In honor of the 200th anniversary of her victory over the British frigate HMS Guerriere in the War of 1812, the first of five victories that the USS Constitution racked up against British men of war, the USS Constitution sailed on August 19, 2012. Commission in 1797, Old Ironsides, so nicknamed because in the egagement with the Guerriere British cannon balls were seen bouncing of her hull, is the oldest continuously commissioned warship in the world. She was saved from the scap heap in 1830 by this stirring poem written by Oliver Wendell Holmes who roused the public to demand that she be saved:
Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!
Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
That banner in the sky;
Beneath it rung the battle shout,
And burst the cannon’s roar;–
The meteor of the ocean air
Shall sweep the clouds no more.
Her deck, once red with heroes’ blood,
Where knelt the vanquished foe,
When winds were hurrying o’er the flood,
And waves were white below,
No more shall feel the victor’s tread,
Or know the conquered knee;–
The harpies of the shore shall pluck
The eagle of the sea!
Oh, better that her shattered hulk
Should sink beneath the wave;
Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
And there should be her grave;
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,
The lightning and the gale!