The U.S.S. Constitution was the first of six frigates built under the authority of the Naval Armament Act of 1794. The ship was built to carry 44 guns, but often carried a larger armament. She saw action in the Quasi-War with France from 1798 to 1801, the Barbary Wars of 1801 to 1805 and the War of 1812, from 1812 to 1814. During the War of 1812, the U.S.S. Constitution earned the nickname "Old Ironsides," and sank four British ships.
Guns of the U.S.S. Constitution
The guns aboard the Constitution were typical naval armaments of the day. The ship's main armament consisted of 30 "24-pounder long guns," so called because they fired 24-pound iron shot from eight-foot barrels. The main guns had a range of 1,200 yards and required a crew of 12 men and one boy -- called a "powder monkey" -- each. At times, the Constitution also carried 18-pounder and 12-pounder long guns, 32-pound carronades, which were capable of firing 32-pound shot 400 yards, and 24-pound "shifting gunades" -- lighter cannons that could be shifted from one side of the ship to the other as needed in combat. Toward the end of her active service, the Constitution also carried French-designed 68-pounder "Paixhans" guns capable of firing explosive shells.
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