School’s finally out for most of the country (except New England, thanks to an overactive blizzard season – sorry, kids). To commemorate the occasion, we’d thought we’d give you a parting glimpse of Constitution in her own classroom days – as a school ship for the US Naval Academy in the 1860s.

Constitution has worn many hats in her lifetime – warship, receiving ship, goodwill ambassador, and for a time, even a floating museum. But in the late 1850s, with the Naval Academy running out of space, and with the surge of steam vessels phasing out sailing ships, USS Constitution (and many other square-rigged sailing vessels) were converted into floating classrooms, housing, and training areas for sailors to practice sail handling and other practical naval skills.


Constitution remained at the Academy until 1871, when she was brought to the Philadelphia Navy Yard for another restoration.

Carte-de-visite (CDV) of Constitution moored off Goat Island, Newport. USSCM photo collection [1983.1]
Constitution (center) joins Santee and Macedonian at the Naval Academy 
(relocated to Newport, RI), c.1863-1865. USSCM photo collection [1352.1]
Fearing capture by the South, the Union moved Constitution and the Academy 
north to Newport, Rhode Island, at the outbreak of war in 1861. Midshipmen from the class of 1862 stand in 
front of the Newport Tower (in what is now known as Touro Park). USSCM photo collection [450.1]
Print of an 1862 drawing by Academy Midshipman C.G. Bush, showing midshipmen studying, chatting,
 and even shaving at long tables on Constitution‘s gun deck. USSCM photo collection [123-3005]. 
Original at the Nimitz Library, US Naval Academy, Annapolis.
Midshipmen receive on-deck instruction at the Academy in this 
1861 engraving from Harper’s Weekly. USSCM photo collection [123-3001]
Sightings is the occasional photo segment of Log Lines. All photos are from the collections of the USS Constitution Museum, unless otherwise noted.

The Author(s)

USS Constitution Museum
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