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August 19, 1812


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) The United States Navy Department reported today that the USS Constitution, a frigate with 55 guns, has defeated the British frigate, HMS Guerriere, off the coast of Nova Scotia.


USS Constitution versus HMS Guerriere, Painting by Anton Otto Fischer, Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Center

According to the latest reports, as the Constitution pulled up alongside the Guerriere, Captain Issac Hull shouted:

“Now, boys, pour it into them!”

The HMS Guerriere, a frigate with 49 guns, lost sail & debris from her rigging fell into the water.

Men on both ships said that the cannon balls fired from the British ship “bounced off” the sides of the USS Constitution.

As the Guerriere was left a virtual wreck, British Captain James Richard Dacres, who was wounded by a musket ball in the back, struck his flag & surrendered.

Dacres was taken aboard the Constitution where he offered his sword. 

Captain Hull, who knew Dacres personally before the war, graciously declined to accept it.*

*Source:  www.aviationartstore.com, Research by Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette.



The plans for the USS Constitution were made in 1794 & the ship was built by Colonel George Claghorn.


Paul Revere provided  the spikes & copper sheathing for the ship’s bottom.


Live oak for the ship’s sides came from Georgia.  Wood for the masts came from Maine.  South Carolina provided pine for the deck.  Rhode Island supplied canvas for the sails while New Jersey sent the keel & cannon balls.

Massachusetts, in addition to Revere’s contributions, provided sails, gun carriages & anchors.


As Johnny Cash put it in a July 4th television program, “it was like the states were ratifying the CONSTITUTION all over again.”


The FINAL COST of the frigate was $302,718.00


The USS Constitution left Boston harbor on July 22, 1798 to capture a privateer as a part of the quasi war with France.


She won her nickname, “OLD IRONSIDES,” in the battle of August 19, 1812 when the cannon balls fired by the British from the HMS Guerriere were described as “bouncing off” her sides.



President John F. Kennedy, a veteran of the United States Navy, has been presented with a pair of wooden bookends with working replica models of the 24 pounders carried by the USS Constitution, better known as “Old Ironsides.”


USS Constitution Bookends, JFK Library Image


 The bookends, made by Oscar Lee Richardson, were presented to the President by Lt. Commander Rutledge E. Barry.


The President will display the bookends on his desk in the Oval Office.


JFK’s office, which is decorated in a naval theme, has another tribute to the War of 1812.  A painting by Thomas Birch of the battle between the USS United States versus the HMS Macedonian hangs on the wall.

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