After walking around Shipyard Park (located in the proximity of Charlestown Navy Yard), I decided to tour the nearby U.S.S. Constitution Museum. This museum celebrates the U.S.S. Constitution, a ship especially known for her actions during the War of 1812. The ship (nicknamed "Old Ironsides") and her crew helped to defeat British warships and captured several merchant ships as well. The museum has many hands-on exhibitions that are perfect for kids and their families. According to some of the museum curators, there will also be special Caroline Abbott events held at the museum some time this fall. As you all know, Caroline is American Girl's newest historical character, and she is from the year 1812! Even though her story takes place in upstate New York, I felt as if I was walking into Caroline's world as I toured the museum, which made me extra excited to meet her!
This is the U.S.S. Constitution on her 213th birthday, which was held on October 21, 2010. The ship was first launched on October 21, 1797, and she left on her maiden voyage on July 22, 1798.
Mr. Ephraim Lawrence greeted me at the entrance to the museum. He introduced himself as a shipwright from Falmouth who came to Charlestown Navy Yard to help build what became known as the U.S.S. Constitution, a 74-gun ship. Although he was not the least bit interested in politics, he took the job to earn the money for his sweetheart, Mary. Aww, what a great guy!
After I said my goodbyes to Mr. Lawrence, I came to a sign that told me a little bit more about the War of 1812 and Boston. This is what it said :
"When the Federal government established a navy yard in Massachusetts in 1800, it naturally looked to Boston Harbor. A thriving town of more than 34,000 people, Boston was home to hundreds of skilled ship carpenters, riggers, caulkers, and other maritime tradesmen. With such a community close at hand, the Navy established the new yard just across the Charles River on Charlestown's grassy tidal flats.
During the War of 1812, many Boston tradesmen and laborers worked to build and repair US Navy vessels. Local merchants supplied hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of timber, paint, canvas, rope, clothing, and foodstuffs needed to send the ships to sea. Thousands of local men (like Ephraim Lawrence) signed on as crew."
Here is the other ship that is docked at the Charlestown Navy Yard. The U.S.S. Cassin Young is a destroyer that was created to defend against smaller (but powerful) torpedo boats. The first American destroyer, the Bainbridge, was created in 1902. The U.S.S. Cassin Young wasn't built until December 31, 1943 by the Bethlehem Steel Company that came out of San Pedro, California. The ship was used in the Central Pacific against the Japanese during World War II. She was also used during the Korean Conflict in the 1950s.
Once inside the museum, I compared myself to a typical soldier who fought during the War of 1812. I found that I was just about the same height as his dog!
Here I am standing next to a mural. I wonder if Caroline's father is one of these men? It's too bad I didn't dress appropriately for the era; otherwise I would've blended in a lot better!
Below is a scale model of the U.S.S. Constitution. Designed by Joshua Humphreys, she was built in such a way as to "out-sail, out-maneuver and out-gun her opponents." She could repel enemy cannon fire with her thick sides of solid oak. She could sail swiftly with her long, slender body and towering rig. She was provided with cannons superior in size and number. She was the largest ship ever built in Boston at the time (1797), and crowds were eager to see her launch. She was so large that shipbuilders feared her launch might cause a dangerous tidal wave! Spectators were warned not to get too close to the water's edge.
There was a stage in one of the museum rooms. I'm told that it is a puppet stage, but it was just about my size! I emerged from behind the red curtain, waving to my imaginary crowd of fans. I pretended that I was Caroline Abbott making my debut on society!
Here is a really excellent poster about why the War of 1812 really matters. I think some of us (myself included) tend to forget about this war and could use a refresher of why it actually took place! Click on the poster to make it larger, if you can't read it :
At this point during my visit, I was getting beyond thirsty! I took this as a sign to venture into a local pub. Unfortunately, there was only some kind of ale for sale, and there were too many adults around for me to sneak a sip! Where is root beer when you need it?
Here I am posing with one of the cannons on the U.S.S. Constitution! It looks big enough that I could shoot out of it! I'm so glad they didn't use human cannonballs!
Here I am trying to steer the broken helm (wheel) of the U.S.S. Constitution! I believe this was due to a shot from the HMS Java on December 29, 1812. The crew had to steer manually, using the tiller, for the rest of the engagement.
The U.S.S. Constitution didn't have a female officer onboard until 1996, when Lieutenant Commander Claire V. Bloom became the first! She wore an 1813 regulation First Lieutenant's uniform - the only modification being a purse! To read more about Ms. Bloom, see the poster below :
How do YOU compare to the average sailor on board the U.S.S. Constitution in 1812? I personally found it interesting that men considered for the job had to be on the short side and that many of them had gray eyes!
Unfortunately, I didn't get to finish looking at the museum, as I had to board my tour bus for another stop. However, I really recommend it to anyone touring Boston, especially since it is so pertinent to Caroline Abbott's time period!