Autor Thema:  A most fortunate Ship - a narrative history of Old Ironside  (Gelesen 3698 mal)

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Marcus.K.

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A most fortunate Ship    


Titel:  A most fortunate Ship - a narrative history of Old Ironside
Autor:  Tyrone G. Martin
ISBN:  1-59114-513-9
Format:  A4
Sprache:  englisch
Preis ca. :  derzeit  (Mai 2007) 22,90 - mit Paperbackeinband








Beschreibung:  

Der Untertitel von T. Martin´s Buch "a narrative history of Old Ironside" sagt schon das Wesentliche. Dieses Buch ist die überarbeitete Fassung des zunächst 1980 erschienen Buches in dem die Geschichte der USS Constitution "erzählt" wird - von den ersten Ideen zur Notwendigkeit einer eigenen US-amerikanischen Flotte, über die Entwürfe des Schiffsbauers J. Humphrey, den mühsamen Stapellauf, die Erlebnisse im "Quasi-Krieg" gegen Frankreich, den "Tripolian-War" oder "Barbary-War" gegen "Piraten" (Anm. des Autors: wie würden wohl die Moslems diese Kämpfer bezeichnen?) Nordafrikas, die berühmten Gefechte im Krieg 1812 gegen Großbritannien, in denen "Old Ironside" sich ihren Spitznamen verdiente, über die Zeiten als Präsentationsobjekt hinweg - bis zum Jubiläum, dem 200ten Jahrestag ihres Stapellaufes.  

Das Buch ist keine tabellarische Sammlung von Geschichtsdaten und Zahlen. Die Historie wird in 21 Kapiteln und in gut verständlichem Englisch sehr farbig und abwechslungsreich erzählt. Dabei geht der Autor auf die "Erlebnisse" des Schiffes ein, schildert die Schicksale der daran Teilnehmenden - deren Verdienste, aber auch deren Verfehlungen, blickt auch auf "dunkle Tage" des fast Vergessens zurück und erläutert hier und da die Beschreibungen mit Gemälden, Zeichnungen, Skizzen und - für die spätere Zeit - auch mit Photos.

Da T. Martin während der letzten Restauration bis 1976 (zur 200-Jahresfeier der USA) der kommandierende Kapitän des Schiffes war und die Aufbauarbeiten mitorganisierte, hatte er ausreichend Gelegenheit sich alle verfügbaren Unterlagen bzgl. des Schiffes im Marinestützpunkt Boston (wo das Schiff vom Stapel lief und die meiste Zeit seinen Heimathafen hatte, und noch heute hat), aber auch in den Museen der Stadt und des Landes anzusehen und zu studieren. Seine Bibliographie ist unglaublich umfangreich, wobei das Logbuch des Schiffes und unendlich viele Briefe zwischen Beteiligten der Geschichte des Schiffes auffallen. T. Martin gilt als DER lebende Experte des Schiffes.

Im Vorwort beschreibt der Autor, dass er - nachdem die erste Auflage des Buches verbreitet war - von Lesern über weiter Quellen zur Geschichte des Schiffes informiert wurde, so dass er z. B. einige der Gefechte "editieren" musste, da sich die von den Kapitänen und offiziellen Stellen verbreiteten (und von Martin 1980 zunächst noch übernommenen) Versionen doch z. T. deutlich von denen der einfachen Matrosen und auch der Gegner unterschieden. So beschreibt T. Martin gerade die "glorreichen" Gefechte gegen (meist unterlegenen) britische Fregatten durchaus - und das ist für einen Amerikaner ungewöhnlich (Vorurteil, Vorurteil! :6: )- kritisch. Im einen Fall läßt er klar erkennen, dass er den Ausgang des Gefechtes für pures Glück hält (Bainbridge gegen die HMS Java), im andern Fall legt er dar, dass die beiden britischen Kontrahenten - obwohl zu zweit - gegen das übermächtige Schiff mit seiner schweren und weitreichenden Bewaffung und seiner gut trainierte Besatzung unter den gegebenen Umständen keine Chance hatten (Steward gegen die HMS Cyane und die HMS Levante).

Hier ein paar Impressionen aus dem Buch:

Eine Darstellung der Constitution VOR den berühmten Gefechten. Gemalt von Corné um 1803 ist der noch nicht durch eine Feste Reling geschützte Vorbau und die fehlenden Geschützpfortendeckel (die damals wohl zweigeteilt und herausnehmbar waren) zu erkennen. Es gilt als das erste - relativ präzise - Abbild des Schiffes.


Hier Skizzen zu den wohl genialen Querverstrebungen, die Humphrey von vornherein für die großen Fregatten vorgesehen hatte. Sie sollten das schnelle Unterwasserschiff der Franzosen mit der Hochseefestigkeit der britischen Schiffe verbinden - und gleichzeitig länger (und damit schneller) und schwerer (und damit besser bewaffnet) sein. Damit sollten sie allen Fregatten und vergleichbaren Schiffen in Bewaffung überlegen und vergleichbar seetüchtig sein. Den schweren Linienschiffen aber sollte sie vor allem durch die überlegenen Segeleigenschaften voraus sein, um entweder in bessere Schußpositionen zu kommen oder aber sicher zu entkommen. Dass die Briten nach den überraschenden Niederlagen gegen die "Connie" überaschend schnell ebenfalls Fregatten vergleichbarer Größe bauten - gerade zur Jagd auf die neue amerikanische Herausforderungen - belegt, dass die erfahrene britische Admiralität die Genialität des damals schon über 15 Jahre alten Entwurfes jetzt durchaus anerkannte.
 

Hier ein Bild des Cmd. Isaac Hull (nachdem auch das "Hull-Modell" von 1812 im Pebody-Essex-Museum benannt ist), der mit der Constitution zu Beginn des Krieges 1812 die "Great Chase" gegen ein zahlenmäßig überlegenes britisches Geschwader "gewann" und entkommen konnte - und wenig später den ersten großen Sieg über eine britische Fregatte, die HMS Guerrieres mit ihrem Kapitän James Dacres, erkämpfte. Nur wenige Monate später hätte James Dacres fast die Gelegenheit gehabt, den - für ihn einfach nur unglücklichen Kampf - erneut ausfechten zu dürfen, als er mit seinem neuen Schiff von Handelsschiffen erfahren muss, dass die USS Constitution in seiner Nähe zwischen Gibraltar und den Azoren auf Jagd ist. Zu seinem Pech trafen das amerikanische Schiff aber "nur" die Cyane und Levante. Er durfte keine Wiederauflage "seines" Kampfes erleben.

Nebenbei wird im Buch auch immer wieder das Erscheinungsbild des Schiffes beleuchtet. So ist z. B. äußerst interessant, dass Kapitän Hull während der "Great Chase" in die achterliche Reling Ausbrüche  sägen ließ (wie im Film "Master und Commander"), damit er auf dem Oberdeck zwei Kanonen auf die Verfolger ausrichten konnte. Auch in seiner Kapitänskajüte waren Umbauten notwendig, damit zwei "Long Guns" nach hinten auf den Feind schießen konnten.  Erst bei der Beseitung der Schäden des ersten großen Gefechtes wurden reguläre Stückpforten nach achtern installiert. Davor hatte man wohl mit keiner "Flucht" des Schiffes gerechnet?  :7:  


Hier eine  Darstellung des Gefechtes gegen die oben erwähnte HMS Cyane und HMS Levante. An anderer Stelle habe ich gelesen, dass die amerikanische Fregatte bei diesem Gefecht z. T. durch Nebel und Pulverdampf begünstigt war, da sie aus dem Nebel auf jedes der Schiffe in der Nachbarschaft schießen konnte, während die Briten z. T. nicht erkennen konnten, welches Schiff - Freund oder Feind? - aus dem Dunst auftauchte. Diesen Sachverhalt erwähnt Martin allerdings so nicht.  


Hier eine Skizze zu einer skurrile Anektode: nach dem Krieg 1812 wurden vom Marineministerium tatsächlich Versuche mit - bei Bedarf montierbaren - Hilfsschaufelrädern, die über die Manschaft am Spill angetrieben wurden, durchgeführt. Die Räder, die anfangs auch noch zu klein waren und nicht effektiv ins Wasser reichten, wurden später auf der nächsten Reise ins Mittelmeer auf Madeira "entsorgt".


Dieses traurige Photo zeigt den Stolz der amerikanischen Marine in der Zeit zwischen 1882 und 1888, als die Connie bis ca. 1905 als Recievingship "diente".


Hier ein Photo nach der letzten Restaurierung, die 1976 zum 200ten Jahres der Vereinigten Staaten endeten. Es sind zwei der wieder eingefügten Querverstrebungen zu sehen, der das Schiff einen Teil seiner legendären Steifigkeit und Stabilität verdankt.


Zuletzt noch ein Blick in das Quellenverzeichnis von Tyrone Martin. Es sind unglaublich viele Dokumente, deren Inhalt er über Jahre hinweg studiert haben muss.

Fazit:  

Das Buch ist eine sehr spannende und - obwohl englisch - leicht zu lesende Lektüre, die man kaum aus der Hand legen möchte. Es gibt einen sehr umfassenden Einblick in das Schicksal des Schiffes, seiner Besatzung und der damaligen Zeit. Dabei spricht Martin vielerlei Aspekte an: vom Schicksal einfacher Matrosen (deren Bestrafungen, Dessertationen, den ersten Toten durch Unfälle und Gefechte), über die Kommandanten und Offiziere, aber auch die politischen und kulturellen Strömungen und Stimmungen um das Schiff ... Wer sich für die "moderneren" Segler noch vor der Epoche des Dampfes interessiert und seinen Blick vom britisch-kontinentalen napoleonischen Konflikt etwas ablenken will, findet hier reichlich Lese- und Studierstoff.

Dem Modellbauer bieten sich hier - allerdings in loser Folge zu suchende - Beschreibungen des Schiffes durch die verschiedenen Epochen. Wer hat wann was warum umgebaut? Wenn natürlich auch nicht jeder Umbau dokumentiert ist: für viele wesentliche Charakteristika gibt es Anhaltspunkte.

Ein phantastisches Buch für den USS-Constitution-Fan!!!

 :P   :P  sehr spannend und fesselnd geschrieben
 :P   :P  sehr umfangreich und umfassend
 :P   :P  sehr gutes Preis/lLeistungsverhältnis

 :] leider nur in englisch erhältlich
 :] derzeit nur die Paperback-Ausgabe erhältlich

AnobiumPunctatum

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A most fortunate Ship - a narrative history of Old Ironside
« Antwort #1 am: 19. Mai 2007, 07:53:33 »
Hallo Marcus, ein sehr interessantes Review ;)

Gut, dass ich noch genug zu lesen habe, sonst würde ich wohl wieder ein Buch auf meine Liste setzen müssen.
:winken:  Christian

in der Werft: Medway Longboat, 1742 - 1/24; HMS Winchelsea, 1764 - 1/48
auf dem Zeichenbrett: HMS Triton, 1773

"Behandle jedes Bauteil, als ob es ein eigenes Modell ist; auf diese Weise wirst Du mehr Modelle an einem Tag als andere in ihrem Leben fertig stellen."

The Gunslinger

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A most fortunate Ship - a narrative history of Old Ironside
« Antwort #2 am: 19. Mai 2007, 10:53:41 »
Hi ,

tolle Vorstellung , da bekommt man eindeutig Lust drauf  :P , und
mit dem englisch lesen sollten hier auch nicht allzuviele Probleme haben .

Mfg Thomas :winken:
zur Zeit in Arbeit :
1:200 Trumpeter Sovremenny + WEM Ätzteilsatz
Baubericht   Stand 3.6.07

Uwek

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A most fortunate Ship - a narrative history of Old Ironside
« Antwort #3 am: 19. Mai 2007, 11:17:25 »
Hallo Marcus,

danke für deine detailierte und aussagekräftige Buchbeschreibung........
da weiß man was man bekommt fürs Geld  :baby:  

Und bei diesem Buch ausreichend........ich werde mir das Buch notieren (auf meine "Wuschliste")

Marcus.K.

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A most fortunate Ship - a narrative history of Old Ironside
« Antwort #4 am: 19. Mai 2007, 23:38:02 »
Obwohl ich weiß, dass das Folgende eigentlich nicht HIER her gehört ... ich möchte die Info doch einfach mal hier "parken" - denn der Autor ist - allem Anschein nach - der selbe T. Martin...

Ich habe bei Finescale ein Posting gefunden, in der T. Martin das Aussehen der Constitution zusammenfasst:

Zitat
...and another long essay, this by William Gilkerson and CMDR Tyrone G. Martin, USN (Ret). The former is a reknowned artist, whose depictions of Old Ironsides grace several books. The latter is a former commander of the USS Constitution, whose book "A Most Fortunate Ship" is widely regarded as a definitive history of the ship.

William Gilkerson and
Commander Tyrone G. Martin , U.S. Navy, Retired
An artist spends his days at an easel concerned with the composition of the image he is creating--its texture, colors, shapes--to achieve a visual and emotional impact. A historian spends his days largely amid quantities of aging paper, seeking to build a coherent and accurate story of a person, thing, or event of another era from the words left by those involved. Bring these two creators together, and both may face considerations they had not previously addressed. The artist must discover how to describe in words exactly what he needs from historians--not only the form, hues, and "feel" of a subject, but the setting and activity appropriate to the subject as he seeks to portray it. The historian, on the other hand, must attempt not only to explain subjects and circumstances but to describe them "visually." In the case of maritime subjects, it is particularly useful for the artist and the historian to have had some experience in the milieu, for it is an environment quite alien to most lives.

Take as an example the problem of depicting USS Constitution, now two hundred years old and the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. Launched in October of 1797, "Old Ironsides" will celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of that event by sailing the waters of Massachusetts Bay. No ship in the history of the United States Navy provides a better example of change over a span of time. The Constitution is a national icon, one that has been pictured countless times, and yet many of the images have been drawn with no concern for how the ship really looked at the moment supposedly being illustrated.

When "Old Ironsides" first sailed in July 1798, it bore ornate bow and stern decorations. which even then were becoming passé: a Greco-Roman figure of Hercules bearing a scroll representing the Constitution of the United States, together with a fasces representing union and a "battoon" (club) symbolizing willingness to defend. Curlicue-filled trailboards curved down and aft from Hercules' feet. The bowhead railings were completely open. Across the transom were draped four allegorical ladies, in addition to stars, eagle, crossed cannon, pilasters, and rope framing--and six windows illuminating the captain's cabin. There were fifteen gun ports in a yellow ocher streak, while the upper deck had bulwarks from the mainmast aft but only netting forward. There were thirty long guns on both the spar and gun decks. All three lower masts consisted of single trees.

The ship was inactive from the late summer of 1801 until the late spring of 1803, but when it returned to service for the Barbary War the fore and main masts had become "made masts," built up of many pieces with a number of iron hoops to bind them. The upper bow head railings were now enclosed by canvas screens. The spar deck gun battery had been reduced to just fourteen guns, all carried on the quarterdeck. In February 1804 Commodore Edward Preble caused bulwarks to be raised from the main mast forward to the after end of the fore chains; behind these were emplaced six of the original quarterdeck 12-pounders, three on a side, their former locations being taken by 24-pounders borrowed from the Kingdom of Two Sicilies.

In September of 1804, the frigate collided with USS President in fluky winds; lost were Hercules, fasces, battoon, and some trailboard. All were replaced the following month at Malta by a plain billethead and equally plain trailboards. The interior of the bulwarks and the gun carriages are known to have been painted in yellow ocher at this time. Also, during October and November the six borrowed long guns were returned, and eight 32-pounder carronades were received from the United States and placed on the spar deck. From then until the ship became inactive again in 1807, there were no noteworthy changes in her appearance.

Returning to service in February 1809 under the command of Commodore John Rodgers, the ship appeared with skypoles for the first time, a bulwark enclosing the forecastle, and possibly the double dolphin striker that was the frigate's hallmark during the War of 1812. Where Preble had installed a midships bulwark there were now hammock nettings of the same height as the bulwarks, supported by crane irons. The plain billethead was replaced with one bearing a little decoration, and the trailboards with new ones featuring a fire-breathing dragon. Repairs to the transom eliminated the ladies but otherwise seem to have left the decor unchanged. The frigate now also had all-new gun batteries, with longer 24-pounders on the gun deck and all 32-pounder carronades above.

In June 1810 Isaac Hull succeeded Rodgers in command. That September, he painted the interior bulwarks, as well as hatch coamings and other trim, green. At the same time he had his carpenters cut additional air ports at the berth deck level, extending the line of ports that previously had supplied only the officers' cabins aft. In late December, a new galley smokestack was made. April 1811 found the ship with a white gun streak for the first time. During May and June 1812, Hull had the ship, then at the Washington Navy Yard, fitted with a trysail mast abaft the mizzen for better operation of the spanker. He also took aboard a single 18-pounder long gun on the forecastle, as a chase gun. In mid-July, under pursuit by a British squadron off New Jersey, Hull cut away part of the upper transom in order to run out two guns aft; when the damage was repaired, some transom decorations, such as the crossed cannons of 1797, were not replaced.

William Bainbridge relieved Hull in September 1812. He landed the 18-pounder that Hull had placed on the forecastle and also cut bridle ports in either bow, in effect making the ship seem to have sixteen guns on each side of the gun deck. By the time Bainbridge went to sea in October, he had painted the gun streak yellow again, hoping to be able to deceive observers into thinking his frigate was British.

Charles Stewart was Constitution's third wartime commander. The only obvious visual change he made was to land four of the spar deck carronades and replace them with two 24-pounder Congreve "shifting gunades." One of them was arranged to be able to fire either to port or starboard through the forwardmost ports of the forecastle; the other fired to either side through the aftermost ports of the quarterdeck. He, too, painted the gun streak yellow as a deceptive measure.

"Old Ironsides"--for thus the frigate was known after August 1812--was in reserve from 1816 until early 1821. When the ship reappeared, wooden planking completely enclosed her bowhead rails, the white gun streak extended all the way around the cutwater, and the carvings on the cutwater were no longer highlighted. In place of skypoles, each of the masts bore sliding gunters. The gun batteries were essentially unchanged, although some of the 1808 24-pounders carried through the late war had been replaced with slightly different 1816 models. Briefly in April 1821, as an experiment, Constitution was fitted with "strap-on," man-powered paddle wheels, which protruded from the number-six gun ports. Although Commodore Jacob Jones, now in command, carried the contraptions to the Mediterranean for further testing, he never used them. In May 1822, conventional skypoles were set up in place of the sliding gunters.

Commodore Thomas Macdonough commanded the ship in 1824 and 1825. Prior to leaving the United States in October of the former year, he had spencer gaffs installed on the fore and main masts; with these additional fore-and-aft sails, it was possible to handle the frigate more like a schooner. The spencers remained a part of the ship's "look" until removed in 1906. It may have been in Macdonough's time also that the ship reverted to a single dolphin striker. In any event, it was present when the frigate went to sea in 1835.

In the meanwhile, however, the frigate was very much in the public mind. Responding to a report that the Secretary of the Navy, John Branch, had inquired about the ship's condition, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (then twenty-one years old), had written the poem "Old Ironsides." Published in the Boston Advertiser on 16 September 1830, "Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!" and the lines that followed were widely reprinted in the newspapers of the day, and the ensuing clamor ensured that the Navy would rehabilitate the ship.

The advent of Commodore Jesse Duncan Elliott in command of the Boston Navy Yard as Constitution was about to enter dry dock there presaged perhaps the most controversial alteration to the ship's appearance. An ardent admirer of President Andrew Jackson, in 1834 Elliott had a poorly executed figurehead of his hero emplaced on the fabled frigate. Public outcry was followed by the surreptitious beheading of the offending carving by a local merchant skipper. The missing head later was replaced, in New York, and the Jackson figure remained aboard until 1848--its awkward position on the cutwater giving the ship a "broken nose" appearance. Additionally, Elliott is rumored to have placed bas-relief busts of Hull, Bainbridge, and Stewart across the upper transom, but this cannot be confirmed.

From 1839 to 1841, Constitution was flagship of the Pacific Squadron, based at Callao, Peru. During this period, Commodore Alexander Claxton occupied a poop cabin, or "roadhouse," which took up the entire area of the spar deck abaft the mizzen mast. The three ports on either side were glazed, and three more glazed ports were installed in the upper transom. The cabin was removed when the ship returned to the United States, and carronades were reinstalled on either quarter. The transom "windows," glazing removed, remained.

In 1843, four of the 24-pounder long guns were landed and replaced by a like number of 8-inch Paixhans shell-firing guns. These probably occupied ports number six and seven on either side of the gun deck.

From September 1844 until May 1845, during a circumnavigation under the command of Captain John ("Mad Jack") Percival, the ship was painted white with a red gun streak while sailing below the Equator. The hammock cloths, however, remained black (and got so hot in the Indian Ocean that eggs could be cooked on them).

When the ship returned to the Mediterranean in 1848, her bow head sported a more heroic rendering of "Old Hickory," a new full-length figurehead in the Greco-Roman style, installed with a rake that resulted in a more pleasing profile. The trailboards were decorated with leafy vines and what appears to have been a Tudor rose centered on each side. In the same area, chain gammoning, bolted in place, replaced the hemp windings that had gone through a slot in the cutwater until then. The multi-tiered main fife rail on the spar deck, in the shape of a shallow U, was replaced by a single-level model like the Greek letter pi, its two legs straddling the mast. A similar one around the mizzen replaced the spider rail formerly installed. As a result of an 1845 policy change, the ship carried only 32-pounder long guns, of two different lengths and weights--how many is not known for certain.

For the Constitution's 1852-1855 tour as flagship of the African Squadron, the ship again had a poop cabin. Following this cruise and a period of layup, the frigate was taken in hand to be fitted as the second school ship to be assigned to the Naval Academy. The poop cabin was converted to recitation rooms; later, a house was built over the main hatch, providing additional classrooms. Eight or ten 32-pounder long guns were retained on the quarterdeck for midshipman training. The hammock stowage areas in the waist and atop the bulwarks were enclosed in light planking in place of nettings. Below the gun deck ports were installed windows, as the entire area was given over to study rooms for the fourth-class midshipmen. The ship served in this capacity from 1860 until 1871, first in Annapolis, then Newport, Rhode Island, where the Academy relocated during the Civil War, and then in Annapolis once again.

A major restoration occurred during 1873-1876, in which the ship was stripped to its frames and rebuilt. The bow again received a billethead, and the trailboards appeared with an oval U.S. shield in place of the rose (as can be seen today). The transom was rebuilt with three ports at the spar deck level and three windows down below, and the decor was simplified to an eagle crest with three stars on either side and some "rope" trim (again, as can be seen today). This program also installed four iron boat davits, which were new to the ship, on the port and starboard quarters. When the Constitution resumed service in 1877, it was as a unit of the apprentice training squadron, the frigate continuing in that role until the end of 1881, when she was retired to an uncertain future.

In 1882, the ship was towed from New York to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and there became the resident "receiving ship," i.e., barracks for transients and crews whose vessels were undergoing repair. All the yards were landed, and a large "barn" was built over the spar deck. (The spencer and spanker gaffs remained in place, just above the roofline.) At some point during the following decade and a half, deal planking was added over most of the hull to prolong the life of the decaying wood.

Political action returned Constitution to Boston in 1897, just in time for the ship's centennial. After nearly another decade of sporadic civic action, the vessel was taken in hand to have the barn removed and overall appearance largely restored to that of the War of 1812--except that the bowhead area remained fully enclosed, the mid-nineteenth-century fife rails remained, and only standing rigging, by and large, was installed. Another detail from the glory years that was returned was the double dolphin striker. Unfortunately, no work was done to replace decaying wood in the hull (cement was used to fill rotten spots!), and the ship continued a slide toward oblivion.

A series of events in the mid-1920s resulted in a four-year restoration program (1927-31). The effort restored the ship materially to good health, but it represented a setback in terms of authenticity of appearance. During a grand tour (under tow) of the United States from 1931 to 1934, with two transits of the Panama Canal, the frigate generally reflected the appearance of 1855, except that the decorations at the bow and stern were those of 1876. Also, what had earlier been planked hammock stowage was misinterpreted as solid bulwark, both in the waist and atop the bulwarks proper, so that, except in the waist, most of the 4.6 million visitors could not see out of the ship unless they stood on something.

This appearance was maintained until Christmas Eve 1975, when the Chief of Naval Operations approved a program proposed by the Constitution's commanding officer*to restore the frigate gradually to the appearance of 1812, on the basis of painstaking research in original documents. As a result of this decision, the bowhead area has been opened up, a galley smokestack of the proper pattern has been installed, and many internal changes have been made. In keeping with the policy that historical changes will occur when decaying materials require attention, at some point in the future the waist will open up, the bulwarks will resume a lower height, trailboards will again display fire-breathing dragons, and the transom will present the more ornate decor of an earlier day.

It is plain to see that the artist who intends to paint an historically accurate picture of Constitution had best have his history well in hand. Each overhaul changed her appearance, and then again there were innumerable changes between the changes, not only to the ship, but to her crews, their uniforms, their gear, the ports of call. The "little things" matter, both to specialists and seamen. (Consider the former World War II captain who recognized his destroyer escort in a photograph: "You can tell by that radar--we got it in 1944 and were the only ship in our class to get that kind of unit.") Although a ship could have been studied in great detail, the research may have covered only one short interval in that ship's career; the next week she could have been different.

Such research informed the painting of Constitution (on the front and back cover of this issue) patrolling against slavers off Africa in 1853. On 3 November, cruising off the coast of Angola between Luanda and Cabinda, Constitution made the last capture of her career, as tersely recorded in the ship's log: "Saw Sail at daylight--0740 fired 1 gun, hoisted British Colors--0900 fired another gun--slaver H.N. Gambrill boarded--prisoners taken." The journal of the captain's clerk is a bit less sparse: "Chased and brought to the American schooner H.N. Gambrill, which, when evidence of slaving was found, was made prize under Lieutenant DeCamp and sent to the U.S. . . . She apparently had been about to load slaves for delivery in Cuba and/or the Bahamas."

Constitution had seen a suspicious American schooner, hoisted a red ensign in order to approach without alarming it (since the War of 1812, the Royal Navy had avoided boarding American ships), then ran up the Stars and Stripes and fired a gun--the moment depicted in the picture. There was a short chase, with the fast fore-and-aft-rigged slaver most likely making an effort to escape by tacking upwind before finally rounding-to under the formidable threat of the big frigate's broadside. (It is ironic that the last capture of "Old Ironsides" was an American vessel.)

This action was posed in a rough drawing showing Constitution on a bowline, close-hauled and approaching to leeward as the slaver, realizing the situation, makes a desperate plunge to windward. The light is mid-morning. As to the local topography, there was welcome help from photos in an old National Geographic. The semi-arid coast tends northwest, and as the charts and sailing directions for the area report, the prevailing autumn winds are southerly. There being no information on the slaver H.N. GAMBRILL, the ship's stern is depicted as that of a generic American fast schooner of the time. The portrait of the Constitution, however, wanted more consideration, and fortunately, of course, there exist many sources regarding her changing appearance. †

Unless an artist wants to paint a fiction, all of those "little things" and more-- sea state, wind direction, cloud formation, and sun angle are only a few--have to be known in considerable depth, along with the infinite technical complexities of a ship that has been seen by no one now alive, when one attempts to portray that ship at a precise moment of her history. Is perfect fidelity achievable? Probably not. Yet the availability of more or less well organized materials, the opportunity to consult archives and vast amounts of stored information and artifacts, and the relative ease of travel and the convenience of instantaneous communication make the prospects for accuracy of today's artist far more encouraging than they were in any earlier era.