U.S.S. Constellation

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The U.S.S. Constellation is the name of three major warships in the history of the U.S. Navy.

The first Constellation was one of the Navy's major ships at the start of the War of 1812. Constellation was rated at 36 guns and was one of six frigates authorized by the Congress in 1794 for national maritime defense. It had a crew of 340, displaced 1,265 tons, and was 164 feet long on the gundeck. The ship was constructed in 1795 near Fells Point, Baltimore and was launched in 1797.

Under the command of Captain Thomas Truxtun in the Quasi-War with France in 1798-99, she fought two French frigates a year apart. Her crew captured one and badly damaged the other, which barely avoided capture. During the Barbary Wars, the ship served on the blockade of Tripoli in 1802 and again from 1804-5. After the first Barbary conflict ended, she was laid up in late 1805, inactive, at the Washington Navy Yard, as part of President Thomas Jefferson's economy program.

She was rebuilt in 1812 with an armament of 24 18-pounder guns, 2 32-pounder guns, and 18 32-pounder carronades, totaling 44 pieces. She was recommissioned in October 1812 under the command of Captain Charles Stewart, an experienced officer of long service. A series of bad decisionsand missed opportunities left her inactive during the war, trapped in Norfolk, Virginia, by the British blockade. After 1815, the ship served with distinction in the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Pacific, and Far East. In 1853, old and obsolete, she was scrapped at the Gosport Navy Yard.

A number of salvageable items were kept, however, and used to build what was, in effect, a new 22-gun sloop-of-war. Launched at Gosport in 1854, the new, smaller ship would carry on the frigate Constellation's proud name and legacy until it in turn was retired in 1955. She was the flagship of the US African Squadron intercepting slave ships. During the Civil War she was charged with chasing Confederate raiders, and she was a training ship for midshipmen at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis from 1871 to 1893.

Today the 1854 ship is the oldest U.S. warship afloat, is a major tourist attraction in Baltimore harbor.

The third USS Constellation is an aircraft carrier (CV 64) launched from Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1960 and deactivated in 2003. It cost $400 million. On active duty in the Cold War, 120,000 Sailors and Marines served aboard the ship. The arresting gear aboard counted 436,000 'traps', or aircraft landings.

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