The construction of the Constitution cost 302,700 dollars and 2,000 trees. The cannons on the ship were fastened with copper fixtures crafted by a blacksmith named Paul Revere. The ship was launched on October 21, 1797 and it has remaind a part of the US Navy since, making it the oldest commissioned warship, still afloat,in the world.Built in Boston and launched in 1797, her first duties with the newly formed United States Navy were to provide protection for American merchant shipping during the Quasi War with France and to defeat the Barbary pirates in the First Barbary War. The ship also saw action during the the Battle of Tripoli Harbor and the Battle of Derne before earning her famous nickname during the War of 1812.
Constitution is most famous for her actions during the War of 1812 against Great Britain, when she captured numerous merchant ships and defeated five British warships. The battle with HMS Guerriere earned her the nickname of "Old Ironsides." It is reported that sometime during the battle, someone witnessed a British shot that bounced off the side of the Constitution and exclaimed"Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!" The Americans emerged from the battle victorious, and since then the ship has been popularly referred to as Old Ironsides.
Ay, tear her tattered ensign down! Long has it waved on high, And many an eye has danced to see That banner in the sky; Beneath it rung the battle shout, And burst the cannon’s roar; — The meteor of the ocean air Shall sweep the clouds no more.
Her deck, once red with heroes’ blood, Where knelt the vanquished foe, When winds were hurrying o’er the flood, And waves were white below, No more shall feel the victor’s tread, Or know the conquered knee; — The harpies of the shore shall pluck The eagle of the sea!
Oh, better that her shattered hulk Should sink beneath the wave; Her thunders shook the mighty deep, And there should be her grave; Nail to the mast her holy flag, Set every threadbare sail, And give her to the god of storms, The lightning and the gale!
-Oliver Wendell Holmes