‘Old Ironsides’: Still in Commission After 225 Years

USS Structure

Size: 304 ft (bowsprit to spanker)
Beam: 43 ft 6 inches
Peak: 220 ft (mainmast)
Draft: 23 ft (aft)
Tonnage: 1,576 tons
Displacement: 2,200 tons
Sail plan: 42,710 sq. ft
Velocity: 13 knots (15 mph)
Authentic complement: 450 (together with 55 Marines and 30 boys)
Authentic armament: Thirty 24-pounder lengthy weapons, twenty 32-pounder carronades and
two 24-pounder bow chasers
Most vary: 1,500 yards

After practically a decade with no nationwide maritime pressure, a reluctant Congress in March 1794 licensed the development of six armed frigates because the nucleus of a brand new U.S. Navy. Designed underneath the course of Joshua Humphries, an skilled shipwright from Philadelphia, the vessels had been every in-built a special seaport. The three smallest had been Chesapeake (36 weapons; in-built Norfolk, Va.), Congress (38 weapons, in-built Portsmouth, N.H.) and Constellation (38 weapons; in-built Baltimore). Humphries’ masterpieces, nonetheless, had been the three bigger frigates—President (in-built New York), United States (in-built Philadelphia) and Structure (in-built Boston). Every displaced 2,200 tons and mounted a formidable 44 weapons (usually elevated to 50), designed to counter the good naval powers with warships that might outrun no matter they couldn’t outgun and outgun something they may not outrun. Laid down in Edmund Hartt’s shipyard on Nov. 1, 1794, Structure was launched on Oct. 21, 1797, and logged its maiden voyage on July 22, 1798.

Initially dismissed overseas as outsized freaks, the three giant American frigates loved a measure of success, setting a regular for the subsequent technology of crusing frigates after 1815. Structure proved the standout. It was aboard Structure in 1805 that representatives of america and Tripoli signed the treaty ending the First Barbary Battle. Throughout the Battle of 1812 Structure sank the British frigates Guerrière and Java and captured the sunshine frigate Cyane, the sixth price Levant and the schooner Pictou. Its ultimate seize was the American unlawful slave ship Gambril in 1853. From 1860 to ’71 Structure served as a coaching ship for the U.S. Naval Academy. Restored in 1877, 1907, 1931, 1976 and 1995, Structure—the world’s oldest commissioned warship nonetheless afloat—operates as a museum ship [ussconstitutionmuseum.org] at Boston’s historic Charlestown Navy Yard.