Using two cranes, USS Constitution‘s mizzen fighting top was carefully removed from the lower mizzen mast on the morning of June 18, 2015. The top will be refurbished during the restoration and reinstalled at a later date.
In the photo below, a man-bucket holding three Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston workers hangs from the crane in the background. The crane in the foreground is lifting the fighting top. The smaller (brown) snow mast can be seen just aft of the lower (white) mizzen mast. Constitution‘s spanker, one of her largest fore and aft sails, would normally be set between a boom and a gaff from the snow mast.
The staff in the man-bucket swing away from the fighting top as it is lifted off of the mizzen mast bibbs (the bracket-like structures at the top of the mast). To secure the mast, there are four temporary steel cable stays that are lashed around the lower mizzen mast, just below the bibbs. These stays have taken the place of the lower shrouds and will support the mast for the duration of the restoration.
Constitution‘s mizzen fighting top, the smallest of the three, weighs 5,200 pounds and is 11 feet 4 inches deep and 15 feet 9 inches wide. During battle, approximately 8 Marines and sailors would be stationed on the mizzen fighting top. The Marines were the sharp shooters firing down upon the enemy’s deck, and the sailors would have affected repairs to the rigging. This is portrayed in the 1813 painting below by George Ropes Jr., depicting the battle between USS Constitution and HMS Guerriere.
After being swung away from Constitution, the fighting top is guided to the pier below by NHHC Detachment Boston staff on the ground.
Margherita M. Desy
Historian, Naval History & Heritage Command
Margherita M. Desy is the Historian for USS Constitution at Naval History and Heritage Command Detachment Boston.
Manager of Curatorial Affairs, USS Constitution Museum
Kate Monea is the Manager of Curatorial Affairs at the USS Constitution Museum.