Saturday Scenes

Thu 2 August 2012

Possibly the Oldest Surviving American Warship

Filed under: #satscene —— Sylvia @ 21:59

On the 28th of July in 1855, the sloop-of-war USS Constellation was commissioned, the last all-sail warship built by the US Navy. It was the second US Navy ship to carry this name, or perhaps it was the same ship? That would make it the nation’s oldest surviving warship… but this isn’t as simple a question as it sounds.

The original USS Constellation was a 38-gun frigate constructed in 1797: the first US Navy vessel to put to sea and the first to engage and defeat an enemy vessel. She was decommissioned in 1853 in the same yard as the sloop-of-war was built. However, the frigate was never formally stricken from the Naval Vessel Registrar but instead the USS Constellation has been listed continuously from 1797 to 1955. Some of the funds which had been allocated to rebuilding the frigate were used to construct the sloop-of-war, as well as some of the original timber. Many maintain that the USS Constellation is the same ship, although greatly modified, based on archival drawings showing modifications to the frigate before the reconstruction/building of the sloop-of-war. However, in the report Fouled Anchors: The Constellation Question Answered, it is argued that many of the “rebuild supporting documents” were forgeries. This was explained in a presentation by one of the authors.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

In preparing our 1991 report, with the help of the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Fire Arms, we discovered that most of the historical documentation used up to that time to defend the 1797 origin of the ship had been forged. We determined that, in all likelihood, the forger was a particular, now-deceased, longstanding employee of the ship and that most of the forgeries were created by him between 1956 and 65. Seeking self-importance, the forger attempted to defend the 1797 origin of the ship and bolster efforts to change the sloop into a frigate. He added his creations to the ships collection of historical and administrative files. However, he illegally amended original ships drawings and also planted copies of his work in the collections of Federal and institutional archives. His trademarks now are relatively easy to spot. Needless to say, one common aspect of his forgeries is that, in some way, most support the 1797 origin of the vessel.

Without a doubt, the USS Constellation is a fine ship, whether it is a refitted frigate (replacing everything from the waterline to the top of the masts) or a separately constructed sloop-of-war which happens to include some of the original timber.

Forging ahead, on the 28th of July in 2012, a number of all new photographs were posted as Saturday scenes. Will they stand the test of time?

And here are the creators who took them:

You can find out what all of these great people are up to simply by checking the current Saturday Scenes list which includes all participants from 2012.

Why don’t you join in this weekend? Just take a photograph on Saturday and send the link to @SatScenes with the location! It’s easy and fun and we love seeing new sights.

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