August 17th, 2012


Constitution - World's oldest commissioned warship to sail again

BOSTON (AP) — The world's oldest commissioned warship will sail under its own power for just the second time in more than a century to commemorate the battle that won it the nickname "Old Ironsides."
The USS Constitution, which was first launched in 1797, will be tugged from its berth in Boston Harbor on Sunday to the main deepwater pathway into the harbor. It will then set out to open seas for a 10-minute cruise.

The short trip marks the day two centuries ago when the Constitution bested the British frigate HMS Guerriere in a fierce battle during the War of 1812. It follows a three-year restoration project and is the first time the Constitution has been to sea on its own since its 200th birthday in 1997.
Before that, it hadn't sailed under its own power since 1881. The Constitution is periodically tugged into the harbor for historical display.

Chief Petty Officer Frank Neely, a Constitution spokesman and crew member, said the crew wants to honor and preserve the Constitution with Sunday's sail.

"This ship is a national icon to us. ... She's very special to us. We think she's very special to the United States," he said.

The Constitution was under the command of Capt. Issac Hull when it engaged the Guerriere off Nova Scotia on Aug. 19, 1812. The young war was not going well for America, which had surrendered Detroit to the British with basically no resistance a week earlier.

But the Guerriere proved no match for the Constitution, which was heavier and longer. The vessels blasted away at each other at close range, even colliding at one point, during the 35-minute battle. The Constitution's 24-pound cannonballs felled the Guerriere's mast, while the British vessels' 18-pound cannonballs had trouble penetrating the Constitution's two-foot thick live oak hull, said Matthew Brenckle, a historian at the USS Constitution Museum.
Brenckle said a sailor's memoirs recorded how one cannonball seemed to slightly penetrate the ship, before dropping into the sea. The sailor then called out the quote that would give the Constitution its nickname, "Huzzah, her sides are made of iron! See where the shot fell out!"
It wasn't the first naval win in what would be a divisive, expensive war, but it set off celebrations around the country, Brenckle said.

"Strategically, it really did nothing to change the course of the war," he said. "But the morale boost that that provided for the American cause, I think was quite important."
During Sunday's sail, the Constitution's crew of about 65, accompanied by 150 sailors selected to be part of event, will unfurl four of its 36 sails, Neely said. The tugs will stand by as a precaution when the Constitution sails on its own. And the trip can't happen unless the weather conditions are right.

The ship won't move in winds less than five mph and anything over about 15 mph would put too much stress on the vessel, Neely said. But the forecast looks favorable.
The lengthy work in preparation for Sunday's sail was largely on the Constitution's aesthetics, though the masts were restored, Neely said. The crew also underwent extensive training on how to handle a vessel that's unlike any other in the U.S. Navy.
"A lot of hours of work went into this one day right here," Neely said. "I wouldn't be surprised if I broke a couple of tears after this."

Old Ironsides Stamp Commemorates War of 1812 Bicentennial
BOSTON, Aug. 17, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world, and America's Ship of State, the USS Constitution sets sail in the form of Forever stamps to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812. All 25 million War of 1812: USS Constitution stamps will be available at, 800-STAMP24 and the nation's Post Offices beginning Saturday, August 18.

The 10 a.m. ET First-Day-Of-Issue stamp dedication ceremony, free and open to the public, takes place at the Charleston Navy Yard, next to "Old Ironsides." Special collectables will be given away to the first 500 attendees.

Attendees 18 and older will need valid government issue photo identification to enter the Navy perimeter where the ceremony takes place. As parking is limited, the public is asked to take public transportation. Directions are at this link.

"It is such an honor for Constitution to be immortalized on a Forever stamp," said USS Constitution's 72nd commanding officer Commander Matthew Bonner. "And there is no better time than during the bicentennial of the War of 1812 during which Constitution and the Navy played such a pivotal role."

"What better way to salute the nation's longest serving commissioned warship than with a commemorative stamp depicting the oldest known painting of the USS Constitution," said U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors Vice Chairman Mickey Barnett, referring to a circa 1803 painting by Michele Felice Corne that is exhibited in the USS Constitution Museum, on loan from the Navy Art collection. "Giving this stamp its 'Forever' status means the stamp will always be accepted to serve as a lasting tribute to a cherished American icon."
Art director Greg Breeding of Charlottesville, VA, evokes the times by using the color and texture of a contemporary map of the war for the stamp pane's background. He also places a portrait of President James Madison by Gilbert Stuart in the margin of the verso text.
This is the third time the USS Constitution has been commemorated on postage. The first was a 3-cent First-Class stamp issued in 1947 commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Constitution's launch, and the second was 6-cent non-profit stamped envelope issued in 1985.
Scheduled to join Barnett and Bonner in dedicating the stamps tomorrow are USS Constitution Museum President Anne Grimes Rand; Boston National Historical Park Superintendent Cassius Cash; Boston Naval History and Heritage Command Detachment Historian Margherita Desy; and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. Boston Postmaster James Holland will serve as emcee.
The War of 1812, sometimes called "the forgotten conflict," was a two-and-a-half year confrontation with Great Britain that brought the United States to the verge of bankruptcy and disunion. With this stamp, the Postal Service begins a series commemorating the bicentennial of a war that ultimately helped forge our national identity and gave us our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The United States declared war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812. In his war message to Congress, Madison charged the British with violating the nation's sovereignty by restricting American trade with Europe and by removing seamen from American merchant ships and making them serve in the Royal Navy.

The War of 1812 also was fueled by a desire among frontier settlers to force the British out of Canada and end their support of Indians in the Old Northwest. Many Americans, including expansionist "War Hawks" in Congress, alleged that the British supplied arms to Indians and incited them to raid settlements on the frontier.

Customers may view the USS Constitution stamp, as well as many of this year's other stamps, indicate which stamps they like, and vote for their favorite stamp on Facebook at , through Twitter @USPSstamps or on the website Beyond the Perf at . Beyond the Perf is the Postal Service's online site for background information on upcoming stamp subjects, first-day-of-issue events and other philatelic news.