel of the Constitution was laid sel as either of those now built at home. on Charlestown Neck, and some proAs Mr. Humphreys was a builder of emi gress had been made in her construction, nence at that time, however, it is possible when a treaty of peace was signed with his suggestions may have been attended the Dey of Algiers without firing a shot. to, even in that early day. The English Of course this reconciliation was purchased certainly began to construct twenty-four by tribute. Congress now directed that pounder frigates at the close of the last, the work on three of the six new frigates and near the commencement of the pre should be stopped, while the remainder sent centuries, as is seen in the Cambrian, were to be slowly completed. The three Acasta, Endymion, &c. Let these facts it was determined to complete were The be as they may, there is no question that States, Old Ironsides, and The Consteliathe plans of Mr. Humphreys produced tion. These three ships happened to be three as fine single-decked ships as were the most advanced, and the loss would be ever put into the water, and it would be the heaviest by arresting the work on difficult to say which was the preferable
them. vessel of the whole number. Two of them, Owing to these circumstances, the Conafter a lapse of half a century, still re stitution was more than two years on the main in service, and both are favorite stocks, though commenced in haste-a cruisers with those who like fast, comfort delay that probably had its influence in able, and efficient ships. The new frigates making her a better ship than she might are all heavier, but this is almost the only otherwise have been. Nevertheless the superior quality of which they can proper
work on her was more advanced than on ly boast.
either ship, and, but for an accident, she The builder who had charge of the Con would have added the distinction of being stitution, while on the stocks, was Mr. the very first vessel of the new and perCleghorn ; but the foreman, and the per manent navy that was got into the water, son who was supposed to be the efficient to her other claims for renown. She stuck mechanic, was Mr. Hartly, the father of on the ways, and the States and Constelthe present naval constructor, and the lation were both launched before her. builder of the Argus brig, one of the finest As it was, she was launched Sept. 20th, vessels of her class that ever sailed under 1797. the American ensign.
In the course of the session of Congress Captains were appointed to each of the that succeeded, the relations of the country six frigates, as soon as their keels were with France became so seriously complicatlaid, as indeed were several other subor ed, that it was determined to repel the madinate officers. We may as well mention ritime aggressions of the sister republic by here, that the following rule for regulating force. The sudden armament of 1795 the rank of the inferior officers was adopt was the consequence, and vessels of war ed. The captains having ranks assigned were equipped and sent to sea as fast as them by the dates or numbers of their circumstances would allow. Although commissions, in the usual way, it was or one law was passed July 1st, 1797, " to
man and employ the three frigates," and on the coast extending from Cape Henry another was passed March 27th, 1798, ap to Florida, with orders to look out for propriating a considerable sum with a Frenchmen. But the French, who were similar object, neither was the first vessel then at war with England, sent no heavy got to sea, though the Constellation was ships into the American waters, and it one of the first, and the States was not was soon found useless to keep a vessel far behind her. This occurred in June of the Constitution's weight so near home. and July, 1798. In the latter month, and We find the ship, still under Nicholson, on the 20th of the month, Old Ironsides on the West India station at the close of was first moved under her canvas.
the year, when she formed one of Barry's did not go to sea, however, until the suc squadron. If her captain had originally ceeding month, the orders of Captain Ni worn a broad pennant in her, which we cholson to that effect having been dated much doubt, although he appears to have Aug. 13th.
had several small craft under his orders, On this, her first cruise, the officers at it was now struck, Barry being the only tached to the ship appear to have been as cominodore of the windward squadron, follows, viz.:—The celebrated Preble, since while Truxton, Nicholson's junior by four, the proudest name in American naval an having the leeward. Little connected with nals, was ordered to the ship as her ori the Constitution occurred during this ginal first lieutenant, but he got relieved cruise, or indeed throughout that war, of from the duty, in consequence of some an importance to be noted. The luck of dislike of her commander, and never sailed the ship had not commenced, nor in her until he did so with his broad pen
there much chance of any thing being nant flying on board her. The comple done of éclat by a vessel of her force, unment of the frigate was composed of the der all the circumstances. The English following persons, and classes of persons, were every where, while the French viz. :
had lost so many ships already, that it Captain, Quarter Gunners, 11
was of rare occurrence to fall in with one Lieutenants, Coxswain,
of their frigates. By a singular fortune, the Do. Marines,
Sailmaker, Sailing Master, Cooper,
only two frigate actions that took place in Master's Mates, Steward,
the whole of the quasi war with France fell Midshipmen,
to the share of one and the same ship, the Purser, .
Master at Arms, .
Constellation, which took the Insurgente
and beat off La Vengeance. The ConstiClerk,
Able Seamen, .
120 Carpenter, Do. Ordinary,
tution returned to Boston Do. Mates, Boys,
and her command was transferred Boatswain, Marines,
to Talbot, who hoisted a broad pennant Do. Mates,
in her, as commodore of what was called Gunner,
the St. Domingo station. On this cruise At that time a captain of such a ship as Hull sailed as first lieutenant. the Constitution received but $100 per The second cruise of Old Ironsides commonth, pay, and eight rations, or $2. per menced in August, 1799. Her orders diem; a lieutenant received $40 a month were to go off Cayenne, in the first place. and three rations; midshipmen, $19 and where she was to remain until near the one ration; able scamen, $17 a month and close of September, when she was to proordinaries, $12.*
ceed viâ Guadaloupe to Cape François, at It may be well to state here, that in the which point, Talbot was to assume the reports of government, the Constitution command of all the vessels he found on was paid for as being 1576, carpenter's the station. In the course of the season, measurement, and her cost is stated at this squadron grew to be six sail, three $275,000. Considered in reference to or frigates and as many sloops, or brigs. dinary measurement, the first is more Two incidents occurred to Old Ironsides, than a hundred tons too much; and con while on the St. Domingo station, that are sidered in reference to a complete equip- worthy of being noticed, the first being of ment, the last materially too small. The an amicable, and the second of a particufirst cost of such a ship as the Constitu larly hostile character. tion must have exceeded $300,000.
While cruising to windward the island, Nicholson sailed in August, 1798, car a strange sail was made, which, on closing rying Old Ironsides into blue water for proved to be the English frigate, the the first time. His cruising ground was The commander of this ship and Com.
1 4 2 1 2 8 1 1 2 1 1 2 1 2
* The writer of this sketch was once asked by a French admiral,“ how much America paid her seamen !" The answer was, " $12. $10, and *s, according to class." “You never can have a large marine, then, on account of the cost." *. That is not so clear. What does France pay for the support of the kingly office ?" "About *5,000,000," said Lafayette, who was present. " and America pegs $25,000 to her king, or $ 100,000, if you will, including all expenses “I think, Admiral, the difl'erence would man a pod many ships."
Talbot were acquaintances, and the Eng was perhaps one of the most skilful sealishman had the curiosity to take a full men of his time, as he was also for coolsurvey of the new Yankee craft. He prais ness in moments of hazard. When the ed her, as no unprejudiced seaman could evening gun was fired and acknowledged, fail to do, but insisted that his own ship the Constitution put up her helm, and could beat her on a wind.
squared away to join her friend. The pleasantry on the subject, the English cap vessels joined a little after dark, the Engtain made the following proposition; he lishman as the leeward ship, first rounding had touched at Madeira on his way out, to. The Constitution passed under her lee, and taken on board a few casks of wine and threw her main-topsail to the mast. for his own use. This wine stood him There was a boat out from the in so much a cask-now, he was going which soon came alongside, and in it was into port to refit, and clean his bottom, the English Captain and his cask of wine; which was a little foul; but, if he could the former being just as prompt to “pay” depend on finding the Constitution on that as to "play.” station, a few weeks later, he would join The other occurrence was the cutting her, when there should be a trial of speed out of the Sandwich, a French letter of between the two ships, the loser to pay a marque, which was lying in Port Platte, cask of the wine, or its price to the win a small harbor on the Spanish side of St.
The bet was made, and the vessels Domingo. While cruising along the coast, parted.
the Constitution had seized an American At the appointed time, the
sloop called the Sally, which had been appeared; her rigging overhauled, new selling supplies to the enemy. Hearing sails bent, her sides painted, her bottom that the Sandwich, formerly an English cleaned, and, as Jack expressed it, looking packet, but which had fallen into the like a new fiddle. The two frigates clos hands of the French, was filling up with ed, and their commanders dined together, coffee, and was nearly full, Talbot deterarranging the terms of the cartel for the mined to send Hull in, with the Sally, in ornext day's proceedings. That night, the der to cut her out. The sloop had not long vessels kept near each other, on the same before come out of that very haven, with line of sailing, and under short canvas. an avowed intention to return, and offered
The following morning, as the day dawn every desirable facility to the success of nd, the Constitution and the each the enterprise. The great and insuperable turned up their hands, in readiness for objection to its ultimate advantage. was what was to follow. Just as the lower the material circumstance that the Frenchlimb of the sun rose clear of the waves, man was lying in a neutral port, as reeach fired a gun, and made sail on a bow spects ourselves, though watchful of the line. Throughout the whole of that day, English who were swarming in those did these two gallant ships continue turning to windward, on tacks of a few leagues The Constitution manned the Sally at in length, and endeavoring to avail them sea, near sunset, on the tenth of May, selves of every advantage which skill 1800, a considerable distance from Port could confer on
Hull sailed Platte, and the vessels separated, Hull so the Constitution on this interesting occa timing his movements, as to reach his sion, and the admirable manner in which point of destination about mid-day of a he did it, was long the subject of eulogy. Sunday, when it was rightly enough supAll hands were kept on deck all day, and posed many of the French, officers as well there were tacks on which the people were as men, would be ashore keeping holiday. made to place themselves to windward, in Short sail was carried that night on board order to keep the vessel as near upright the Sally, and while she was quietly jogas possible, so as to hold a better wind. ging along, thinking no harm, a gun was
Just as the sun dipped, in the evening, suddenly heard, and a shot came whistling the Constitution fired a gun, as did her over the sloop. On looking around, a competitor. At that moment the English large ship was seen in chase, and so near, frigate was precisely hull down dead to as to render escape impossible. The Sally leeward; so much having Old Iron rounded to, and presently, an English sides, or young Ironsides, as she was then, frigate ranged alongside. The boarding gained in the race, which lasted about officer was astonished when he found himeleven hours! The manner in which self among ninety armed men, with offithe Constitution cat her competitor out of cers in naval uniform at their head. On the wind, was not the least striking feature demanding an explanation, Hull told him of this trial, and it must in a great degree his business, when the English lieutenant be ascribed to Hull, whose dexterity in expressed his disappointment, candidly handling a craft under her canvas, was acknowledging that his own ship was ever remarkable. In this particular, he waiting on the coast to let the Sandwich
fill up, and get her sails bent, in order to entitled to receive all the protection and send a party in, also, in order to cut her immunities that of right belonged to her, out! It was too late, however, as the anchored in the neutral harbor of PortSally could not be, and would not be de au-Platte. In the end not only was the tained, and Hull proceeded.
condemnation of the Sandwich resisted There have been many more brilliant successfully, but all the other prize-money exploits than this of the Constitution, in made by Old Ironsides in the cruise went sending in a party against the Sandwich, to pay damages. The reason why the but very few that were more neatly ex exploit itself never received the public ecuted, or ingeniously planned. The Sally commendation to which, as a mere military arrived off the port, at the appointed hour, achievement, it was so justly entitled, and stood directly in, showing the custo was connected with the illegality and reckmary number of hands on deck, until lessness of the enterprise in its inception. coming near the letter of marque, she It follows that this, which may be termed ran her aboard forward, and the Constitu the Constitution's earliest victory, was tion's clambered in over the Sandwich's obtained in the face of law and right. bows, led by Hull in person. In two mi Fortunately the old craft has lived long nutes, the Americans had possession of enough to atone for this error of her their prize, a smart brig, armed with four youth by many a noble deed achieved in sixes and two nines, with a pretty strong defence of principles and rights that the crew, without the loss of a man.
most fastidious will not hesitate to deof marines, led by Capt. Cormick, landed, fend. drove the Spaniards from a battery that The Constitution returned to Boston in commanded the anchorage, and spiked the Aug. 1800, her cruise being up, not only on guns. All this was against law and right, account of her orders, but on account of but it was very ingeniously arranged, and the short period for which men were then as gallantly executed. The most serious enlisted in the navy, which was one year. part of the affair remained to be achieved. On the 18th Nov., however, she was orThe Sandwich was stripped to a girt line, dered to sail again for the old station, and the wind blew directly into the har still wearing the broad pennant of Talbot. bor. As it was unsafe for the marines to Nothing occurred of interest in the course remain in the battery any time, it was of this cruise; and, early in the spring, necessarily abandoned, leaving to the peo orders were sent to recall all the cruisers ple of the place every opportunity of an from the West Indies, in consequence of noying their invaders by all the means an arrangement of the difficulties with they possessed. The battery was reoccu France. pied, and the guns cleared of the spikes It is certain that the good fortune of as well and as fast as they could be, while Old Ironsides did not appear in the course the Americans set about swaying up top of this, her original service. While Nimasts and yards and bending sails. Af cholson had her, she does not seem to ter some smart exertion, the brig got have captured any thing; and, in Goldsroyal yards across, and, at sunset, after borough's list of armed French vesremaining several hours in front of the sels taken during the years 1798–9, and town, Hull scaled his guns, by way of 1801, a period of near three years, during letting it be known they could be used, quite two years of which the ship must weighed, and began to beat out of the har have been actively on her cruising grounds, bor. The Spaniards fired a few shot after he gives but four to the Constitution. him, but with no effect.
These four vessels--La Tullie and L'Esther, Although this was one of the best ex two small privateers, the Sandwich and ecuted enterprises of the sort on record, the Sally—the last of which, by the way, and did infinite credit to the coolness and was an American, seized for illegal interspirit of all concerned, it was not quite an course with the enemy. illustration of international law or of jus By the peace establishment law, aptice in general. This was the first victory proved March 3d, 1801, all the frigates of Old Ironsides in a certain sense, but all regularly constructed for the service were men must regret it was ever achieved, permanently retained in the navy. Old since it was a wrong act, committed with Ironsides enjoyed an excellent character an exaggerated, if not an altogether mis among them, and was kept, of course, taken notion of duty. America was not there being no other use for such a craft, even at war with France, in the more indeed, in the country, than those conformal meaning of the term, nor were all nected with a military marine. Our frithe legal consequences of war connected gate, however, was paid off and dismantled with the peculiar hostilities that certainly at Boston, where she remained unemdid exist; but with Spain she had no ployed from the spring of 1801 until the quarrel whatever, and the Sandwich was summer of 1803, rather more than two
years, when Preble was ordered to her, ing, making her passage in twenty-nine with a broad pennant, in order to repair days. This was the first time our craft to the Mediterranean. As this was the had ever shown herself in the European commencement of the brilliant portion of waters, her previous cruisings being conOld Ironsides' career, it may be well to fined to the West Indies and our own give a list of the officers who were now coast. It may as well be said here, that attached to, and who actually sailed in, wherever she went, her mould and the her. It was the following:
fine order in which she was kept attracted Commodore.
general admiration. Edward Preble,
The first service in which the gallant Lieutenants.
ship was employed in the other hemiThomas Robinson.
Jos. Tarbell. sphere, was to go off Tangiers, in a squadW. C. Jenckes.
ron composed of the Constitution H, Master,
New-York 36. John Adams 28, and SauNathaniel Haraden.
tilus 12. in order to make a new treaty This gentleman was known in the service by the sobriquet of " Jumping Bills."
with the Emperor of Morocco. This imMidshipmen.
portant service successfully effected. PreD. S. Dexter. W. Burrows.
ble remained in and about the Straits. J. M. Haswell. D. Deacon. Ralph Izard. leathcote Reed.
until the middle of November, employed Charles Morris. T. Baldwin.
in duties connected with his command. John Roe.
On the 23d October the ship sailed from F. C. llall.
John Thompson, act'g. Gibraltar for Cadiz, the Enterprise in I. Davis.
company, and returned in a few days. Of all these gentlemen, the present Com While on this service, and when near the modore Morris and Mr. Hall, who is at Straits, a large strange sail was made in present in the Marine corps, are now in the night, when the Constitution cleared, the navy, and very few of the others still went to quarters and ran alongside of her. survive. They were not selected from Preble hailed, and got no answer, but a the part of the country where the ship hail in return. After some sharp hailing happened to lie, for by this time the navy on both sides, Preble took a trumpet himhad assumed so much of a fixed character self and gave the name of his ship, asking that the officers were regarded as being that of the stranger, with an intimation at home in any portion of the republic. that he would give him a shot unless he It Gibraltar, however, some important replied. “If you give me a shot, I'll give changes were made. Lt. Jenckes left the you a broadside," returned the stranger. ship, and Lts. Dent and Gordon joined in English. Preble now jumped into the her, the former doing duty as acting cap mizzen-rigging, and called out distinctly. tain. Midshipman Baldwin resigned, and * This is the United States frigate ConstiMidshipmen Wadsworth, Alexis, Gadsden, tution, a 44, Edward Preble, commodore; Lewis, Israel, Ridgley, Carey, Robert I am now about to hail you for the last Henly, and McDonough joined. With time—what ship is that?-Blow your these alterations and additions the ship matches, boys." 66 This is His Britannic had five lieutenants and no less than Majesty's ship, Donnegal, a razee of 60 twenty-three midshipmen. But changes guns," was the answer. Preble told the soon occurred, which will be noticed in
stranger, in pretty plain terms, he doubttheir places, the results of promotions and ed his statement, and that he should lie other causes.*
by him, until daylight, in order to ascerThe Constitution sailed from Boston, on tain his true character. Before things this new service, August 14th, 1803, and could be carried any further, however, a anchored at Gibraltar, Sept. 12th succeed boat arrived from the stranger, who, as it
* Mr. Robinson is still living, having resigned a commander: Mr. Jenckes left the service: Tarbell died a captain, and Elbert a coinmander: Haswell resigned a lieutenant, and is dead ; Dexter died a commander; Morris is now a commodore; Davis is out of service, and believed to be dead; Izard resigned a lieutenant, and is dead; Burrows was killed in battle, a lt. com.; Deacon died a captain; Laws resigned; Reed died 9 lientenant; Rowe died, having been a lieutenant; Hall is now in the marine corps; Hunnewell out of service; Nicholson died a lieutenant. Or those who joined at Gibraltar or shortly after, Dent died a captain; Gor on died a captain ; Wadsworth was blown up, à lieutenant; Gadsden diei a It. com. ; Lewis was lost at sea a commander; Israel was blown up a lientenant; Ridgley is the present commodore ; llenly died a eaptain : McDonough died at sea a commodore. The fortune of Alexis bas been singular; he was born of a French noble family, and was sent, when quite young, to this country, to save his life, during the excesses of the French revolution. His real name was Louis Alexis de Courmont. As Lewis Alesis he rose to be a commander in the navy: but, at the restoration of the Bourbons, he was summoned to rejoin liis family in France. He contipueil in the service notwithstanding, until about the year 1927 or 1828, as Capt. Alexis, when he was compelled to quit his family or resign. le preferred the latter, and is believed to be still living, as Mons. de Couripont He was amiable, and much liked in the navy, and served gallantly at the desence of New Orleans.
McDonough had been left, by Bainbridge, as a prize-master, at Gibraltar, and thus escaped capuure in the Philadelphia. He was early transferred to the Enterprise, Lt-Cum. Decatur, and was with that officer in all his battles off Tripoli. Morris, Ridgley, Wadsworth, Israel, Reed, Dexter, Haswell, and Izard, were all promoted in 1804.