WE ARE ON THE GANGWAY
FORWARD OF ENTRY PORT
Welcome aboard the frigate
"Old Ironsides," the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. I
am Ed Reese and I will be showing you around the ship. Should you have
any questions along the way, please don't hesitate to ask them. I'11 do
my best to get you an answer.
PLEASE WALK FORWARD TO OPEN AREA
The deck we are now on is called
the "spar deck." It is made of fir planks 4 1/2 inches thick. From here,
all the sails and rigging are handled. Here, on the forward portion of
the spar deck or forecastle (focísíle), are located the 2 1/2 ton anchors,
the 2 bow chasers, a portion of the carronade battery, the "Charley Noble"
(or galley smoke-stack), and the ship's bell.
Up forward there, through the
square ports is the head area, which contained the crew's bathroom. A head
is the name for a ship's bathroom today, no matter where it is located.
Before talking more about the
guns and things, perhaps Iíd better say a few words about the way the ship
is constructed. Constitutionís hull, which has a maximum thickness of about
21 inches, is composed of layers of oak. Originally built of live oak,
the hull was unusually heavy for a ship of this type.
She never had any iron on her
sides. It was the toughness of the wood that caused the cannonballs to
bounce off and resulted in her nickname CONSTITUTION is a square-rigged
ship that carried about three
dozen sails totaling almost
an acre in area. Each pine mast consists of three sections. The lowest
section in each case is made up of four trees, fitted together and banded.
This construction was unusual for the time and further contributed to her
success. She never lost a battle.
are termed "32-pounders" because they fired 32 pound solid shot. They are
of lightweight constitution as cannon g0 -- about a ton and a half
each on their carriages -- and were developed in Carron, Scotland; hence
the name "carronade." These guns provided the heavy smashing power at ranges
of under 400 yards. It required from 4 to 9 men to serve each gun.
the bow chasers are l8-pounders that have been rebored as 24-pounders.
This was done to have long range but light weight guns available for the
work of trying to slow down
or stop an enemy you were attempting
to overtake. Since firing was slow and carefully calculated, the risk of
using less strongly constructed guns was acceptable.
I' m sure most of you are familiar
with the use of a ship's bell to mark the passing hours. The practice originated
when sand glasses were used to tell the time. Usually, a young ship's boy,
perhaps 8 or 10 years old, was given the task of turning the glass promptly
each half hour as the sand ran out. To help the duty or watch officer know
he was on the Job, he was required to strike the bell the number of times
he had turned the glass since assuming the duty. Duty periods, or watches,
normally ran for four hours, so that the boy struck the bell 8 times, increasing
the number of strokes by one each time.
CONSTITUTION carried a varying
number of boats at one time or another. We presently show only 3: the pinnace,
here, the largest size carried, and 2 quarter-boats which are outboard
in the davits. The starboard quarterboat usually served as the Captain's
personal boat, or "gig"
ON SUNDAYS WHEN CHAPLAIN
The gentleman approaching is the ship's chaplain. "Men of the cloth" have
been a part of the Navy since the earliest days. Back then, they were schoolmasters
for the shipís boys and midshipmen, too. Good day, Chaplain.
We'll go below now. Please use
the handrails and lines where provided, and watch out for the low overhead.
You will find the decks uneven in places and sometimes cluttered with fittings,
mind your step.
STARBOARD FORWARD MAIN HATCH
now on the "gun deck". Here, the 30 24-pounder long guns are located. These
are the long range punch in CONSTITUTION.
They could fire a 24 pound solid
shot about 1200 yards. At a thousand yards, such a shot could penetrate
about 20 inches of hard wood. As we move about this deck, you will notice
the guns are of two different models: the 18 amidships are of British design
and manufacture, while the 6 at either end were made here in America.
These big beauties weigh more
than 3 tons each as they sit here. Each gun crew, which numbered from 9
to 14 men, viewed its gun with special pride and gave it a patriotic or
more personal name. You'll
see some above the guns as we
Here amidships are located the
grog tub and the scuttlebutt. "Grog" was a mixture of rum and water, generally
served to the crew twice a day. The mix was developed by the British Admiral
Vernon, who found that it became unpalatable rather quickly, and so lessened
the odds that a man would try to save up for a toot. The Admiral
was noted for his wearing of a grogram cloak, and was nick-named "Old Grog".
That's where the name comes from.
The grog tub's companion is the
"scuttlebutt", from which the sailors' daily drinking water ration was
issued. A "butt" is a kind of barrel, and a "scuttle" is a hole through
which something is passed or taken, and so this is a "a scuttlebutt"
As the men awaited their ration from the scuttlebutt, they would joke and
exchange the latest rumors or gossip. Gradually, such talk, too, became
known as "scuttlebutt"
PLEASE COME TO STARBOARD SIDE
Moving forward, we come
to the "Caboose" or "Camboose", more popularly known as the "galley". This
was the only place a fire was allowed in the ship. All the cooking was
done here in these three kettles on the forward side. Boiling was the main
way things were cooked. Around this area in the early days one could find
garlands of dried vegetables and spices, such as onions and garlic, hung
from the overhead beams for ready use by the cook. A Marine guard prevented
unauthorized consumption of food, water, and grog.
Every afternoon at about 4, the meat for the following day would be brought
up from the hold and placed in this harness cask. Here, it was soaked overnight
in fresh water, changed every four hours, to get some of the salt out of
it. It was divided up for the various eating groups, or "messes", in the
morning. The term "harness" cask comes from the habit of the sailors in
referring to the meat as being some old harness the penny-pinching supply
officer, or "purser", had bought very cheaply.
At the rear of the caboose is an open hearth. It was mainly used as the
armorer,s forge, although on occasion, a small bullock might be roasted
on a spit here. The little "Shipmate" brand stove you see here now was
put there for the crew use during the 1931-34
cruises around the country.
Follow me, please.
AFT ON STARBOARD SIDE
Here, on either side of the mainmast, are the 4- and 8-man bilge pumps.
Every large wooden ship, no matter how well constructed, takes on a certain
amount of water. By using these pumps periodically, the water level in
any part of the bilge would be kept to a minimum --2 inches or less.
Please Stop NEAR CAPSTAN.
the 8-man bilge pump is the gun deck capstan. Manned by 1 to 6 men on each
of 12 bars, this capstan was used to weigh anchor.
along this portion of the gun deck, while the ship was on :cruise, the
various warrant officers would have their mates working it their particular
skills. The cooper might be making or repairing 'barrels. The cordwainer
might be repairing shoes or restoring chafing ;ear, and so it went. Each
had a section of the deck here on the starboard side allotted to him.
Please MOVE AFT.
This little space is the Captain's
pantry. His food was cooked forward at the caboose and brought here for
formal serving by his steward.
CENTER DAY CABIN
We are now in the Captain's forward
cabin, or day cabin, which, as you can see, was shared with 4 great guns.
In the area of each gun, you can see its rammer and sponge and worm, as
well as the water bucket for emergencies. It was here in June of 1805 that
peace with Tripoli was agreed to. At this gun (STARBOARD AFT), two men
were killed and one wounded in the 185e fight against HMS GUERRIERE.
Through these doors, you can
view the after cabin in the center and sleeping cabins on either side.
There are two bunks provided, as CONSTITUTION served most frequently as
a flagship. Both the Commodore and the Captain shared these quarters. The
desk visible on the starboard side of the after cabin belonged to Charles
Stewart, who was in command when CONSTITUTION defeated the British warships
CYANE and LEVANT on 20 February 1835.
You may have noticed that the
deck here in the forward cabin contains a number of 'daylights". These
pieces of glass, cut like diamonds, helped to provide more light to the
deck below. You'll be able to see them from the other side shortly. Remember
that, aside from any natural lighting, only a relatively few lanterns were
permitted below decks for people to see by. A Marine sentry was stationed
outside the cabin to prevent unauthorized entry.
We are LEAVING the DAY
CABIN ON THE PORT SIDE.
As we leave the day cabin and
proceed forward along the port side we are walking through the area where,
on a quiet day at sea, the off duty officers would set up their wicker
chairs of folding stools after working hours, and read, smoke, and generally
relax. Their wardroom, as you will see, was neither as well lighted nor
Let us PAUSE BY the MAIN CARGO
no doubt have noticed that we have done several "unhistorical" things on
the ship to improve your visit and insure the ship's safety. Fluorescent
lighting has been installed so that you can see better here below decks,
and we have a modern day ventilation and heating system. The ship is fitted
with an automatic sprinkling system in case of fire. This system is connected
to the city water supply, but there is also a 5000 gallon tank hidden away
in the ship's cargo hold that will provide water in an emergency.
Watch your step please, as we
go down to the berth deck.
We are USING THE PORT MAIN HATCH
PLEASE FACE FORWARD.
Here, on the "berth deck", slept
everyone except the Captain and Commodore. The average number in the crew
was 450, divided into two work sections, or "watches". With care, about
220 hammocks can be slung down here at 8 time. You can get some idea of
how close things were from the few
we put up for you.
MOVE FORWARD ABREAST THE FRESH WATER PUMP.
Near the center of the berthing
deck is the fresh water pump. Water casks, down below in the hold, were
dumped into the "well" from which this pump operated. In addition to the
spigot here, there was a pipe, presently partially missing, that serviced
the galley on the deck above.
PLEASE PROCEED TO THE PORT BRIG
forward now, we come to one of the most popular spots on the tour: the
ship's brig, or jail. If you like you may try out either of the cells,
but in keeping with the old rules, no more than four prisoners in a cell
at a time. Sleeping arrangements become impossible otherwise.
PLEASE WALK THROUGH PORT
DOOR INTO SICKBAY.
Just ahead of the brig is the area known as "sickbay" or the hospital.
In her early days, CONSTITUTION war not so equipped, and this space probably
was a storeroom if, indeed it existed at all. In those days, the surgeon
plied his trade whenever was convenient at the moment. In battle, he and
his mates worked in the cockpit, which I will show you shortly.
PLEASE LEAVE SICKBAY BY THE STARBOARD
DOOR. AND WALK AFT TO VICINITY OF MESS CHEST
As we head aft, you will notice
the boxes stowed along the berth deck. These are the "mess chests" which
held the eating utensils for the crew. Each mess consisted of eight men,
one of whom had the duty of tending to the selection and service of food
for his mess mates. Each man took his turn at this chore on a weekly basis.
Their "table" consisted of a piece of canvas about 3.1/2 feet square, which
they might brighten by painting red or white or yellow, or in a simple
pattern of stripes or checks. The messman set the "table", brought :he
prepared food down from the galley in a pail, and all sat around it, Spearing
tidbits and eating in a sort of picnic fashion. When they were done, the
messman would clean the utensils and canvas and pack it all away in the
chest until the next meal.
PLEASE MOVE TO A POSITION ABREAST
OF THE MAINMAST.
These first staterooms we're
coming to were for the warrant officers: the boatswain, the gunner, the
carpenter, etc. They were the working technical experts mainly responsible
for the material well-being of the ship. This forwardmost
stateroom to starboard is unique in that it doubled as the supply
office. its occupant not only did his paperwork at the standup deck, he
folded out the top and slept on the bunk installed inside, The little cabinet
Forward of the mainmast is the warrant officer's pantry. They dined in
that space that looks like a slightly enlarged stateroom.
COME INTO STEERAGE
This next section, variously
called steerage or the gun room, was :he living area for the midshipmen,
the officers in training. Each of the 2 staterooms was "home" to 4 "mids".
They slept in hammocks and used folding canvas stools and, at times, even
folding tables to make the most of the small space they had. The stateroom
on the port side is generally outfitted in this manner. Down below there,
you can see the red deck of the cockpit. In, battle, it was the operating
room of the surgeon. The red paint made the bloody work less obvious. There
are also 4 small staterooms down there where the surgeon's mates lived
in quieter times.
PLEASE COME AFT TO THE WARDROOM.
And now we are entering the wardroom.
Here, the officers lived and ate. It was a rather dark and close space
despite the airports and daylights, and you can see why they would want
to relax in the greater
openness of the gun deck. The
cabins on the port side ware occupied by the staff officers, such as the
surgeon and chaplain, while those to starboard housed the line, or operating
officers -- the lieutenants. The staterooms have been labeled to assist
you in understanding the arrangements. The
First Lieutenant was the ship's
Executive Officer and was next senior to the Captain. The ranks of Commander
and Lieutenant Commander were later developments.
The square hatch in the deck leads to the powder filling room next to the
after magazine. Down there, black powder was transferred from the 60-pound
kegs to leather powder buckets. The buckets, each containing one charge
for a gun, were passed up to the 8 to 10 year old "powder monkeys", who
ran them to their assigned guns.
Having 8 lighted candle or lantern in the magazine would be very dangerous.
"Light Boxes" were built into the bulkheads, or walls, of the magazines.
Lanterns were lowered into these copper lined boxes, and their flickering
light shone through glass ports into the magazine.
There is no doubt about it:
working conditions were far from ideal.
This area across the rear of the wardroom is the officer's pantry, from
where their Food was served. Notice the rudder tiller near the overhead.
Anyone working back here was always ducking as it moved back and forth.
The tiller ropes lead forward in these channels and
then up to the helm on the spar
The black pot hanging in there is representative of those that would be
hung around the ship to ease the chill and dampness. When in use, it would
hold either a heated cannon ball or some smoldering
coals. Not exactly a central
LEAVE THE BERTHDECK VIA GUN ROOM LADDER AND AFTERMOST LADDER FROM
GUNDECK TO SPAR DECK.
we'll return to the rpar deck, please be careful as you climb the ladders.
All the tall people can be comfortable again. Starting aft on the spar
deck, we see the skylight to the Captain's cabin. When he wasn't actually
on deck, he could pretty well keep track of what was happening by listening
to the activity on the deck above him. The mizzenmast is the shortest:
of the three, being only about 175 feet tall. The mainmast, of course,
is the tallest, at 220 feet.
The platforms up there are called "fighting tops". From there, Marine snipers
would try to shoot an enemy ship's officers and helmsman. Their size is
deceptive. The one on the mainmast, for example
is 15 feet by 22 feet, solid
oak, and weighs just over 5 tone. Forward of the mizzenmast
is the ship's helm. Under ordinary conditions, 2 men would be stationed
here, one on either aide; the
senior on the windward, or higher
side. In battle or stormy weather, 4 men would be required. To keep the
ship heading in a desired direction, the helmsman would mind his helm in
such a way as to keep the compass steady on the ordered course. Compasses
were kept in each of 2 "binnacles" as you see here.
Some of you may be wondering
how anyone should see out from thi s deck in order to direct the ship.
Located on either side here are folding platforms called "horse blocks".
The captain or watch officer would stand up there, quite exposed in battle,
make his decisions, and give his commands. During the Fight with GUERRIERE,
it is said that Captain Hull got to jumping around so vigorously that he
split his pants Above the "horse blocks" on the cap rail, you can see a
netting arrangement. In these long channels on either side were stowed
the rolled up crew's hammocks. Aside From opening up the berth deck placing
them here each day served 2 purposes it aired out the bedding and kept
it fresher longer; and, in battle, it provided a "damper" on
flying wood splinters.
PLEASE follow me to the EXIT
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and
girls, that concludes your tour of USS CONSTITUTION. I hope you have enjoyed
it, and that I have been able to give you a glimpse of life aboard this
As you depart, please sign Our Ship's Log
Please come again. "Old Ironsides"
after all, does belong to you.Please watch your step.
Ed Reese, Crew Member