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USS CONSTELLATION (1797)

USS Constellation was a 38-gun frigate, one of the "Six Original Frigates" authorized for construction by the Naval Act of 1794.  She was distinguished as the first U.S. Navy vessel to put to sea and the first U.S. Navy vessel to engage and defeat an enemy vessel. Constructed in 1797, she was modified several times in succeeding decades, and finally rebuilt beginning in 1853 as the sloop-of-war USS Constellation (1854).

After realizing that the USS United States' failure, Joshua Humphreys' design was long on keel and narrow of beam (width) to allow the mounting of very heavy guns.  The design incorporated a diagonal scantling (rib) scheme to limit hogging and included extremely heavy planking.  This gave the hull greater strength than conventional frigates. Humphreys developed his design after realizing that the fledgling United States could not match for size the navies of the European states.  He therefore designed his frigates to be able to overpower other frigates, but with the speed to escape from a "ship of the line" (equivalent to a modern-day "battleship").

Constellation vs. L'Insurgente:

On 9 February 1799, under the command of Captain Thomas Truxtun, Constellation fought and captured the frigate L'Insurgente of 36 guns, the fastest ship in the French Navy. L'Insurgente had recently captured Retaliation, a schooner, in November 1798 and three weeks previous had been chased by the USS Constitution and had escaped. L’Insurgente's job was that of commerce raiding; she wanted nothing to do with another warship and tried to flee Constellation.  Within an hour of hauling in chase Truxtun was close enough to make private signals to identify if the ship he was pursuing was British or not.  With no answer, he proceeded to chase L'Insurgente down, clearing for action and beating to quarters.  Constellation crowded on all sail despite a rising squall that threatened to tear a sail or throw a spar.

Reefing sail just long enough to weather the short squall, Constellation hardly paused but the same was not to be for L'Insurgente as her topmast snapped and slowed her to the onrushing Constellation.  Captain Barreaut ordered L'Insurgente to lay up and prepared to fight.  L'Insurgente raised the French Tricolor and Captain Barreaut tried to ask for parley. Captain Truxtun refused to answer as his orders were to attack any French warship or privateer.   American warships of this period fired for the hull as did the British and each of the 24 pounders had been double shotted. L'Insurgente fired at the Constellation's masts and rigging.  Constellation's masts were saved when her sail was reduced taking pressure off the damaged mast.  L'Insurgente was devastated by Constellation's first broadside. L'Insurgente tried to board but this allowed Constellation to shoot ahead and crossed her bows for a bow rake with another broadside.  Constellation crossed to windward and L'Insurgente turned to follow with both crews now exchanging port broadsides instead of starboard.  One of Constellation's 24 pounders smashed through the hull of L'Insurgente.  L'Insurgente's 12 pounders were not equal to the same task against Constellation's hull. Captain Barreaut had been shown one of Constellation's 24 pound cannonballs and understood that he was in a completely unequal contest with sails down and nothing comparable to reply with many already dead and wounded. He struck colors— thus comes the first major victory by an American-designed and -built warship.
 

Constellation vs. La Vengeance:

During the night on February 1st, Constellation encountered the French much more powerful frigate La Vengeance that had 52 guns.  La Vengeance attempted to run and had to be chased down.  An hour after sunset Constellation came into hailing range and when La Vengeance was ordered to stand to and surrender, she answered with a broadside. After an hour Constellation's foresails failed and had to be repaired; she then overtook La Vengeance and a running battle exchanging broadsides continued.  Twice the ships came close enough that boarders were called for on both ships, the second occasion was quite bloody as US Marines in the Constellation shot up the deck of La Vengeance leaving her deck covered in bodies of the dead and wounded.  After a five-hour battle, although Vengeance twice struck her colors and was close to sinking, she was able slip into the darkness to escape from Constellation which, disabled by the loss of her mainmast, proved unable to pursue. La Vengeance was so holed in the hull and her rigging so cut up that she grounded outside the port of Curaçao rather than attempt to sail into port for fear of sinking.  The French commander was so humiliated he later boasted that the American ship he had fought was a much larger and more powerful ship of the line (The US never had a ship of the line!)  After the encounter, the Constellation's speed and power inspired the French to nickname her the "Yankee Racehorse."

USS Constellation also served in the two Barbary wars and the 1982 war with Great Britain.

In 1853, Constellation was struck and broken up for scrap at the Gosport Navy Yard in Portsmouth Virginia. At the same time, the keel was laid for what became known as the sloop of war USS Constellation (1854). By the 20th century, the 1854 version was widely believed (including by the U.S. Navy) to be the 1797 version.  In the latter half of the 20th century, the city of Baltimore continued to promote the ship as the original, but some naval historians understood the ship to be an 1854 sloop-of-war rebuild of the original frigate, using a number of original parts.  Commemorative copper coins were struck from parts of the USS Constellation, and have become collector's items.

 

 


Like all of our tall ship models, this USS Constellation model features:

- Copper-plated bottom: individual copper pieces.  This feature takes countless hrs to make and has became one of ModelShipMaster's signatures. 
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Superior hollow hull construction (very important)
- Scratch-built
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95% wooden or metal
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Blackened metal cannons and wooden carriage.  All of the gun under the deck are "real" guns which are comprised of metal barrels and wooden carriages.  
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Realistic old-looking thin sails
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Full length bowsprit

   36" long x 27" tall  x 13" wide   $2,800      

Shipping and handling cost: for shipment in the USA: $220, Canada and Hawaii $390, Europe, Middle East and Africa $450, Australia and East Asia $590.  Will be added automatically during the checkout process.  Model will arrive in about seven days.  Express 2-day service in the USA is also available during the checkout process.

To add 110v light feature to the models:  $200  
 

For a deposit of $200, we can complete one more in about 3 months