Diagram of Battle between USS Constitution and HMS Java
This detailed ink and watercolor diagram of the battle between USS Constitution and HMS Java on December 29, 1812 was drawn by Charles Frederick Waldo. As USS Constitution’s assistant sailing master stationed on the main fighting top during the battle, Waldo’s bird’s eye view presented an excellent perspective from which to understand and describe the movement of the ships throughout the engagement. He was injured in battle and lost a leg, and was hospitalized in the Charlestown Navy Yard upon his return to Boston. While he never went to sea again, Waldo, who continued to produce various drawings and plans for the United States Navy, was promoted to sailing master of the Charlestown Navy Yard, and later served as commandant.
Waldo’s drawing differs from Commodore William Bainbridge’s official account of the battle where it shows Java crossing Constitution’s stern and raking the ship early on. Waldo’s diagram also names the British Lieutenant Henrie Ducie Chads at the bottom. Waldo may have copied Chads’ own diagram of the battle, or discussed it with him in sick bay, as both were injured in the battle.