All Hands on Deck: Learning Adventures Aboard Old Ironsides
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USS Constitution, Johnson



The boomerang cannon ball

After the battle with Guerriere, Moses Smith, an ordinary seaman on board Constitution, recorded the following incident in his diary :

“We came so near [Guerriere]... that an 18-pound shot came through us ..., striking just abaft of the breech of the gun to which I belonged. The splinters flew in all directions; but no one was hurt. We immediately picked up the shot, and put it in the mouth of the long Tom, a large gun loose on deck — and sent it home again, with our respects.”

 

“...to the Shores of Tripoli”


You might ask a student vol-unteer to research the Marine Corps Anthem, from which this line is taken, to find out who wrote the song and how it became the official anthem of the corps. How does Constitution figure in the story behind these words?

A Suspicious French Accent

If your students know French, they might have noticed that the name Guerriere has a French ring to it. They are right. Guerriere, which means warrior, was captured from the French by the British in 1806. The custom at the time was to retain the original name and to continue to use it for later ships, as if the right to use the name had been captured along with the ship.

Does History Repeat Itself?

Ask the class to compare incidents in modern history of hostage taking in the Middle East with the exploits of the Barbary corsairs. What is different and what is the same? In addition, a comparison can be made between the debate over America’s involvement in the War of 1812 and the debate over our involvement in overseas conflicts today. From the beginning, our country has debated the issue of defense. How far afield do we go to protect ourselves and our interests? If we isolate ourselves, we might be haunted by the words of British statesman Edmund Burke, who died the year Constitution was launched. Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing.”

Pity the Beleaguered Dey of Algiers

One of the last times America offered money to free American captives and buy the safety of our
merchants, the Dey of Algiers responded:

“If I were to make peace with everybody, what should I do with my corsairs? They would take off my head for the want of other prizes, not being able to live on their miserable allowance.”

You might challenge the class to interpret the Dey’s message. What did he mean by “the want of other prizes?” Did he want to reach an agreement with the Americans?

The attack made on Tripoli on August 3rd, 1804
John B. Guerrazi, 1804
USS Constitution Museum, Boston

 

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