The American frigate USS Constitution, sailing from Maryland to New York City, encountered a squadron of British warships off the coast of New Jersey. The Constitution was hopelessly outgunned when the British began chasing it on the morning of July 18, 1812. Yet it had a few advantages, the foremost of which was its skipper, Capt. Isaac Hull.
A New England native who practically grew up aboard ships, Capt. Hull was known for his seamanship. When the wind died, the chase continued at an excruciatingly slow speed as men rowing small boats towed the frigates. And by using every bit of sailing skill he could muster, including a maneuver known as kedging, Hull somehow kept his ship just beyond the clutches of the pursuing Royal Navy.
The chase of USS Constitution continued for more than two grueling days. When the wind finally returned, Hull had his sailors wet the Constitution's sails to fully capture every bit of breeze. With the Americans successfully sailing away, the British ships called off the chase on July 20, 1812.
Hull couldn't take his ship to New York as planned, so he sailed onward to Boston, where he arrived to a hero's welcome. The story of Hull's skillful sailing of USS Constitution appeared in newspapers and gave much-needed encouragement to Americans just as the War of 1812 was beginning.
- Chase of the USS Constitution
- Causes of the War of 1812
- Opposition to the War of 1812
- USS Constitution vs. HMS Guerriere
Illustration: Captain Isaac Hull/courtesy New York Public Library Digital Images
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