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Commander Charles Stewart

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Charles Stewart was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 28, 1778. He entered the merchant service at the age of 13 and became a master before joining the United States Navy in 1798 as a lieutenant. After serving in the Quasi-War and the Barbary Wars, Stewart was eventually promoted captain in 1806. When the War of 1812 began, he commanded USS Congress and then USS Constellation. In June 1813, he was ordered to Boston and became the third War of 1812 commanding officer for USS Constitution.

Stewart and his crew were anxious to get into the action as peace negotiations between the United States and Great Britain were underway. The two nations signed the Treaty of Ghent on February 17, 1815, officially putting an end to the War of 1812, but word had not yet reached Constitution at sea. On February 20, 1815, the ship spied two British ships, HMS Levant and HMS Cyane. A battle commenced as the ships closed on one another, and Constitution readily defeated the two smaller vessels in what became her final engagement in active combat.

Stewart was awarded a Congressional gold medal for his victory and was lauded by the American public for his naval success. Following the war, he commanded several other vessels and served as commissioner of the Navy. By 1852, he was the service’s senior officer and was officially ranked as senior flag officer in 1859. With the implementation of a new ranking system in 1862, Stewart was made the senior rear admiral on the retired list, and served as a consultant to President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. Stewart died on November 6, 1869 in Philadelphia, having served for more than 71 years in the United States Navy.

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