Tag Archives: USS Constitution

Time Capsule, Bonita in Beantown Edition

95 Years Ago:

Check out this great shot of the V-class/Barracuda-class diesel-electric submarine USS V-3 (SF-6) at the Boston Navy Yard, most likely in June/July 1926, shortly after her commissioning at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine.

Note her big 5″/51 on deck, impressive for a submarine deck gun, and the signalmen atop her fairweather. Photo courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection

The most impressive part of this shot, in my opinion, is the ships in the background. Note the historic frigate USS Constitution, at least one cruiser, and the lattice masts of at least one battleship.

For the record, V-3 would be one of the few U.S. Navy submarines to pick up a name instead of a number (most in the 1910s-20s lost theirs rather such as Warship Wednesday alumni USS Salmon, err USS D-3). She was renamed USS Bonita, 9 March 1931, and reclassified (SS-165), 1 July 1931.

An older boat taken out of mothballs in 1940 as war loomed, Bonita patrolled in the Pacific off Panama until after the U.S. entered World War II, then transitioned to patrolling the East Coast then, later, training duty out of New London and was decommissioned even before WWII ended, on 3 March 1945, sold for scrap seven months later.

However, “Old Ironsides” remains.

Black Walnut: A National Defense Asset

While the Navy’s long term cultivation of oak groves and other vital woods were a strategic no-brainer in the 18th and 19th century (and they still have Navy foresters today!) it may be a little surprising to think that the Army also had an important interest in keeping stockpiles of fine lumber on hand during much of the same period.

Via the Springfield Armory National Historic Site:

The Black Walnut Tree, many of which can presently be found on the grounds, were used to make gun stocks. So why was Black Walnut used instead of other wood? Black Walnut is a hard, dense wood that is resilient. This wood, when seasoned (slowly dried), doesn’t shrink much and it isn’t prone to splitting which is key when making a gunstock.

Once a tree had been felled, the wood needed to be properly seasoned which took anywhere from 2-8 years depending on the moisture content of the wood. Because of this length of time, thousands of blanks needed to be properly stored for drying. 

Under Major James Ripley, Building 19 was constructed to store these blanks for drying.

Black walnut drying for gun stocks, Springfield Armory NHS Archives

During the Civil War, to quicken the process, a steam heated dry kiln was installed.

The Armory bought blanks from Upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, and Massachusetts among others. They specifically requested wood that was fine, not knotted, or sappy to ensure the best quality for the U.S. Military Arms. While other trees were used to make gunstocks through private arms makers, Black Walnut was the primary wood used at the Armory, for small arms production, during its operating years.

By the 1820s, the armory used a Blanchard Lathe, which could carve out a rough gun stock from a blank in about nine minutes.

The last U.S. martial rifle to use a wood stock was the M14, which ceased production in 1964. Springfield Armory closed in 1968.

Better sign that chit

Official caption: BOSTON (Oct. 18, 2019) USS Constitution is tugged through Boston Harbor during Constitution’s birthday cruise. Constitution got underway to celebrate the ship’s 222nd. birthday and the Navy’s 244th birthday.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Alec Kramer/Released)

Let it never be said the Navy does not keep receipts, however. From the U.S. Navy Library Collection:

The smoking lamp is LIT!

Nothing like a flintlock in the face with no eyepro.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jerine Lee/Released, 190820-N-QN361

Official caption: “BOSTON (Aug. 20, 2019) Chief petty officer selects, Sailors who have been selected for the paygrade of E-7, come together for Chief Heritage week aboard the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world, USS Constitution. During the selects’ week spent aboard Constitution, Sailors teach them a variety of time-honored maritime evolutions while living and working aboard the ship.”

Vouching for an unsung specialist, 174 years ago today

Below we see a letter of recommendation of one Asa Curtis from Commodore William Montgomery Crane to SECNAV John Young Mason, on this day in 1844.

Mr. Asa Curtis, Gunner in the Navy, has requested that I would give my opinion of him to the Department. This officer entered the Navy in 1812, was on board the Constitution at the capture of the British frigates “Guerriere” and “Java”; he afterwards served with me five years – two at the Boston Navy Yard, and three years at sea on board two ships of the line and a frigate. I found him a capable and meritorious officer, and I take pleasure in recommending him to the notice of the Department.

If you haven’t heard of Curtis, you should have.

Born in Scituate, Massachusetts in 1794, Curtis not only served on Constitution, joining the famous warship as an able seaman at age 18, but also on the sloop-of-war Ontario, the frigate Constellation, and the 74-gun ships of the line North Carolina and USS Delaware, among others.

Importantly, the meticulous Curtis left behind detailed notes and logs on everything from watchbills, cordage tables and dimensions to tacking, mooring and gunnery surveys on these vessels, all of which provide some of the most thorough information about the early 19th Century Navy as could be asked for.

In all, his career spanned 46 years, most of it underway, and died in 1858 while on the 50-gun frigate USS St. Lawrence in Brazilian waters during the punitive expedition to Paraguay over the Water Witch incident.

As for Crane, who recommended him for further service his own career ranged from fighting the Barbary pirates to being installed as the first Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance (and Hydrography) and, for the latter, Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division is named in his honor.

More on Curtis, here.

Constitution, underway

BOSTON (Oct. 20, 2017) A U.S. Coast Guard Station Boston law enforcement team provides security for the USS Constitution, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017 as it sails in Boston Harbor to commemorate the Navy’s 242nd birthday, officially observed on Oct. 13th. On Oct. 21, 1797, 220 years ago, USS Constitution was launched into the Boston Harbor and commissioned as an active duty warship in the United States Navy. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi/Released)

After 26 months in drydock, USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, and her crew headed underway for a three hour cruise from the ship’s berth in Charlestown, Massachusetts, on Oct. 20, in commemoration of the ship’s launching 220 years ago and the U.S. Navy’s 242nd birthday.

Constitution started boarding guests at 8 a.m., many of them family and friends of current crew members. Shortly after 10 a.m., with more than 349 guests in attendance, she departed her pier.

At 11:40 a.m., Constitution performed a 21-gun salute which was returned by the Concord Battery and 101st Field Artillery near Fort Independence on Castle Island. Fort Independence is a state park that served as a defensive position for Boston Harbor from 1634 to 1962.

The ship also fired an additional 17 shots at 12:15 p.m. as she passed U.S. Coast Guard Station Boston, the former site of the Edmund Hartt shipyard where Constitution was built.

Each round of this salute honored the 16 states that comprised America when Constitution launched in 1797, and one in honor of the ship.

The ship returned to her berthing, Pier 1 of the Charlestown Navy Yard, at 1 p.m.

More on Constitution‘s turnaround cruises through the years here.

Yes, Virginia, the Navy has foresters

Naval Support Activity Crane is best known as the place the USN does most of their munitions research, storage and manufacturing and is the U.S. navy’s third-largest physical base in size.

While the Crane Army Ammunition Activity (CAAA), Glendora Lake Hydro-Acoustic Test Facility (they have a neat improvised laser range there) and the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane (NSWC), employ something like 5,000-6,000 DoD civilian and contractor personnel depending on what’s going on there at any given time, and help support the state’s Camp Atterbury and the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, the actual uniformed presence there is small.

What they do have is more than 50,000 acres of forest have been sustainably managed by dedicated foresters for more than six decades and includes the ceremonial “Constitution Grove” which helps keep the Navy’s oldest commissioned warship in fighting trim.

Navy foresters Trent Osmon and Rhett Steele from Naval Facilities Engineering Command Midwest’s Public Works Department Crane, Production Manager Robert Murphy from the Charlestown Navy Yard, and Cmdr. James Stewart, commanding officer of Naval Support Activity Crane, assess a white oak tree set aside for future use in repairing USS Constitution. (U.S. Navy photo by Bill Couch/Released)

Navy foresters Trent Osmon and Rhett Steele from Naval Facilities Engineering Command Midwest’s Public Works Department Crane, Production Manager Robert Murphy from the Charlestown Navy Yard, and Cmdr. James Stewart, commanding officer of Naval Support Activity Crane, assess a white oak tree set aside for future use in repairing USS Constitution. (U.S. Navy photo by Bill Couch/Released)

From the NHHC:

And while the landscape and available forests surrounding the Boston area has diminished, the Navy is still able to provide much of the material for this world’s-oldest commissioned warship still afloat. The forests of NSA Crane host century-old white oak trees throughout the hills and valleys, providing the logs that are formed into planks for the sturdy hull. Even stands of middle-aged white oak, 70 to 80 years old, are set aside for future restoration efforts of this mighty ship.  The management goals of this forest fit perfectly with the ability to provide large white oak trees for this great, heritage rich, cause.

Happy Birthday, USN

As you may know the 239th Birthday of the U.S. Navy (well, technically begun as the Continental Navy) is this week. In the interest of a birthday salute in addition to our regular Warship Wednesday, we have for your viewing pleasure a series of shots of the 44-gun frigate USS Constitution. Launched on Oct. 21, 1797, she is still in commission and is the most tangible time capsule of the past three centuries I could think of and her 217th birthday is next week.

USS Constitution vs HMS Guerriere during the War of 1812. USNHC photo

USS Constitution vs HMS Guerriere during the War of 1812. USNHC photo

 

Celebration of Washington's Birth Day at Malta on Board the USS Constitution, Commodore Jesse D. Elliot, 1837", oil on canvas b James G. Evans Courtesy U.S. Naval Academy.

Celebration of Washington’s Birth Day at Malta on Board the USS Constitution, Commodore Jesse D. Elliot, 1837″, oil on canvas b James G. Evans
Courtesy U.S. Naval Academy.

USS Constitution seen as a receiving ship in Boston, Massachusetts sometime between 1903 and 1907

USS Constitution seen as a receiving ship in Boston, Massachusetts sometime between 1903 and 1907

Constitution 1909, LOC photo, after a three year refit to restore her to a more correct 18th century rig

Constitution 1909, LOC photo, after a three year refit to restore her to a more correct 18th century rig

USS Constitution, 18th August 1914

USS Constitution, 18th August 1914

1934 Constitution- alongside battleships USS Texas and the USS New York

1934 Constitution- alongside battleships USS Texas and the USS New York

July 21st, 1997 off the coast of Massachusetts.USS Constitution the worlds oldest commissioned war ship fires its port and starboard guns while underway in Massachusetts Bay, MA.  Constitution is escorted by the frigate USS Halyburton (FFG 40) (center) and the destroyer USS Ramage (DDG 61) (right), while the Navy's Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron passes overhead.  Commissioned on October 21st, 1797, Constitution set sail unassisted for the first time in 116 years.  Constitution will celebrates her 200th birthday on October 21st of this year after completing a 40 month overhaul.  U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 2nd Class Todd Stevens (Released)

July 21st, 1997 off the coast of Massachusetts.USS Constitution the worlds oldest commissioned war ship fires its port and starboard guns while underway in Massachusetts Bay, MA. Constitution is escorted by the frigate USS Halyburton (FFG 40) (center) and the destroyer USS Ramage (DDG 61) (right), while the Navy’s Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron passes overhead. Commissioned on October 21st, 1797, Constitution set sail unassisted for the first time in 116 years. Constitution will celebrates her 200th birthday on October 21st of this year after completing a 40 month overhaul. U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 2nd Class Todd Stevens (Released)

 

BOSTON (Oct. 21, 2010) USS Constitution returns to her pier after an underway to celebrate her 213th launching day anniversary. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kathryn E. Macdonald/Released)

BOSTON (Oct. 21, 2010) USS Constitution returns to her pier after an underway to celebrate her 213th launching day anniversary. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kathryn E. Macdonald/Released)

USS Constitution, still dropping it 216 years later

Click to bigup

Click to bigup

BOSTON (July 4, 2014) USS Constitution fires a 17-gun salute near U.S. Coast Guard Base Boston during the ship’s Independence Day
underway demonstration in Boston Harbor. Constitution got underway with more than 300 guests to celebrate America’s independence.
(U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Matthew R. Fairchild/Released)