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Old Ironsides

They Called Her "Old Ironsides"

Battle between the USS Constitution and HMS Guerriere on August 19, 1812 off the coast of Nova Scotia. Here the Boston-built frigate, one of the first six ships in the new US Navy, received her nickname "Old Ironsides" when her oak hull appeared repel canon fire. She never lost any of more than 40 sea battles.

"Old Ironsides" has a 200 year connection to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Ironsides sister frigate USS Congress was built here in the 1790s as part of the original Navy. Portsmouth-born Tobias Lear with his wife Frances sailed on Ironsides as American Consult to Algeria and there he negotiated the Treaty of Tripoli with the Barbary pirates aboard ship. Issac Hull was both a celebrated of commander of Constitution in the War of 1812, but also an early commander of America's oldest naval shipyard here at Kittery, Maine.

Ironsides spent 20 of her 200 years here, first under a complete repair in the first half of the 1850s, then as a receiving ship through much of the 1880s and 1890s. In 1897 she was towed from Portsmouth Harbor to her home port at Charlestown where she is today a museum ship. Fully rebuilt in 1931, Ironsides made Portsmouth her first port of call on a three year tour that reached more than 70 cities.

Photo of painting from US Naval Museum


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