Charlie loves history, especially American history. He also loves tall ships, you know, sailing ships. So when planning our trip to Boston, a visit to the U.S.S. Constitution had to be on the itinerary. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t all that excited about visiting an old sailing ship sitting in the harbor. Once we got to the ship and boarded, my opinion changed.
Launched in 1777, The U.S.S. Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship still afloat. She sits majestically at Pier 1 of the former Charlestown Navy Yard as a grand reminder of our American history.
Fun Fact – President John Adams attended the launch of the Constitution. The same President John Adams who is one of Charlie’s descendants. Read all about our trip to the Church Of The Presidents, where he is buried.
Besides playing a vital role in the War of 1812, the ship was the training vessel for the U.S. Naval Academy during the Civil War and was also a mode of transport for artwork and displays to the Paris Exposition in 1878. She was officially retired in 1881 and has been spared from being scrapped numerous times due to public adoration and her place in American history.
Since the U.S.S. Constitution is still a fully commissioned Navy ship, the 60 person crew of sailers and officers are active in celebrations, educational programs, and special events in addition to ensuring the ship stays open year-round for visitors and providing tours. While the assignment to the Constitution is considered to be a special duty, the officers are all active duty Naval officers.
Some tours offer a stop to see the ship, but since we had a car for the week, we opted to drive to it directly so we could explore the area on our own at our own pace. That allowed us to be able to walk around the harbor and make a stop at the location where Paul Revere began his midnight ride in 1775.
There is no fee for boarding the ship, but you do have to go through a security checkpoint. While the line can get quite long during peak season such as summer, it’s well worth it once you get on the ship.
Now, considering it was July and one of the hottest on record for Boston, it wasn’t exactly the most comfortable wait but, then again, we are from Texas, so we are used to the heat. The Constitution is a beautiful lady. To walk the decks and it really hit me that I was walking on the same deck that others did hundreds of years before. We could feel the history with every step we took. Being able to touch the massive wooden wheel was like being part of the crew back when the ship was in her glory. We could imagine the captain standing there barking out orders to the crew and steering the massive ship through the ocean.
As we walked along the wooden deck and looked below, we got a sense of how difficult it must have been to construct such a beautiful ship back in the day. To hoist the masts up without modern machinery must have been grueling. To work below deck without the comfort of air conditioning or even adequate ventilation made us appreciate even more all the modern conveniences we have now.
Learning all about the proud history of the Constitution while standing on her decks and touching the actual cannon that was fired during the war of 1812 was like everything we learned in school coming alive in front of us.
In addition to the tour of the ship, there is also an excellent museum onsite full of artifacts from the Constitution and her past. You can pick up a souvenir or two as well as snacks and drinks. The museum does request a donation to enter, which helps keep it open and the history alive for generations to come.
“Old Ironsides,” as she is known, is truly a national treasure and a beautiful reminder of our history. To be able to walk her decks, touch her, and feel the history all around us was an honor. One we will not soon forget, nor will we forget those who came before us and fought from those very decks.