Explaining “Old Ironsides”

So I got a message (cool thing about facebook mobile is that it sends me SMSes when you poke or message me) asking whether the Constitution really was a wooden ship or made of iron, or whatever.

The progression of sailing ships roughly goes:

* Ye olde wooden ships.
* Ye olde wooden ships+re-enforced hulls.
* Ye olde wooden ships+iron cladding.
* Iron ships.
* Huge kill-them-all superships.

(the latter not being a sailing ship any more – modern ships don’t sail, they break down unstable Uranium into even more unstable by-products – and incidentally, if you follow international Uranium pricing, you’ll see it’s at three times what it was not long ago. Building reactors is getting much more expensive now there’s competition on the global market from the “new boys” who just joined the “nuclear club” and who want a piece of the action…but I digress…it’s 5am…who cares).

The Constitution was entirely made of wood, plus a copper plating on her hull below the waterline for protection from rotting over time. She was not what we call an “ironclad” – a wooden ship with additional iron plating of the kind that was added to later ships pre-building them all out of flimsy metal. The ironclads pretty much obsoleted wooden ships over night – read your US sailing history between 1812 and the Civil War for the complete rundown on how changes such as this fundamentally affected the advantage in battle between the US and itself.

USS Constitution came to be known as “Old Ironsides” because of the type of white oak that was used in her construction. It was so frigging strong that nobody could bust open her sides with conventional weapons of the era, despite many attempts by the British (and by the others with whom she engaged…and never lost). So they called her “Old Ironsides” because it was as if she was made of Iron. I had a conversation about that with the crew too, and ended up digressing into US Navel history of the Merrimack and Monitor, and getting into one of those “whoah…he knows a thing or two about US history” situations. It’s just a damned shame more people around here don’t take an interest, but I won’t get started on that.

So there you go. This has been a random history lesson. I don’t give a rats ass about British history, but you’ll find I care deeply about American history and the founding of the United States :-)


One Response to “Explaining “Old Ironsides””

  1. Thom S says:

    American history! pah! We spit on your 10/20 years of history :P

    Viva la Britain!

Leave a Reply