The mere presence of the frigate USS Constellation kept British ships distracted—and mostly in check—in the Chesapeake Bay and the approaches to Norfolk, Virginia, during the War of 1812.
The United States declared war on Great Britain in June 1812 as the Napoleonic Wars raged in Europe. Galled by British arrogance and insults to their country, Americans had had enough. Britain, however, fielded a veteran army and powerful navy of some 700 ships-of-the-line, frigates, sloops, and minor war vessels. The U.S. Navy had only 18 frigates and smaller ships plus 165 tiny coastal and harbor-defense gunboats to potentially fight the enemy.