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Old Ironsides

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Thomas H. Emory, John’s grandfather, was stationed on Old Ironsides on the maintenance crew before the Spanish-American War..

This is the oldest navy ship still in commission. It is made of live oak siding cut from trees on St. Simon’s Island. It was outfitted with 24 pound cannons; British ships only had 18.

During the War of 1812, the U.S. Navy frigate Constitution defeats the British frigate Guerrière in a furious engagement off the coast of Nova Scotia. Witnesses claimed that the British shot merely bounced off the Constitution’s sides, as if the ship were made of iron rather than wood. By the war’s end, Old Ironsides destroyed or captured seven more British ships. The success of the USS Constitution against the supposedly invincible Royal Navy provided a tremendous boost in morale for the young American republic.

The Constitution was one of six frigates that Congress requested be built in 1794 to help protect American merchant fleets from attacks by Barbary pirates and harassment by British and French forces. It was constructed in Boston, and the bolts fastening its timbers and copper sheathing were provided by the industrialist and patriot Paul Revere. Launched on October 21, 1797, the Constitution was 204 feet long, displaced 2,200 tons, and was rated as a 44-gun frigate (although it often carried as many as 50 guns).

It is interesting that all four of Thomas Emory’s grandsons served in the US Navy; perhaps it was the stories he told about his adventures.

Here is a beautiful picture of this ship taken in 1881.

You can still visit and walk the decks of this famous frigate in Boston Harbor. That sounds like a worthwhile field trip to me.

Perhaps you are wondering why I am interested in ships and/or our navy. I am writing a short story about Tom’s wife Julie and thought this connection was a back story worth visiting, particularly since John refers to his Grandpa and his sea travels quite frequently. The tales of family and history continue to be intertwined; they are fascinating to me. (Mayhap you can tell!)

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