USS Constellation (1797)

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Schmidt,_USS_Constellation.jpg
USS Constellation


USS Constellation by John W. Schmidt
Career USN Jack
Ordered: 27 March 1794
Launched: 7 September 1797
Fate: Broken up
Struck: 1853
General Characteristics
Displacement: 1,278 tons
Length: 164 feet (50 m)
Beam: 41 feet (12.5 m)
Propulsion: Sail
Speed: 14 knots (26 km/h)
Complement: 340 officers and enlisted
Armament: 38 x 24 pounder (11 kg) long guns

The first USS Constellation, a 38-gun frigate, was the first ship to be commissioned in the United States Navy; the first US Navy vessel to put to sea; and the first US Navy vessel to engage, defeat, and capture an enemy vessel.

On 27 March 1794, the United States Congress passed the Naval Act of 1794, which provided for building the US Navy its first new ships: the frigates Chesapeake, Congress, Constellation, Constitution, President, and United States. Constellation was the first to be commissioned.

Constellation was built at Harris Creek Shipyard in Baltimore's Fells Point and launched on 7 September 1797, just as the United States entered the Quasi-War with France.

On 9 February 1799, under the command of Captain Thomas Truxtun, Constellation fought and captured the frigate L'Insurgente of 36 guns, the fastest ship in the French Navy — the first major victory by an American-designed and -built warship.

Other victories followed. In February 1800 Constellation fought a night encounter with the frigate La Vengeance of 54 guns. Constellation was victorious after a five-hour battle. Her speed inspired the French to nickname her the "Yankee Racehorse."

Constellation served in the Barbary Wars against Tripoli and in the War of 1812 against Great Britain. In 1840, Constellation completed a voyage around the world, which included becoming the first U.S. warship to enter the inland waters of China.

In 1853 Constellation was struck and broken up at the Gosport Navy Yard in Norfolk, Virginia.

See USS Constellation for other ships of this name.

References

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