Compiled by CAPT Steven Maffeo, USNR

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1794: March 27 - President George Washington signed "an act to provide a naval armament." By authorizing the construction of six frigates (what we would call "cruisers" today) the Third Congress in effect creates the U.S. Navy. The immediate issue was the need to protect the large American merchant fleet from continuous and increasing attacks by the North African "Barbary pirate" states of Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli-as well as from aggressive high-seas practices of the British. The ships were designed by Mr. Joshua Humphreys, a Philadelphia Quaker and an innovative naval architect, and are to be built at six different cities. The contract for one of these ships, to be named USS CONSTITUTION, was given to Edmund Hartt's shipyard in Boston, Massachusetts.
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1794-1797: USS CONSTITUTION was under construction. Being built to defend the young American nation, the ship is nearly as old as the historic document for which President Washington names her. Both the document and the ship have proven to be resilient symbols of America's strength, courage, and liberty.
USS CONSTITUTION was designed to be powerful enough to outfight any enemy warship approximately her same size, and yet fast enough to outsail a larger opponent. Built at Edmund Hartt's shipyard, in Boston, her construction team was made up of superintendent Capt. Samuel Nicholson, chief constructor Col. George Claghorne, and naval agent Gen. Henry Jackson. Initially funded appropriation was $115,000 - although her final cost will be $302,700. Made from approximately 2,000 trees (with specialty woods obtained from Maine to Georgia), armed with cannons cast in Rhode Island, and fitted with copper fastenings provided by the famous Boston smith Paul Revere, the vessel is truly a "national" ship. Launched on October 21, 1797, she wasn't put to sea until 1798. But, having remained part of the U.S. Navy since her launching day, USS CONSTITUTION is today the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world.

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1797: October 21 - Although her construction was almost halted by a 1796 peace treaty with Algiers, USS CONSTITUTION was launched-christened by visiting Capt. James Sever using a bottle of Madeira. It was actually the third attempt to launch her; the first was a month earlier, when the ship sticks after moving only 27 feet. Two days later she moves another 31 feet before sticking once again. For the third attempt, workers make the launching ways steeper, which finally enables a successful event. The public, which includes several French aristocrats, was warned beforehand that the launch of such a large ship might cause a dangerously large wave, but none actually materializes during the event.
1798: May 5 - Secretary of War William McHenry orders USS CONSTITUTION made ready for sea.
1798: July 22 - Underway and out to sea for the first time, commanded by Capt. Samuel Nicholson.
1798-1801: She cruised in the West Indies, during the "Quasi-War" with France, protecting U.S. merchant shipping from French privateers. USS CONSTITUTION was not engaged in battle with any warship, but captures/recaptures several privateers and victims of privateers.
1802-1803: She was laid up in Boston.
1803-1805: President Thomas Jefferson sent USS CONSTITUTION to the Mediterranean Sea as flagship of the third Mediterranean squadron. The mission was to attempt to force the Barbary pirates from their renewed policies of aggression against U.S. merchant shipping. With Commodore Edward Preble initially in command, USS CONSTITUTION and other ships of the squadron mounted five attacks against Tripoli.
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1805: June 3 - A peace treaty with Tripoli was completed on board USS CONSTITUTION in the captain's cabin; this was followed by a similar treaty with Tunis signed on August 14th.
1806-1807: Port calls and peaceful service in the Mediterranean. USS CONSTITUTION returned to Boston in October 1807.
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1807-1811: Out of active service-and then a partial overhaul-in and around New York.
1811-1812: Cruised to Europe; overhauled at the Washington Navy Yard.
1812-1815: War of 1812 against Great Britain.
1812: July 16 - 19 Less than a month after the United States declared war on Great Britain, USS CONSTITUTION, under the command of Capt. Isaac Hull, was en route to New York, to join Commodore John Rodgers' squadron. Off the coast of Egg Harbor, NJ, she spent more than 50 hours outmaneuvering five English warships (HMS AEOLUS, HMS AFRICA, HMS BELVIDERA, HMS GUERRIERE and HMS SHANNON) in an agonizingly slow motion chase that proved her commanding officer’s leadership, her new crew’s teamwork, and her own ability to sail. In short, she demonstrated her readiness for the war and battles that lay ahead.
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1812: August 19 - USS CONSTITUTION's historic fight with HMS GUERRIERE takes place some 600 miles east of Nova Scotia on the afternoon of August 19, 1812. After an hour of inconclusive maneuvering and shooting, the two settle down to a short-range slugfest. After 20 minutes the Briton's mizzenmast fell, and a short time later both her remaining masts go overboard. At some point in the battle, someone reportedly saw a British shot bounce off USS CONSTITUTION's side, and shouted, "Huzza! Her sides are made of iron!"- and so is born the nickname "OLD IRONSIDES." The Americans had 14 casualties; the British, 79. HMS GUERRIERE is was badly damaged she had to be sunk after the surviving crew were brought aboard USS CONSTITUTION. In recognition of this spectacular victory - incredibly motivating to a nation that had seen many military defeats in the war to date - Congress awarded Capt. Isaac Hull a special gold medal, his officers medals of silver, and the crew $50,000.
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1812: December 29 - USS CONSTITUTION was about 30 miles off the coast of Brazil on 29 December 1812 when, at about 2 in the afternoon, she began a fight with the faster HMS JAVA. Commodore William Bainbridge, who commanded "Old Ironsides," was wounded twice, and the ship's steering wheel was shot away, but for more than 3 hours he maneuvered masterfully and fought tenaciously until HMS JAVA had no masts left standing and her captain lay dying. There were 34 American casualties as opposed to about 130 British. Like HMS GUERRIERE, HMS JAVA was too badly damaged to bring home - but before he sunk her, Bainbridge had her wheel removed to replace the one shot away on USS CONSTITUTION.
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At the end of February, USS CONSTITUTION returned to Boston, where there was great rejoicing over the victory over the JAVA. Commodore Bainbridge and the crew also received considerable recognition - medals and prize money - in recognition of this second, spectacular triumph over the Royal Navy.
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1814: January-April - Under the command of Capt. Charles Stewart, USS CONSTITUTION ran the blockade of Boston. She captured H.M. Schooner Pictou as well as several small vessels during a cruise to the Windward and Leeward Islands.
1814: April - "Old Ironsides" escaped into Marblehead, MA while being chased by two British frigates. She shortly returned to Boston for repairs.
1814: Blockaded in Boston for eight months, from April to December. Finally, took advantage of bad weather and poor visibility in December, Captain Stewart slipped past the enemy and out to sea.
1815: February 20 - Capt. Charles Stewart had USS CONSTITUTION about 180 miles from Madeira when he encountered the British men-of-war HMS CYANE (24 guns) and HMS LEVANT (18 guns). This two-against-one fight began as the sun is setting. Through superb sail handling and tactics, Stewart swiftly closed on HMS CYANE and dealt her tremendous damage to her masts and rigging. Then he blasted HMS LEVANT hard enough to put her out of action for awhile, during which time he closed again on HMS CYANE and forced her surrender. After putting a prize crew on HMS CYANE, he turned his attention again to HMS LEVANT, chasing and firing into her until she also surrendered. Stewart had 18 killed and wounded; his two opponents had around 80 casualties. He hoped to bring both captures home, but ran into a British squadron that recaptured HMS LEVANT. USS CONSTITUTION and HMS CYANE returned safely to New York on May 15, 1815. Captain Stewart learned, at Puerto Rico, that the war had ended. HMS CYANE was purchased into the U.S. Navy and became USS CYANE. For his victories, Stewart received a gold medal from Congress, and the crew was awarded considerable prize money; "Old Ironsides" was the only ship to have all her War of 1812 captains decorated by Congress. Thus, USS CONSTITUTION's wartime service ends - but she was widely recognized for having played a glorious part in our defense of freedom and our naval heritage.
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1816-1821: Laid up "in ordinary" (we would nowadays say "in mothballs") at the Boston Navy Yard.
1821-1828: USS CONSTITUTION served in the Mediterranean Squadron for several years as the flagship under the command of Capt. Jacob Jones and Commodore Thomas Macdonough. During this time she was visited by the famous English poet Lord Byron. She returned to the U.S. once during this period, in 1824, to be refitted and change crews.
1828-1833: Laid up at Boston. During this time the Navy requested that Navy Yard commanders conduct a survey on all ships laid up in ordinary-including "Old Ironsides" to determine how much work needed to be done to bring the ships into active commission. This information reached a local publication, which misreports that the Navy intends to immediately "scrap" USS CONSTITUTION. Student Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote and published a stirring poem, called Old Ironsides. In response to the surveyor's report, as well as public outcry, the Navy directed the refurbishment of USS CONSTITUTION.
1833-1834: USS CONSTITUTION was the first ship to enter the new and massive Drydock No. 1 (in itself a technological and civil engineering marvel for our country) at the Boston Navy Yard.
1834: USS CONSTITUTION became embroiled in a political controversy concerning the installation of a new figurehead that depicted the president, Andrew Jackson. Her original figurehead, that represented the demi-god Hercules, was lost in a collision during the Barbary Wars and had been replaced for many years by a relatively simple "billet head" decoration. President Jackson was extremely unpopular in Boston at this time; feelings ran so high that the commandant of the Boston Navy Yard had his life threatened over the issue. Despite an armed guard, a merchant skipper managed, under the cover of a thunderstorm, to row across the harbor, climb onto the ship, and cut the head off the figurehead. The man personally returned the head to the Secretary of the Navy; the figurehead is repaired and graces USS CONSTITUTION's bow for many years.
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1835-1838: Served as flagship of the Mediterranean Squadron under Commodore Jesse D. Elliott.
1839-1841: Served as flagship of the Pacific Squadron under Commodore Alexander Claxton.
1842-1843: Served in the "Home Squadron," mostly idle in Norfolk.
1844-1851: USS CONSTITUTION circumnavigated the world from 1844-1846, under Captain John "Mad Jack" Percival, sailing 52,370 miles in 495 days at sea.

In 1849, while the ship is operating in the Mediterranean, she is visited by Pope Pius IX at Gaeta, Italy; he was the first Pontiff to "step" onto U.S. territory.
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1851-1852: Laid up in ordinary at New York.
1853-1855: USS CONSTITUTION sailed as flagship of the African Squadron. She patrolled the West African coast, looking for slave traders, as well as "showing the flag" via many port calls. On this assignment she sailed 42,166 miles in 430 days at sea.
1855-1860: Her days of regular operational duties were over. "Old Ironsides" was laid up at the Navy Yard in Portsmouth, NH, for conversion into a training ship.
1860: August 1 - USS CONSTITUTION began a decade-long stint as a school ship at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD.
1861: April 21 - Clear threats were made against her safety upon the outbreak of the Civil War. As preparations were being made for her movement farther north, a group of Massachusetts volunteer soldiers arrived at Annapolis onboard the steamer MARYLAND. Several companies of these troops were placed aboard USS CONSTITUTION; unfortunately, the ship ran aground as they tried to leave harbor. After some difficulty, she was towed by the steamer BOSTON into deeper water. On April 26 she began a three-day trip to New York, towed by the steam gunboat R.R. CUYLER.
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1861-1865: USS CONSTITUTION moved to Newport, RI, where the Naval Academy relocates. She resumed duty as a training ship for the duration of the Civil War.
1865: August - "Old Ironsides" moved back to Annapolis, along with the rest of the Naval Academy, after the end of the war. During the voyage she proved faster than her tug, and is allowed to continue alone under sail. At one point, despite her age, she was recorded running at nine knots; she arrived at Hampton Roads ten hours ahead of the steam tug.
1869: President Ulysses S. Grant was the first President to come aboard. He came during an annual inspection.
1871-1877: In 1871, after it is determined that she was in critical need of repair, USS CONSTITUTION was moved to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Initial plans were to restore her for exhibition in 1876, the nation's centennial; however, work delays prohibited this from happening and in any event the restoration was incomplete and marred by poor workmanship.
1877-1878: She served as a training ship in the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
1878-1879: USS CONSTITUTION's last cruise in foreign waters. She carried the American exhibits for the world-wide Paris Exposition, docking in Le Havre, France. She stayed in Le Havre for nine months waiting to carry the exhibits back to the U.S.
1879: January 16 - While returning from France, she ran aground beneath the White Cliffs of Dover, England. A British tug eventually pulled her free.
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1879: February 13 - USS CONSTITUTION's Executive Offer Lt. Cdr. Theodore F. Jewell presented three Medal of Honor Awards to Carpenter's Mate Henry Williams and Captains of the Top Joseph Matthews and James Horton "for gallant conduct aboard this vessel." They fixed the rudder after being damaged in heavy squalls.
1879: May 24 - Arrived in New York.
1879-1881: USS CONSTITUTION sailed the Atlantic, to various points between the West Indies and Nova Scotia, as a training ship for naval apprentices. This was her final role as an active unit of the Navy.
1882-1897: "Old Ironsides" was laid up in New Hampshire at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, serving as a receiving ship for new recruits. A barn - like "barracks" structure was built on top of her hull.
1897: September 21 - USS CONSTITUTION was moved to the Boston Navy Yard just prior to her 100th birthday. This was brought about in part due to the efforts of Massachusetts Congressman John F. Fitzgerald, grandfather of President John F. Kennedy.
1897-1900: "Old Ironsides" was on exhibition at the U.S. Navy Yard, Boston.
1900: February 14 - Congress authorized repairs to restore USS CONSTITUTION's hull and rigging to the condition they had been when she had been on active sea service. Adequate funding, around $100,000, was not available until 1906.
1907: Limited repairs were completed, to include removing the barracks-like structure from her main deck, as well as replacing much of her rigging, spars, masts, and some other woodwork. In addition, she received some replica cannon in preparation of being opened to the public.
1916: USS CONSTITUTION was leaking up to twenty-five inches of water into her hold per week at dock, indicating significant deterioration of her hull.
1924: She needed daily pumping to stay afloat; experts assessed at least $400,000 is needed to do essential repairs and restoration.
1925: All 25 Medal of Honor recipients from WWI were presented with their medals made from bronze salvaged from "Old Ironsides."
1925-1927: A national, voluntary campaign for restoration funds was created, an initiative of Secretary of the Navy Curtis Wilbur. Numerous patriotic organizations and the nation's schoolchildren responded by contributing almost $250,000 (children donate $148,000, much of it in pennies, while the U.S. Navy, Marine and Coast Guard personnel donate $31,000).
1927: The movie "Old Ironsides" staring Wallace Beery, Charles Farrell, George Bancroft and Esther Ralston is released.
1927: June 16 - USS CONSTITUTION was docked, for an extensive reconstruction, in Boston's Drydock No. 1. The same drydock she was the first to enter ninety-four years before.
1927-1930: During the extensive restoration effort, considerable decayed timber was replaced and the interior of the hull was given extensive additional support. The ship was restored to approximately resemble her appearance during the 1850s. New replica guns are installed, far more accurate replications than those done in 1907. 
1930: March 15 - "Old Ironsides" was floated out of drydock, her repairs nearly completed. The total cost of this restoration approximates $987,000.
1931: July 2 - USS CONSTITUTION left Boston for the first time in over thirty years for a goodwill tour of ports on the New England coast. Due to her overwhelming popularity, she then embarked on a similar tour to include all coastal states.
1931-1932: President Herbert Hoover becomes the last sitting president to come aboard "Old Ironsides."
1931-1934: Under Commander Louis J. Gulliver, "Old Ironsides" traveled 22,000 miles, visited 90 ports, and welcomed more than 4.6 million visitors. (Over two million in California alone.) The tour took her as far north as Bar Harbor, ME, on the east coast, and Bellingham, WA, on the west coast and as far south as the Panama Canal. She was towed by the minesweeper USS GREBE and, occasionally, by the submarine tender USS BUSHNELL.
1934: May 7 - USS CONSTITUTION returned to Boston, where she remains today, beginning duty as "America's Ship." She represents our proud naval heritage and all those who have fought so gallantly to preserve America's freedom.
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1940: The designation "IX-21" was assigned to the ship. Lt. Cdr. Hermann P. Knickerbocker took command of both USS CONSTITUTION and the 1854 USS CONSTELLATION.
1954: July 23 - A public law passes, signed by President Eisenhower, that states in part, "The Secretary of the Navy is authorized to repair, equip, and restore United States Ship CONSTITUTION, as far as may be practicable, to her original appearance, but not for active service, and thereafter to maintain United States Ship CONSTITUTION at Boston, Massachusetts."
1972-1975: "Old Ironsides" underwent another major restoration prior to being put on display for the nation's bicentennial in 1976. In 1974, during this restoration, the Boston Navy Yard officially closed as a working naval station and it became part of the Boston National Historic Park.
1976: July 11 - USS CONSTITUTION was officially visited by her majesty Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, as well as by her consort, Admiral of the Fleet the Prince Philip, Royal Navy.
1992: September 25 - The ship was drydocked, once again in Drydock No. 1, for another major repair and restoration. With the help of newly rediscovered documentation, this restoration enabled USS CONSTITUTION to more than ever reassume her appearance circa 1812.
1995: September 26 - "Old Ironsides" floated out of drydock, in the best shape she had been in more than 180 years.

July 21 - USS CONSTITUTION sailed under her own power, not under tow, for the first time in 116 years. This event was conducted just outside Boston Harbor captained by Commander Michael C. Beck. Six of the ship's sails were used.

October 21 - "Old Ironsides" celebrated her own bicentennial. Crewmembers paraded from her "birthplace," the Boston's Coast Guard Integrated Support Command, approximate site of the old Hartt's Shipyard, to the Old South Meeting House.

USS CONSTITUTION had begun the CPO Turnaround Cruise. The cruise consisted of newly selected Chief Petty Officers who sail the ship with the crewmembers, while focusing mainly on the Navy’s rich history, leadership and teamwork.

1998: July 21 - 23 - Naval vessels and "tall" ships from around the world came to Boston Harbor to honor USS CONSTITUTION. The Deputy Secretary of Defense brought his flag onboard, and returned the salutes from visiting warships.
The ship received a formal blessing, in conjunction with a wreath being laid at the gravesite of USS CONSTITUTION's first captain, Samuel Nicholson, at the Old North Church.
2000: July 11 - "Old Ironsides" lead a "Parade of Sail" with over 120 tall ships into Boston Harbor, as part of "Sail Boston 2000" festivities.

USS CONSTITUTION and the USS CONSTITUTION Museum launched an ongoing collaborative educational outreach program, entitled "Old Ironsides Across the Nation," to bring USS CONSTITUTION's story to citizens throughout the nation.

2006: September 30 - Sixty Medal of Honor recipients were aboard USS CONSTITUTION for an underway demonstration to honor the unveiling and flying of the new Medal of Honor flag.
2007: October 1 - USS CONSTITUTION entered into a 3-year, $7 million restoration period. The purpose of the restoration is to return "Old Ironsides" to her 1812 configuration.

July 4 - Vice President Richard Cheney and his family visited USS CONSTITUTION as she was towed out into Boston Harbor for her annual 4th of July underway demonstration. Cheney was the first vice president to be aboard during an underway demonstration.

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