Tuesday, September 14, 2010
A Brief History of the USS Constellation
The Constellation associated with the Civil War was the second ship of that name; the first was a frigate built in Baltimore that was in use from 1797 to 1853. The sloop-of-war Constellation was constructed in Norfolk in 1855. During the prewar years, the Constellation was part of the Mediterranean Squadron and the African Squadron, where she “safeguarded American commerce” and captured slave ships.
On May 21, 1861, a little more than a month after the declaration of the blockade, Constellation captured Triton, a brig obviously outfitted for the transport of slaves. For the next few years of the war, Constellation sailed around the Mediterranean protecting Union ships from Confederate cruisers and raiders. During the sloop-of-war’s journey back to the United States she tried to capture privateers in the West Indies. Finding that the Confederate Navy believed the Constellation was still in European waters, she had an advantage and was easily able to approach rebel vessels without any suspicion.
On Christmas Day of 1864, Constellation found herself at Fort Monroe. Most of the crew’s terms of enlistment expired in January and those sailors were discharged at that time, while the rest of the crew was transferred to St. Lawrence. Constellation acted as a receiving ship at Norfolk, where she remained until the end of the war.
Constellation is a unique Civil War vessel because she has been restored and opened to the public as a museum. She can be found in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, her home since 1968.