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DVIDS – News – Haul Away: NRC Baltimore sailors move historic vessel to new mooring

On a sweltering spring day, and with little more than strong backs and handling lines, the USS Constellation sloop of war saw her creaky wooden hull softened in a new mooring by capable sailors in Baltimore, Maryland. But this scene did not take place in the context of the civil war; nowhere were the first Bearded Mates and Confederate Spies, replaced instead by Baltimore’s Inner Harbor tourists. Sailors from the Navy’s African Squadron are long gone, with the ship being handled today by personnel from Navy Reserve Center (NRC) Baltimore.

NRC sailors were on site May 31, 2022 as part of a working relationship between the command and Baltimore Historic Ships, an organization dedicated to preserving and interpreting the history of several ships and sites landmarks of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Moving the Constellation from the West Wall of the Inner Harbor to Pier 1 in the Inner Harbor was the culmination of more than 20 years of work and two years of building the ship’s new visitor center. Constellation had moved to the west wall during the construction of the center and was returned to its original location with the help of reservists.

“It takes a lot of hands – a lot of hands doing light work,” said Christopher Rowsom, executive director of Historic Ships in Baltimore. “The vessel is set up so that line handling is done pretty much from the dock, so we put everything on board, and all the naval personnel came here to Pier 1 to grab the lines and speed them up.

The Constellation was the US Navy’s last sailing vessel, designed and built in 1854. But modern reservists quickly acclimated to 19th century technology and helped manually turn the capstan to raise the gangway and carry heavy guns from their gun ports before dragging the ship from its moorings. Once the heavy equipment was moved, the reservists departed the ship for a harbor walk to Constellation’s new berth and awaited her return from two tugs in port.

After being skilfully guided by the tugs, the reservists stood ready to take the historic ship to its new hold. The Historic Ships crew aboard the Constellation threw her handling and mooring lines to the sailors on the quayside, where they carried her hand-over-hand to the new berth and moored her to the dock.

The history of the USS Constellation is a proud but often overlooked part of United States Navy history. The sloop-of-war in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is the second Navy ship to bear the name Constellation, taking its name (and some salvaged original materials) from the original frigate Constellation built in 1797. The sloop-of-war Constellation was commissioned in 1855 and became the flagship of the US Africa Squadron, serving to end the Atlantic slave trade. During the American Civil War, she acted as a blockade ship in the Mediterranean, disrupting trade between the Confederacy and European commerce. She would play a variety of post-Civil War roles, including carrying relief cargo during the Irish Famine of 1879 and serving as a training ship for midshipmen.

The Constellation played a major role in celebrating the centennial of the Star-Spangled Banner in 1914. Acting Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the ship to be restored in 1814 after the Navy had mistaken the sloop of war Constellation with the original frigate. Regardless of the misconception, Constellation served as a majestic backdrop to the celebration after being towed into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

“Constellation’s role in this celebration, and her overall history, are some of the reasons NRC Baltimore loves this ship so much,” said NRC Baltimore Command Master Chief Jermaine Francis. “Our staff have hosted many events on the Constellation – promotions, retirements, history and heritage nights – because it is such an important part of the Navy’s and Baltimore’s shared history. And because our command is adjacent to Fort McHenry, we call our chefs the “Star Chefs Mess” Knowing that the Constellation played a part in celebrating the centennial of the Star Spangled Banner gives us one more connection to the history of America.

She was finally decommissioned in 1955 and permanently transferred to Baltimore, where several organizations maintained her over the years. And Baltimore’s reservists recognize their role in preserving the ship’s history.

“It’s actually quite an honor,” said Christopher Hall, Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class, Chief Petty Officer of the NRC Baltimore Boat Shop and principal Navy representative for the Constellation’s berthing watch. “Once I caught wind of this opportunity, I jumped on it and so did my team. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime deal, and we’re all proud to be here.

Date taken: 31.05.2022
Date posted: 06.08.2022 13:28
Story ID: 422502

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