Built as a heavy frigate for the burgeoning United States Navy, USS Constitution carried a hefty load of arms and armament to support her crew of 450-500 men. Much of what we know about the initial military stores ordered for the ship comes from an April 9, 1798 letter from Samuel Hodgdon, superintendent of military stores, to John Harris, keeper of military stores. The document enclosed with the letter contains an itemized list of 30 types of military stores needed for the ship, including 100 pairs of pistols, 200 cutlasses, 60 knapsacks, and 2 fifes with slings, among other weapons-related items.
Recently, the USS Constitution Museum purchased a similar list of military stores. This list has no accompanying letter and is divided into three sections: July 1, 1797, August 10, 1797, and April 9, 1798. The list of items contained in the third section is identical to the list in Hodgdon’s letter of the same date. The first two sections, dated July and August 1797, list additional military stores, including 150 muskets with bayonets and cartouche boxes, 200 hand granades, 24 tin lanterns, 3,600 round shot for 24-pounders, 100 boarding axes, and 12 blunderbusses, among other items. While the exact date of this document is uncertain, it has an undeniable link to the original letter from Hodgdon to Harris.
The USS Constitution Museum is thrilled to add this historic document to our archival collection as another example of the preparations made for USS Constitution around the time of her launch.
The Museum’s collections continue to grow thanks to the generous support of our donors. To help support our collections, consider making a donation to the Commodores Fund, which helps us aquire archival materials and artifacts related to the history of “Old Ironsides.” Contact GetInvolved@usscm.org or 617-426-1812 ext. 108 to learn more.
– K. Monea
 National Archives and Records Administration: Subject File, Naval Records Collection, RG45. Accessed via www.wardepartmentpapers.org