USS Constellation (1855)
Sloop-of-War Sailing Warship
USS Constellation was born before the fighting of the American Civil War and today resides as a floating museum ship in Baltimore waters.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
The keel for new USS Constellation was already being laid as the original USS Constellation was being pulled from active service with the United States Navy (USN). The original ship, a 38-gun frigate launched in 1797, made a name for itself through two "Barbary Wars", the Quasi-War with France, the War of 1812 against Britain, and in several anti-piracy campaigns of North Africa. With her sailing days now over, a new more modern ship rose to take her place - and name.
USS Constellation of 1854 was designed as a "sloop-of-war" intended to showcase her primary armament along a single gun deck. Armament revolved around 16 x 8" shell guns as primary, 4 x 32-pounder long guns as secondary, 1 x 20-pounder Parrott rifle, 1 x 30-pounder Parrott rifle, and 3 x 12-pounder bronze howitzers for close-in fighting. Her sail rigging was typical of the time, set across three primary masts - she was an all-sail-powered warship. The vessel displaced 1,400 tons (long) and carried a typical operating crew of 285 including a Marine detachment of 45. Dimensions included a length of 200 feet, a beam of 41 feet and a draught of 21 feet.
Her keel was laid down on June 25th, 1853 and she was launched to sea on August 26th, 1854. Constellation was commissioned for formal service into the USN on July 28th, 1855 and would serve in various roles actively until 1940 following one of two decommissioning actions. In the grand scope of USN history, USS Constellation held a notable footnote: she was the last all-sail-powered warship constructed for the service.
For her early going, USS Constellation formed part of the U.S. Mediterranean Squadron and was active in this role from 1855 until 1858. Then came operations against slavery spanning 1859 until 1861. With the onset of a Civil War in American spanning 1861 until 1865, the vessel was used against Confederate ships in Mediterranean waters. She survived the war and operated in several non-aggression roles throughout the latter half of the 1870s, taking part as a training platform for the USN into World War 1 (1914-1918). She resisted decommissioning for decades and managed to remain afloat into the 1930s until, in 1933, she was formally decommissioned and awaited her fate as steel-clad warships ruled the seas by now.
With war coming to Europe by way of World War 2 (1939-1945), President Franklin Roosevelt authorized USS Constitution to be recommissioned in 1940, largely as a propaganda measure. During the remaining war years she took part as a reserve flagship of the Atlantic Fleet and in other non-combat roles while remaining stateside. The end of the came in 1945 and USS Constellation was moved to Boston waters where she rested (still as a commissioned USN warship) until 1954 alongside USS Constitution. She was decommissioned for the final time on February 4th, 1955, her name struck from the Naval Register that August, and the warship relocated to Baltimore to reside at "Constellation Dock". USS Constellation was granted landmark status in May of 1963 and takes her place in Baltimore as a floating museum - the only complete American Civil War-era warship in existence.