Wooden Ships and Iron Men
The following is from a tale related by the Chief Curator of the
National Park Service, and printed in no less an authoritative source
than “Oceanographic Ships, Fore and Aft”, published by the Oceanographer
of the Navy. It has to do with a cruise of the 204-foot frigate USS
Constitution, commonly known as Old Ironsides, in 1779. The quote:
On 23 August 1779, the USS Constitution set sail from Boston loaded with
475 officers and men, 48,600 gallons of water, 74,000 cannon shot,
11,500 pounds of black powder and 79,400 gallons of rum. Her mission: to
destroy and harass English shipping.
On 6 October, she made Jamaica, took on 826 pounds of flour and 68,300
gallons of rum. Three weeks later the Constitution reached the Azores,
where she provisioned with 550 pounds of beef and 6,300 gallons of
On 18 November, the ship set sail for England where her crew captured
and scuttled 12 English merchant vessels and took aboard their rum.
But the Constitution had run out of shot. Nevertheless, she made her way
unarmed up the Firth of Clyde for a night raid. Here her landing party
captured a whiskey distillery, transferred 40,000 gallons aboard and
headed for home.
On 20 February 1780, the Constitution arrived in Boston with no cannon
shot, no food, no powder, no rum, no whiskey. Just 48,600 gallons of
Length of cruise — 181 days
Booze consumption — 2.26 gallons per MAN per day (plus whatever they
rescued from the 12 English merchant ships)
Guesstimated re-enlistment rate — 100%
Probable EPA Award of Gold Certificate for water conservation
U.S. Atlantic Command
Joint Training, Analysis and Simulation Center
This page was last updated June 1, 1998.