USS Constellation Museum (Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.)

USS Constellation with Museum Gallery at left

After our visit to the World War II vintage cutter USCGC Taney, Jandy, Kyle and I walked some distance, from Pier 1, to get to Pier 5 where the museum ship USS Constellation, a sloop-of-war/corvette is berthed, the last of two ships we were to visit using our Squadron Pass. This would our first time to go aboard and explore a three-masted sailing ship.

The author with the USS Constellation in the background

Now a part of Historic Ships in Baltimore, Constellation and her companions are major contributing elements in the Baltimore National Heritage Area.

Check out “The Historic Ships of Baltimore

Exhibit at Museum Gallery

Here are some interesting trivia regarding the Constellation:

  • It had a length of 60.96 m. (200 ft.), a beam width of 13.11 m. (43 ft.), a draft of 6.4 m. (21 ft.), displaced 1,400 lbs. and had a typical operating crew of 285 including a Marine detachment of 45.
  • She was built using some recycled materials salvaged from the old, 38-gun frigate USS Constellation (launched in 1797), which had been disassembled the year before at Gosport Navy Yard in Norfolk, Virginia. She is the second U.S. Navy ship to carry this famous name.
  • In 1955, when the sloop-of-war was brought to Baltimore as a museum ship, it was under the mistaken belief that it was its predecessor, the 1797 frigate Constellation. Over the next four decades, the 1854 ship was “restored” to look like the older ship. In the early 1990s, a US Navy research team, led by Dana Wegner, conclusively proved the ship’s true identity.
  • Despite being a single-gun deck “sloop,” she was actually larger than her original frigate built, and more powerfully armed, with fewer (22) but much more potent shell-firing guns.  On commissioning, she had 16 x VIII-inch shell guns, 4 x 32-pounder guns and 2 x X-inch pivot mounted shell guns. During the American Civil War, she was equipped with 16 x VIII-inch shell Dahlgren guns (primary), 4 x 32-pounder guns (secondary), 1 x 30-pounder pivot mounted Parrott Rifle (bow) and 1 x 20-pounder pivot mounted Parrott Rifle (stern). She also had 3 x 12-pounder bronze howitzers for close-in fighting.
  • Her sail rigging, typical of the time, was set across 3 primary masts.
  • She had a surface speed of 21 knots (14 mph).
  • She is the last existing intact naval vessel, still afloat, from the American Civil War.
  • She was one of the last wind-powered (sail-only) warships built by the United States Navy.
  • She has been assigned the hull classification symbol IX-20.
  • About one-half of the lines used to rig the vessel are present (amounting to several miles of rope and cordage).

Here is the historical timeline of this ship:

  • Designed by John Lenthall, she was constructed at the Norfolk Navy Yard
  • Launched on August 26, 1854 and commissioned on July 28, 1855, with Captain Charles H. Bell in command, the Constellation  performed largely diplomatic duties, from 1855 to 1858, as part of the S. Mediterranean Squadron.
  • On July 1856, while on station, Constellation was dispatched to protect American lives and property at Malaga, Spain, during a revolution in that country.
  • That same year, while cruising in the Sea of Marmora, she rescued a barque in distress, receiving, from the court of the Austrian emperor, an official message in appreciation.
  • From 1859 to 1861, she was the flagship of the 8-ship Africa Squadron, taking part in African Slave Trade Patrol operations to disrupt the Atlantic slave trade. The ship interdicted three slave ships and released the imprisoned Africans.
  • On December 21, 1859, the Constellation captured the  Delicia, a brig fitted out as a slave ship (but with no slaves on board) which was without colors or papers to show her nationality.
  • On September 26, 1860, she captured the Cora, a “fast little bark” with 705 slaves who were set free in Monrovia, Liberia.
  • On May 21, 1861, in African coastal waters, the Constellation overpowered the Charleston-registered Triton, a slaver brig, one of the U.S. Navy’s first captures during the American Civil War.
  • During the Civil War, she spent much of the war in the Mediterranean Sea as a deterrent to Confederate cruisers and commerce raiders.
  • After the Civil War, Constellation spent a number of years as a receiving ship (floating naval barracks) in Norfolk, and later in Philadelphia, until 1869.
  • From March to July 1878, she carried exhibits to the 1878 Exposition Universelle in Paris
  • From March to June 1880, during the 1879 Irish famine, she carried 2,500 barrels of flour and potatoes for famine victims in Ireland.
  • In 1894, after being used as a practice ship for Naval Academy midshipmen, the Constellation became a training ship for Naval Training Center Newport.
  • During World War I, she helped train more than 60,000 recruits.
  • Decommissioned in 1933, the Constellation was recommissioned in 1940, by President Franklin Roosevelt, as a national symbol.
  • During World War II, she remained in Newport, spending much her time as relief (i.e. reserve) flagship for the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. From May 21, 1941, the Constellation was the relief flagship for Ernest J. King and, later, from January 19 to July 20, 1942 and from 1943 to 1944, for his replacement Vice Admiral Royal E. Ingersoll.
  • In October 1946, the Constellation was moved to Boston, where she was kept, together with the venerable USS Constitution, as a naval relic. She remained in commission until 1954.
  • Decommissioned, for the last time, on February 2, 1955, she was moved to Baltimore and taken to her permanent berth.
  • On May 23, 1963, the Constellation was designated as a National Historic Landmark.
  • On October 15, 1966, she was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • In 1994, the Constellation was condemned as an unsafe vessel. Her rigging was removed an she was closed to the public.
  • In 1996, she was towed to a drydock at Sparrows Point, near Fort McHenry, and a US$9 million rebuilding and restoration project was undertaken and completed on July 2, 1999. In an attempt to safeguard the wood planking, the hull from the waterline to the keel was covered in a fiberglass coating and painted an aqua-blue.
  • On October 26, 2004, Constellation made her first trip, since 1955, out of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Lasting six days, the trip to the S. Naval Academy in Annapolis  marked her first trip to Annapolis in 111 years.
  • In late 2012, it was determined the wood hull behind the fiberglass sheathing, installed during the 1996–98 rebuilding, contained significant rotting.
  • From 2014 to 2015, over a 6-month period, the ship was again put in dry dock and rebuilt with fresh (and chemically treated to resist rotting) wood planking.
  • In late March 2015, the rebuilt ship was returned to her Inner Harbor berth and her rigging was completed
  • By May 2015, she was again opened to the public.

Top or spar deck

20 pounder, pivot-mounted Parrott Rifle at the stern

To get aboard, we had to enter the two-storey Museum Gallery Building (where USS Constellation’s history is portrayed through artifacts and personal effects which belonged to the ship’s crew), climb the stairs to the second floor and cross a gangplank to the ship.

Kyle at the gun deck

Jandy beside a VIII-inch Dahlgren gun

Nearly all of the ship was accessible during our tour. We went down to all 4 wooden decks, each one different, and there were plenty of things to see on each.

Ship’s Stove

Galley Provisions

Compared to the USCGC Taney, the Constellation’s stairs leading to the lower decks , though still steep and narrow, were still much easier to go up and down.

Check out “USCGC Taney

Bilge and Fire Pump

Arms Chest

There are plenty of signs and visual aids to explain everything.The male guide, dressed in uniform of the period, was very knowledgeable on the ship’s history.

Captain’s Office

 

Captain’s Stateroom

The top or spar deck, the highest of the continuous decks running the full length (stem to the stern) of a ship, was where all sailing operations took place.  The ship’s wheel, binnaclefife rails, and so forth, are also mounted here. The ship’s sails here were large and quite impressive.

Dining Table

Officers Quarters

The next deck down is the gun deck where the ship’s main battery of VIII-inch Dahlgren guns, the Captain’s Cabin, the Officers Quarters and the Galley are located. The ship’s officers (Executive Officer; Master; Marine Lieutenant; Second, Third, Fourth & Fifth Lieutenants; Chaplain, Paymaster; Surgeon) each had individual living quarters with beds.

Executive Officer’s Quarters

Master’s Quarters

The captain, on the other hand, had a large spacious area to himself, complete with dining table, bath, study, and the only private, old-school toilet on deck (it had a window view).

Second Lieutenant-Navigator’s Quarters

Chaplain’s Quarters

We explored further, going down another flight of steps to reach the berth deck where the majority of the crew  lived and socialized and where their hammocks are slung.

Pantry

Despensary

Going down one more ladder brought us to the ship’s hold where food, water and gear for the crew  was stowed.  The top deck (spar deck) and gun deck are accessible via wheelchair lifts. The headroom on the two lower decks was low.

Stairs leading to Berth Deck

Berth Deck

A trip way back in maritime history, for tall ships it’s hard to beat the Constellation as we saw how the sailors slept (not very comfortable I should imagine as they slept on hammocks with no privacy) and ate on the ship, giving us a real feel at how hard it was to live on a ship back then.

Ship’s Hold

USS Constellation: Pier 1, Constellation Dock, 301 East Pratt St., Inner Harbor, BaltimoreMaryland 21202-3134, United States. Tel: 410-539-1797 (Main Office) and 410-396-3453 (Group Sales/ Education Office).  Fax: 410-539-6238. Open daily, 10 AM – 4:30 PM. E-mail: administration@historicships.org. Website: www.historicships.org. Admission: US$18 (Fleet Pass – 4 ships entry), UUS$15 (Squadron Pass – 2 ships entry). Tickets may be purchased on-line or at ticket locations on Pier 1, Pier 3 or on board the USCGC Taney.

Tours are regularly available, self-guided or with the assistance of staff. Tour groups can participate in demonstrations such as “turning the yards” and operating the capstan on the main deck to raise/lower cargo. Daily, a cannon firing is also demonstrated. Star-Spangled Spectacular visitors, with limited mobility and one companion, may tour the USS Constellation free on September 11, 12, 14 and 15, during her regular scheduled operating hours.

USCGC Taney (Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.)

USCG Cutter Taney

During our tour of The Historic Ships of Baltimore, Jandy, Kyle and I first visited the USCGC Taney, a United States Coast Guard High Endurance Cutter (WPG/WAGC/WHEC-37), one of two of the famed Treasury-class (out of seven total) Coast Guard cutters still afloat.

The author and Kyle at the deck of USCG Cutter Taney

Kyle sitting on the pilot’s deck seat

It is notable for being the last ship afloat (a non-combatant vessel at Pearl Harbor, the US Navy tug Hoga, also remains afloat) that fought in the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor (although Taney was actually moored in nearby Honolulu Harbor not Pearl Harbor itself).

The Pilot’s Room

Log Office

This destroyer-size cutter, named after famed Maryland Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney (who was, at various times, US Attorney GeneralSecretary of the Treasury, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court), was 327 ft. long, with a beam of 41 ft., and originally displaced 2000 tons.

Taney at Pearl Harbor Exhibit

Here are some interesting historical trivia regarding this ship’s distinguished career:

  • The Taney was laid on May 1, 1935, at the Philadelphia Navy Yard where she was built alongside three of her sister ships, Campbell, Duane and Ingham.
  • She was launched on June 3, 1936 and commissioned on October 24 that same year. It was first home ported in Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Designed for peacetime missions of law enforcement, search and rescue, and maritime patrol, its original armament consisted of two 5”/51 caliber deck guns, and two 6-pounder saluting guns. It was also originally equipped to carry a Grumman JF-2 “Duck” float plane.
  • In May or June 1937, the Roger B. Taney’s name was shortened to simply Taney.
  • In the pre-war years, Taney she interdicted opium smugglers and carried out search and rescue duties from the Hawaiian Islands through the central Pacific Ocean and made regular cruises to the equatorial Line Islands (Kanton and Enderbury Islands), some 1500 miles southwest of Oahu, to re-supply and support to American colonists there.
  • In 1937, Taney participated in the search for missing aviator Amelia Earhart.
  • In 1940 and 1941, in anticipation of war, she received successive armament upgrades that included an additional 5”/51 caliber gun on the fantail (where her float plane once stood), three 3”/50 caliber dual purpose guns (capable of shooting at both surface and airborne targets), additional .50 caliber machine guns, depth charge racks and throwers, and sonar for locating submarines.
  • On the eve of Pearl Harbor, though she retained her Coast Guard crew, Taney was officially assigned to the US Navy’s Destroyer Division 80.
  • On December 7, 1941, when Japanese aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor and other American military installations in Hawaii, she was tied up at Pier 6, Honolulu, where she was able to repeatedly engage Japanese planes which over flew the city. When the attack subsided, it immediately set out to search for Japanese submarines off Pearl Harbor. Although it did not locate any, the ship received the American Defense Service Medal for the crew’s quick and courageous action.
  • From December 1941 until the fall of 1943, Taney operated from the west coast of the US through the Central Pacific, carrying out anti-submarine patrols, convoy escort duties as well as special assignments.
  • In 1942, after the Battle of Midway, she was one of many ships searching for survivors
  • In July 1943, while delivering a US Navy survey party to Baker Island along the Equator, the cutter fought off an attack by a Japanese “Mavis” patrol bomber.
  • In the fall of 1943, after a major refit at Mare Island (during which the ship lost her older 5”/51s and 3”/50s and received four 5”/38 caliber dual purpose guns), Taney was transferred to the Atlantic Theater where she served as Flagship of Task Force 66, US Atlantic Fleet and was the command vessel for six convoys of troop and supply ships between the US and North Africa.
  • On the evening of April 20, 1944, off the coast of North Africa, Taney narrowly dodged several torpedoes while fending off a large scale attack by German Junkers Ju 88and Heinkel He 111 medium bombers against Convoy UGS-38. Three ships were lost in the attack including the ammunition ship SS Paul Hamilton and the destroyer USS Lansdale.
  • In 1945, after a dramatic reconfiguration as an Amphibious Command Ship (AGC), Taney returned to the Pacific.
  • During the Battle of Okinawa, the cutter was the flagship of Rear Admiral Calvin Cobb, USN, who commanded a variety of naval operations off the island of Ie Shima, immediately northwest of Okinawa.
  • During April and May 1945, at the height of the campaign during 119 separate engagements in which her crew stood to battle stations, Taney was under frequent attack and was credited with destroying four Kamikaze suicide planes and 1 Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” bomber and assisted in numerous other “kills.”
  • Immediately after the end of the Pacific war, on September 11, 1945, Taney steamed into Japanese home waters at Wakayama, where it received American and other Allied prisoners-of-war and assisted with their evacuation.
  • During the Korean War, Taney received additional anti-submarine weapons and frequently carried out plane-guard duties off Midway Island and Adak, Alaska.
  • Following World War II, Taney was reconfigured for peacetime duties and, from 1946 until 1972, she was home ported in Alameda, California. Known as “The Queen of the Pacific,” she carried out virtually every peacetime Coast Guard duty including decades of Ocean Weather Patrol throughout the Pacific, fisheries patrols in the Bearing Sea and countless search and rescue missions.
  • On April 27, 1960, Taney had the honor to host French President Charles de Gaulle on his VIP tour of San Francisco Bay.
  • By the late 1960s, Taney had become the last United States vessel still in commission that had seen action during the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Hawaii. Consequently, from that time on, she was often referred to as “The Last Survivor of Pearl Harbor.”
  • In 1969-70, during the Vietnam War, Taney participated in “Operation Market Time” in the South China Sea. As a unit of Coast Guard Squadron III, she interdicted illegal arms and supplies by inspecting 1,000 vessels along the coast of South Vietnam, fired over 3,400 rounds of 5”/38 ammunition, in support of American and South Vietnamese troops, and provided medical assistance to more than 5,000 Vietnamese civilians. For the crew’s service, the government of the Republic of South Vietnam awarded, in February 1970, Taney with the Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation.
  • In February 1972, Taney was reassigned, from the 12th Coast Guard District in San Francisco, to the 5th Coast Guard District in Virginia.
  • From 1973 to 1977, Taney carried out Ocean Weather Patrol at Weather Station HOTEL, some 200 miles off the coast of New Jersey, as well as “hurricane hunting” (for which she received a special Doppler weather radar installation atop her pilot house).
  • In September 1977, Taney had the distinction of completing the Coast Guard’s last ocean weather patrol when she closed out Ocean Weather Station HOTEL.
  • From 1977 until 1986, Taney carried out search and rescue duties, fisheries patrols in the North Atlantic, drug interdiction patrols in the Caribbean, and summer training cruises for the Coast Guard Academy. During this period she made 11 major seizures of illegal drug including a 1985 bust which netted 160 tons of marijuana – the largest in US history.

Operation Market Time Exhibit

Over her distinguished career, Taney received three battle stars for World War II service and numerous theater ribbons for service in World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam War.

National Historic Landmark Plaque

After more than 50 years of service, Taney was decommissioned on December 7, 1986 at Portsmouth, Virginia and given to the City of Baltimore, Maryland as a memorial and museum ship in the Inner Harbor as part of the Historic Ships in Baltimore collection.

Check out “The Historic Ships of Baltimore

Ammunition Hoist

Radio Room

In 1988, USCGC  Taney was added to the National Register of Historic Places and, on the same day, was also designated as a National Historic Landmark. Taney is included in the Baltimore National Heritage Area.

Galley

Common Mess Area

During our tour, much of the ship was open to walk through.  We explored both below decks and up to the bridge. Upon close inspection, this museum ship is not exactly a World War II time capsule like USS Missouri and other veteran ships.

Sickbay

Throughout her life, she had been modernized and her spaces are more typical of a naval ship of the 1980s, the decade when she was decommissioned, rather than the 1940s.

Crew Berthing Area

Items of circa 1986 shipboard life include personal items and clothing in living quarters, offices with cabinets and typewriters, an ammunition room still loaded with training rounds, and stocked damage control lockers.

Soogie, the ship’s mascot dog

Crew’s Head

Some spaces have been repurposed for museum exhibits that focused on events the ship played a role (Pearl Harbor, Okinawa, Vietnam War, etc.).

Ship’s Store

Barber shop

USCGC Taney: Pier 5, Baltimore Maritime Museum, 301 East Pratt St., Baltimore, Maryland  21202-3134, United States.  Open spring, summer and fall Sundays-Thursdays, 10 AM to 5:30 PM; Fridays & Saturdays, 10AM to 6:30 PM. During the winter, it is open Fridays-Sundays only: 10:30 AM to 5 PM. Tel: 410-396-3453. E-mail: administration@historicships.org. Website: www.historicships.org. Admission: US$18 (Fleet Pass – 4 ships entry), UUS$15 (Squadron Pass – 2 ships entry). Tickets may be purchased on-line or at ticket locations on Pier 1, Pier 3 or on board the USCGC Taney.

How to Get There:  The Inner Harbor is accessible by bus, light rail, and metro subway (one-way rides are US$1.60). The light rail station closest to the ship is located at the Convention Center on Pratt Street (nine blocks west of the harbor). The closest metro station is Market Place at Power Plant Live (three blocks north and two blocks east of the submarine). There are also several bus routes that serve the Inner Harbor.

The Historic Ships of Baltimore (Maryland, U.S.A.)

The Historic Ships of Baltimore

One of the highlights during our 2-night stay in Baltimore was our visit to The Historic Ships of Baltimore, a maritime museum located in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore, an opportunity too good to miss for a nautical buff. An affiliate of the Living Classrooms Foundation,  it represents one of the most impressive collections of military vessels in the world.  Exhibiting life at sea, from the mid-19th century to the mid-1980’s, it was created as a result of the merger of the USS Constellation Museum and the Baltimore Maritime Museum.

Jandy posing with the World War II submarine USS Torsk in the background

The museum’s collection, all located within easy walking distance of each other, features four historic and well-maintained museum ships from four different times in history.  The USS Constellation, a 1854 sloop-of-war in Pier 1, was the last all-sail warship built by the US Navy.

Check out “USS Constellation Museum

USCG Cutter Taney

The USCGC Taney (WHEC-37), a Coast Guard cutter in Pier 5, is the last surviving vessel to witness the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  The USS Torsk (SS-423), a World War II-era, Trench-class (one of 10) submarine in Pier 3 commissioned in 1940, torpedoed the Coast Defense Vessels #13 and #47 on August 14, 1945, the last two enemy combatants of World War II.  The Chesapeake, a lightship (which marked the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay) in Pier 3 built in 1930, was a navigational aid with beacons mounted on it.

Check out “USCGC Taney

The author posing with the lightship Chesapeake in the background

Also included in the collection is the 40 ft. high Seven Foot Knoll Light, a screw-pile lighthouse in Pier 5 built in 1856. One of the oldest Chesapeake Bay area lighthouses, it was erected at the mouth of the Patapso River, on a shallow shoal called the Seven Foot Knoll. For over 130 years, it marked the entrance to the Patapsco River and Baltimore Harbor. The three ships (USS Constellation, USCGC Taney and the USS Torsk) are National Historic Landmarks and all five are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Seven Foot Knoll Light

Jandy, Kyle and I availed of the Squadron Pass and visited the USCGC Taney and the USS Constellation (by far, our favorite). Our interesting and educational visit gave us a good overview of different parts of the nautical world and of Baltimore’s heritage as a major seaport.  Both ships were amazing to walk through as they had much of their original furnishings (like uniforms, desks, etc) for effect (where needed, accurate replicas where made).

Jandy with the American Civil War-era sloop-of-war USS Constellation in the background

Historic Ships in Baltimore: 301 East Pratt St., Baltimore, Maryland  21202-3134, United States. Tel: 410-539-1797 (Main Office) and 410-396-3453 (Group Sales/ Education Office).  Fax: 410-539-6238. Open daily, 10 AM – 4:30 PM. E-mail: administration@historicships.org. Website: www.historicships.org. Admission: US$18 (Fleet Pass – 4 ships entry), UUS$15 (Squadron Pass – 2 ships entry). Tickets may be purchased on-line or at ticket locations on Pier 1, Pier 3 or on board the USCGC Taney. Admission is free at the Seven Foot Knoll Light.