Letter from Paul Hamilton to Isaac Hull, July 27, 1810
In 1810, with several years since her last overhaul, USS Constitution’s bottom had developed a coating of marine growth that slowed her sailing performance. The ship’s copper sheathing on her lower hull prevented shipworms from destroying the wooden hull planks, but it did not completely stop marine growth from fouling and slowing the ship.
Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton, disappointed with the ship’s sluggish sailing, wrote to Captain Isaac Hull on July 27, 1810 with instructions to sail up the Delaware River where the fresh water would kill the salt water marine growth. “I am much chagrined at the bad sailing of the Constitution,” wrote Hamilton, “and wish you could remedy it by some means or other.” Hull had assumed command of the frigate in June and was eager to return her to full working order. Constitution departed Norfolk on August 4 and started up the Delaware River, where the fresh water succeeded in killing most of the saltwater marine growth that fouled the ship’s bottom. The rest was scrubbed from the hull until Constitution was once again ready for ocean sailing.