That pessimism faded 200 years ago this month when USS Constitution and its skillful commander, Capt. Isaac Hull, sailing off the coast of Canada without any specific orders, encountered a British warship.
Hull, an expert sailor, approached and fought HMS Guerriere on August 19, 1812. In a short but furious battle, the guns of the Constitution blasted the masts off the British ship, forcing it to surrender.
The British commander, Capt. James Dacres, had openly taunted the American fleet weeks earlier. Forced to surrender, he offered his sword to Capt. Hull, who, in a polite gesture, refused it.
When the Constitution arrived back in Boston, with its British prisoners aboard, the United States got a huge morale boost at a time when many thought the War of 1812 was a very bad idea. And, of course, the USS Constitution, which is preserved as a museum in Boston, was on its way to becoming known as the legendary "Old Ironsides."
USS Constitution and the badly damaged HMS Guerriere/Library of Congress
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