Monday, October 21, 2013

A Happy Rebel Raiders Birthday to "Old Ironsides!"

Happy Birthday, "Old Ironsides

Today in 1797 the 44-gun frigate USS Constitution was launched in Boston.  The oldest commissioned warship afloat (and capable of moving under her own sails!) "Old Ironsides,"  which earned her nickname from the shot bouncing off her thick hull is still going strong, as visitors (this blogger/game designer for one) who walk her decks in Boston Harbor can attest.

Scheduled for demolition in 1830, she was saved from the scrapyard thanks to Oliver Wendell Holmes, whose poem "Old Ironsides" moved the nation - and more importantly, the White House and Navy Department, to spare the gallant warship.  Repaired and refitted, USS Constitution went back to sea with the Mediterranean and Pacific Squadrons, and became the first U.S. "territory" a Pope ever set his slipper on (Pius IX).  

Although  the USS Constitution played no appreciable role in the Civil War, as she was converted to a training ship in 1857, she did contribute to the fight against slavery:  her last capture was a slaver, the H.N. Gambril, which she stopped and boarded off Angola in 1853.  When the war began, USS Constitution was stationed at the Naval Academy, but was sent north rather than risk falling into Confederate hands.

In 1862 the Navy honored this, the last of the famous "Six Frigates," by christening an ironclad New Ironsides  (which appears in Rebel Raiders as USN Card 26).   Her sides clad in real iron, New Ironsides survived many a pounding from Confederate batteries in multiple battles in and around Charleston - and although struck by a spar torpedo from CSS David (a torpedo launch that appears in the game as CSN Card 65),  New Ironsides did not live on much past the war, succumbing to fire in December 1865.

Old Ironsides, however, lives on...and long may she sail!

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