The USS Constellation stands tall in Baltimore

USS Constellation at twilight

The USS Constellation sits proudly at her berth at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

This past Friday as a guest of the Civil War Trust I got to attend a reception given aboard the USS Constellation located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. It is odd that I have not been on the USS Constellation since I was a young teen. My dad took my brothers and I for a visit over 45 years ago and I have been back to Baltimore many times since but have never revisited this fine historical landmark. If I recall correctly the ship was in poor condition and you could only visit the lower gun deck. The rest of the lower decks were closed off.  In addition the ship in the 1960s and 70s was some what of a fraud as she had been jury rigged to look like the frigate USS Constellation built by the Navy in 1797 when in fact she was not that ship.  In 1999 the ship was condemned and taken out it’s berth for a full restoration and now looks like she should as the Civil War era sloop of war USS Constellation.

USS Constellation captain's cabin

The Captain’s quarters are located on the gun deck.


The real identity of the USS Constellation created quite a controversy. Many people including prominent naval figures and historians thought the ship to be a modified and rebuilt version of the original 1797 ship. For many years the city of Baltimore promoted the ship as such to enhance it’s tourist value. However after much detailed historical and forensic work it has been determined that the current USS Constellation is an original design and was constructed in 1853. At that same time the original 1797 frigate was decommissioned and broken up with a lot of material from that ship used to build the new ship. However, the sloop of war USS Constellation is indeed a historical landmark in that she was the last sail-only ship built by the Navy. All ships built afterwards may have had sails but has some sort of mechanical propulsion as well. The Constellation saw long and faithful service to the nation that built her. She was commissioned in 1855 and saw service during the Civil War and after. She spent many years as a training ship and was not taken out of active service until 1933. President Roosevelt then recommissioned her in 1940 as a national symbol.

USS Constellation Chaplin's berth

The ship has been restored to look exactly like she did in 1855.

While I got free admission for a beautiful evening of cocktails and conversation, the USS Constellation is regularly open to the public as part of Historic Ships of Baltimore exhibit at the Inner Harbor. We all had the full run of the ship and these days the public is allowed to view just about every inch of the ship. There is an entry fee but the price of admission grants you access to a number of historical ships located around the Inner Harbor. I don’t have to tell you how nice the Inner Harbor looks these days and I won’t hesitate to recommend a visit to the USS Constellation-especially if you have not done so in a while. All the historical ships located at the Inner Harbor are kid friendly with lots of helpful exhibits and guides. Baltimore is really just a quick drive from this area and has much to offer us. Below is a quick video of the ship returning to her berth after undergoing hull repairs in 2014.

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