The 44-gun frigate Constitution would become the most famous American warship of the Age of Sail. But she would never have survived to achieve that distinction had she not escaped from seven Royal Navy ships in the War of 1812—during three all-but-windless summer days off New Jersey, north of the Delaware Bay.
In July 1812, Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton had asked the Constitution’s commander, Captain Isaac Hull, to use the utmost dispatch to reach New York, where the frigate would join Commodore John Rodgers’ squadron of six warships. But unknown to Hull, Rodgers was already far from that destination, well offshore hunting British merchant ships that were crossing the Atlantic. Under Hull’s command, the Constitution sailed on 5 July from Annapolis down the Chesapeake. Her first lieutenant, Charles Morris, had joined her only two weeks before she sailed, and approximately 100 newly assigned crewmen had come aboard.
Gardner W. Allen, ed., Papers of Isaac Hull: Commodore United States Navy (Boston: Boston Athenæum, 1929).
Harry L. Coles, The War of 1812 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965).
James Fenimore Cooper, The History of the Navy of the United States of America (Philadelphia: Thomas, Cowperthwaite, 1845).
William S. Dudley, ed., The Naval War of 1812: Documentary History, vol. 1 (Washington, DC: Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy, 1985 and 1992).
David S. and Jeanne T. Heidler, eds., Encyclopedia of the War of 1812 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2004).
Donald R. Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989).
Ira N. Hollis, The Frigate Constitution (Cambridge, MA: Houghton, Mifflin, 1901).
Isaac Hull to Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton, 21 July 1812, National Archives, Record Group 45, Captain’s Letters, 1812, vol. 2, no. 127.
Tyrone G. Martin, A Most Fortunate Ship: A Narrative History of “Old Ironsides” (Chester, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 1980).
Charles Morris, The Autobiography of Commodore Charles Morris, United States Navy (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2002).
Theodore Roosevelt, The Naval War of 1812 (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1882).