The USS Constitution, often called “Old Ironsides,” was built in the 1700s. It has 52 cannons, and the cannons can be fired and the ship can sail even today. The ship was originally built and launched in order to defend shipping against the Barbary Pirates. it was it was also used to defend American shipping during the “Quasi War,” which erupted when France started attacking American shipping.

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As originally configured, the ship had 67 cannons. The Barbary Pirates were a group of Muslim bandits from around what is now Algiers. These men saw piracy as a good thing to do in order to support their faith. They were active from medieval times until the mid 19th century. They would attack merchant ships and hold the crews for ransom, as well as slave ships, from which they would take the slaves and trade them themselves. The famous brothers Hayreddin Barbarossa and Oruc Reis were barbary pirates. In one case, they raided a large slave ship, sold the slaves, added cannons, and called the ship Queen Anne’s Revenge.

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These pirates, activity had a chilling effect on merchant shipping of many countries. They had mainly worked off the coast of Algiers, Tripoli, and other North African ports. They were loosely organized, but sometimes acted almost like a Navy of a sovereign country. The USS constitution was one of our small fleet of ships built to defeat these pirates. Their crews worked through both the 1st and 2nd Barbary wars, until the pirates were finally defeated.

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Meanwhile, colonists in the new world had taken up arms against Britain. France under general Lafayette had supported them, putting them at odds with the country across the English Channel. The United states had made peace with England, angering the French and instigating them to attack American shipping. Ships owned by privateers, or private businessmen, with the blessing of the French government attacked merchant ships with a goal of taking the ships and their cargo. Constitution was sent to engage these raiders. When the French-owned ships were defeated, this is when the United states was first recognized as a naval power, alongside Britain, whose ships ruled the seas at the time.

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The constitution continued to be used by the US Navy. Even during World War II, the ship was used as a morale booster for American soldiers and sailors. Eventually, after multiple refittings, constitution became a museum, anchored at Boston harbor and welcoming visitors. This ship sales occasionally on special holiday events, most recently in mid-2021.