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Gunner George Sirian

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George Ipsara Sirian was born in 1818 on the Aegean island of Psara, Greece. He was orphaned in 1824 during the Greek War for Independence when his mother placed him in a boat to escape a massacre in his homeland. He was rescued, but little is known about his life until he joined USS Constitution’s crew in May 1827.

Sirian served aboard Constitution, first with the rank of boy and then ordinary seaman, until the ship reached Boston Harbor on July 4, 1828. While on Constitution, Sirian was aided by Lieutenant Robert Randolph, who took the young refugee under his wing and sponsored is education. Randolph also commissioned a portrait of the boy by the prominent New York artist C. C. Ingham.

Sirian later was taken by Randolph to Gunner George Marshall, a native of the Greek island of Rhodes who, in 1822, wrote the first practical military gunnery manual for the U.S. Navy. Marshall instructed Sirian in naval gunnery.

On April 20, 1837, Sirian was appointed as gunner at Gosport, Virginia. During his ensuing naval career, he served in 37 successive tours on 20 different ships and seven shore stations, including on USS Constitution’s World Cruise, as a gunnery instructor at the Naval Academy during the American Civil War, and in the Asiatic Station in Japan and Hong Kong. Sirian is the only sailor to serve on Constitution on three separate tours of duty.

Sirian married George Marshall’s daughter, Eleanor Marshall, in 1840. Of the couple’s seven children, four survived to adulthood. His oldest surviving son, Constantine Ambrose Sirian, became a U.S. Navy chief. One of Constantine’s two sons, also named George Sirian, worked as a machinist’s mate in the Norfolk Navy Yard in the early 20th century.

Sirian retired in 1880 after one of the longest active duty service careers in U.S. Naval history. He died in Portsmouth, Virginia, on December 21, 1891. Sirian received a posthumous induction into the Surface Navy Hall of Fame in 2007. The George Sirian Meritorious Service Award is given annually aboard USS Constitution to an outstanding Chief Petty Officer selected from the worldwide fleet.

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