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USS Constellation: The ship that outsailed time

Docked along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the USS Constellation is an important US warship that was in active service for 100 years before it was decommissioned in 1955. Built in 1854, it is a symbol of the rich legacy of the US navy. This single gun-deck sloop was the last warship built and designed wholly by the navy. A national historic landmark, all four decks of the ship are now open for visitors and offer a truly unique experience.

The only ship from the Civil War era, the USS Constellation has been the face of many an important battle in the history of the US. Close to 61 metres in length, the ship first began its journey on July 28, 1855, with Captain Charles H Bell at its helm. He along with his team of 21 officers and 265 enlisted men, sailed to the Mediterranean on a mission that lasted over three years. The ship has played a significant role in helping the country abolish slavery by capturing slave ships off the coast of Africa. As many as over seven hundred slaves were rescued by its operations.

The vessel has also been a part of several training and relief operations, carrying food supplies to remote parts of the globe, apart from playing an important role during the Second World War. She was finally decommissioned in February 1955 and towed to Baltimore for restoration work.

Engaging experience

A part of Historic Ships in Baltimore, the USS Constellation underwent a major rebuilding and restoring activity that was completed in 1999.

Going strong Living quarters of the men onboard

Going strong Living quarters of the men onboard  

Ever since its opening to the public, maintenance is an ongoing activity.

The ideal place to start your journey into America’s history is by visiting the museum gallery in Pier 1. A treasure trove of artefacts, photographs and several objects, it gives a sneak peek into the life of the crew members on board the ship. You can opt for the audio guide or just seek the assistance of knowledgeable uniformed staff who are more than happy to take questions that you may have. The main ship has four decks which are open for exploration. The top deck, which was the heart of all operations, was also called the Spar deck, and it was where all the sailing took place. The second deck housed all the ammunition of the ship and was called the Gun deck. The gunpowder was stored in barrels and the deck was filled with charges and shells which were used during battles.

Going strong Living quarters of the men onboard

Going strong Living quarters of the men onboard  

Below the Gun deck was the Berth deck that was literally the ‘lifeline’ of all members on board. Every sailor was issued a hammock and berthing assignment. It was here that the sailors spent most of their time whether for sleeping, eating or recreation. While the food was prepared in the Gun deck, it was consumed in the Berth deck. The display of yesteryear cooking vessels and table ware is interesting. The Berth deck also housed the dispensary and sick bay. The lieutenant’s desk, writing instruments and uniform on display are a revelation into the life and times of the past. The lowest deck was the store house where the water, food and gear of the ship were stored. The ship had the capacity to hold as many as forty-one iron tanks to store over 25,000 gallons of water.

Going strong Living quarters of the men onboard

Going strong Living quarters of the men onboard  

Looking back

There are detailed displays on how the ship works, the details of training the crew, the equipment used, as well as the arms and ammunition. There are special events throughout the year as well as demonstrations like a gun drill that keep visitors enthralled. A visit to the USS Constellation is a chance to experience seafaring and naval history first-hand.


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