Enlisted Berthing

Hammocks on port side
   With an operational crew of well over 400, personal space was extremely limited. The enlisted man's bed was a swaying hammock, on the poorly ventilated berth deck, each sailor allotted a space roughly eight feet long and one and a half feet wide. Even with the meager space provided to the sailors, only about half the crew could rest at any given time. This did not pose a problem, because the other half of the crew would always be standing watch ensuring the safe navigation of the ship.

   That the crew remained healthy, sleeping near the water line in such a dark, close, unventilated space where the distance between deck and overhead was less than five feet six inches, seems incredible. Some fresh air was funneled down to these quarters via wind scoops rigged on the spar deck. (Sleeping on the gun deck was permitted by some commanders. There, weather permitting, the gun ports could be opened to admit additional fresh air.) "Airports" were eventually installed to improve ventilation, but not until around 1811. The "airports" did provide fresh air and light in port, however, they were ordered shut when the ship was underway.

   Running along the starboard and port side of the entire deck are solid, laminate, white oak knees which support the gun deck. Stanchions were also placed under each beam for added strength. With low overheads and numerous stanchions it is obvious that Joshua Humphreys and Josiah Fox, the designers of Constitution, did not build the ship for the comfort of sailors, but for increased strength and stability. The ship's sick bay would be located all the way forward on this deck.
port side berth deck looking forward

  The crew also ate their meals on the berth deck, eating picnic-fashion in small groups, from a pot or pannikin. Each group, or "mess," consisted of 8-10 sailors with one  designated to retrieve chow from the camboose for the others. Plates and utensils would be stored in mess chests located on either side of the ship.

Back to link to berth deck schematic Berth Deck Schematic