USS Constellation (1854)

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USS Constellation

Career United States Navy Jack
Laid down: 25 June 1853
Launched: 26 August 1854
Commissioned: 28 July 1855
Decommissioned: 4 February 1955
Fate: Museum ship
Struck: 15 August 1955
General Characteristics
Displacement: 1,400 tons
Length: 199 feet overall, 181 feet waterline
Beam: 43 feet extreme, 41 feet waterline
Draft: 21 feet
Propulsion: Sail
Complement: 20 officers, 220 sailors, 45 marines
Armament: 23 guns

The second USS Constellation was a sloop-of-war of the United States Navy. Her keel was laid on 25 June 1853, in Gosport Navy Yard in Norfolk, Virginia, at the same time as the 1797 frigate Constellation was being broken up.

There is some controversy over whether or not the sloop was a new ship, or a rebuilt version of the frigate. The position that they were the same ship relies on three main points:

  1. Some of the funds used to build the sloop were originally allocated to rebuild the frigate
  2. Some timbers from the broken-up frigate were used in the construction of the sloop
  3. The frigate was never formally stricken from the Naval Vessel Register—a wooden, sailing man-of-war called Constellation was continuously listed from 1797 until 1955

Supporting the position that they are different ships are the facts that the sloop was designed anew from the keel up (without reference to the frigate), and was planned to have been built even if the frigate had not arrived in the yard at that moment. The paper "Fouled Anchors: The Constellation Question Answered", by Dana M. Wegner, et al., published by the Navy's David Taylor Research Center in 1991, concludes that they are different ships.

In any case, the sloop was launched 26 August 1854, and commissioned 28 July 1855, with Captain Charles H. Bell in command.

Constellation's first assignment was interdicting the African slave trade. She captured three slave ships and released the imprisoned slaves. At the outbreak of the Civil War, she made the first Union Navy capture, overpowering the slaver brig Triton in African coastal waters.

After the war, Constellation saw various duties such as carrying famine relief stores to Ireland and exhibits to the Paris, France Exposition Universelle (1878).

After being used as a practice ship for Naval Academy midshipmen, Constellation became a training ship in 1894 for the Naval Training Center in Newport, Rhode Island, where she helped train more than 60,000 recruits during World War I.

Decommissioned in 1933, Constellation was recommissioned as a national symbol in 1940 by President Franklin Roosevelt. Shortly after the US's entry into World War II, she became the flagship for Admiral Ernest J. King and Vice Admiral Royal Ingersoll.

Constellation was again decommissioned on 4 February 1955, and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 15 August 1955—about two weeks and one hundred years from her first commissioning. She was taken to her permanent berth—Constellation Dock, Inner Harbor at Pier 1, 301 East Pratt Street, Baltimore, Maryland—and declared a National Historic Landmark (reference number 66000918) on 23 May 1963. she is the last existing American Civil War-era naval vessel and the last sail-powered warship built by the US Navy. She has been assigned the hull classification symbol IX-20.

Constellation completed a $9-million restoration project in July 1999.

On 26 October 2004, Constellation made her first trip out of Baltimore's Inner Harbor since 1955. The trip to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, lasting 6 days, marked the ships first trip to the city in 111 years.

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