What is this?
Printed on both sides of a broadsheet, this fourteen-stanza poem tells the story of USS Constitution‘s victory over HMS Guerriere on August 19, 1812, during the War of 1812. Its text appears in two columns and a woodcut of a ship, apparently a stock illus
When is it from?
It was probably printed in 1812.
Why is it Important?
The poem commemorates one of the most famous engagements in American naval history. On August 19, 1812,Constitution met and defeated in a short battle HMS Guerriere, a 38-gun frigate under the command of Captain James Richard Dacres. While relatively inconsequential in strategic terms, the stunning victory provided a much needed morale boost for the American public, still reeling from the loss of Detroit and other failures along the northern border. Constitution‘s success also burnished the reputation not just of her officers, but of the navy as a whole, proving that the fledgling force was every bit as professional and competent as Britain’s mighty Royal Navy.
The poem’s title is a nod to Connecticut native Isaac Hull, commander of Constitution during the fight with Guerriere. Hull was born in 1794 to Revolutionary War officer Joseph Hull. He went to sea at an early age and in 1798 accepted a commission as a lieutenant in the US Navy. Hull served with distinction and rose through the ranks before becoming captain of Constitution in 1810. The defeat of Guerriere represented the highpoint of a military career during which Hull demonstrated himself to be a skilled naval officer. He continued on in the Navy until his retirement in 1841 and for a time held command of the Boston Navy Yard. Hull died two years later.
It is no wonder then that the poet chose this famous fight as the subject of the work. The poem represents not just a commercial or literary endeavor, but a statement of patriotic pride.
19″ by 15″ broadside on hand-laid paper. It has been professionally conserved and many tears and paper losses were repaired.
Learn more (download): Poetry Archives