What is this?
A Narrative of the Cruises of the U.S. Frigate Constitution by Thomas C. Byron
When is it from?
Why is it Important?
Though composed in 1861, this manuscript is a narrative written by Thomas C. Byron about USS Constitution‘s five War of 1812 cruises. Byron served as a marine fifer aboard the ship, and his station on the quarter deck enabled him to “see and hear all that was said or done on board during the whole war.”
At the conclusion of the narrative, Byron offers some corrections of “things stated in the naval history concerning the proceedings of the chasings and maneuvering of the British Squadron.” Byron provides further details of the battles against HMS Guerriere and Java, pointing out where the historical accounts erred and giving the correct information as he witnessed it, and includes some brief political commentaries and observations about the war. Perhaps most important is his insight into the feelings of the crew, many of whom had been impressed at one point into the Royal Navy.
Several pages at the end feature primitive pencil illustrations of USS Constitution during her five War of 1812 cruises, including her engagements with HMS Guerriere, Java, Levant, and Cyane. Sketches of 20-, 36-, 44-, and 50-gun ships are frequently seen on the pages, as well as Constitution carrying out various activities, such as landing prisoners and taking in water.
A manuscript written on Berge paper, measuring 14.5″ high and 10.5″ and wide bound by string with tape repairs; some of the pages are loose, with most sheets ruled into two columns. The pages have tears, folds, and staining, and some are reinforced with pieces of thicker paper glued to the back.
Learn more (download):
Click the links below to view a digitized copy of Byron’s narrative.