Silver coin pays tribute to America’s ‘Ship of State’
On 18 June 1812, the young United States declared war on the greatest power in the world – Great Britain. The two and a half year War of 1812, also referred to as the United States’ “Second War of Independence”, forged the destiny of the continent for 200 years.
One of the most remarkable stories of the War was that of the three-masted wooden frigate USS Constitution. To the surprise of both the Americans and the British she defeated four English warships, earning each of her three captains a congressional gold medal.
Although historians judge these victories to have had minimal impact on the eventual outcome, they ended the myth of invincibility surrounding the Royal Navy. Returning to Boston after each successful encounter, USS Constitution and her crew were publicly extolled, and her reputation grew into the American national icon that she remains to this day.
In August 1812, during a 35-minute duel with HMS Guerriere off the coast of Nova Scotia, USS Constitution won her famous moniker. Observing cannonballs fired by the British ship bouncing harmlessly off her 25-inch oak hull, an incredulous sailor cried out, “Huzza! Her sides are made of iron!”
Less than five months later, “Old Ironsides” sank a smaller and faster adversary, HMS Java, off the coast of Brazil.
Her final quarries of the War were HMS Cyane and HMS Levant, defeated near Madeira in February 1815.
Despite numerous subsequent victories, Old Ironsides never fired a round in combat again. Today, she holds the honour of being the oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat and was designated America’s ‘Ship of State’ in 2009.
(Source and further reading: Constitution: America’s Ship of State)