Old Ironsides wins again
Two centuries ago, the USS Constitution vanquished the HMS Guerriere in a memorable battle at sea — one of our side’s early highlights in the War of 1812. And though that conflict with Britain ended in a stalemate of sorts in 1815, “Old Ironsides” was a winner then and again on Aug. 19, 2012:
She celebrated the 200th anniversary of her historic victory by sailing under her own power for 17 minutes in Boston Harbor.
She also rightly received a 21-gun salute while later being tugged past Castle Island before returning to her home pier at the Charlestown (Mass., not S.C.) Naval Yard, where she’s still open for tours.
OK, so her maximum sailing speed last weekend was a mere 3.1 knots. Still, the hardy frigate casts an inspiring shadow across the water — and the years.
Surely Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. would have been proud.
Dr. Holmes — physician, author and poet — helped spark the restoration of the then-seriously deteriorated vessel with his 1830 tribute “Old Ironsides.” His verse immortalized:
“Her deck, once red with heroes’ blood,
Where knelt the vanquished foe,
When winds were hurrying o’er the flood,
And waves were white below.”
So three cheers for “Old Ironsides,” or as George Washington officially named it, the USS Constitution.
And as we locally ponder the fates of the Yorktown, Clamagore and Laffey, that 215-year-old treasure sails on as a timely reminder that we should — and can — honor America’s epic naval past.