21
Oct
08

On This Day, 10-21-2008: USS Constitution

October 21, 1797

USS Constitution launched

The USS Constitution, a 44-gun U.S. Navy frigate built to fight Barbary pirates off the coast of Tripoli, is launched in Boston Harbor. The vessel performed commendably during the Barbary conflicts, and in 1805 a peace treaty with Tripoli was signed on the Constitution‘s deck.

During the War of 1812, the Constitution won its enduring nickname “Old Ironsides” after defeating the British warship GuerriÈre in a furious engagement off the coast of Nova Scotia. Witnesses claimed that the British shots merely bounced off the Constitution‘s sides, as if the ship were made of iron rather than wood. The success of the Constitution against the supposedly invincible Royal Navy provided a tremendous morale boost for the young American republic.

In 1855, the Constitution retired from active military service, but the famous vessel continued to serve the United States, first as a training ship and later as a touring national landmark. Since 1934, it has been based at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston. Over the years, Old Ironsides has enjoyed a number of restorations, the most recent of which was completed in 1997, allowing it to sail for the first time in 116 years. Today, the Constitution is one of the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat.

“USS Constitution launched.” 2008. The History Channel website. 21 Oct 2008, 12:04 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5456.

 

On This Day

1917 – The first U.S. soldiers entered combat during World War I near Nancy, France.

1925 – The photoelectric cell was first demonstrated at the Electric Show in New York City, NY.

1944 – During World War II, the German city of Aachen was captured by U.S. troops.

1945 – Women in France were allowed to vote for the first time.

1950 – Chinese forces invaded Tibet.

1959 – The Guggenheim Museum was opened to the public in New York. The building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

1966 – In south Wales, 140 people were killed by a coal waste landslide engulfed a school and several houses.

1983 – The Pentagon reported that 2,000 Marines were headed to Grenada to protect and evacuate Americans living there.

1994 – North Korea and the U.S. signed an agreement requiring North Korea to halt its nuclear program and agree to inspections.

1998 – Cancer specialist Dr. Jane Henney became the FDA’s first female commissioner.

 

October 21, 1805

Battle of Trafalgar

In one of the most decisive naval battles in history, a British fleet under Admiral Lord Nelson defeats a combined French and Spanish fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar, fought off the coast of Spain.

At sea, Lord Nelson and the Royal Navy consistently thwarted Napoleon Bonaparte, who led France to preeminence on the European mainland. Nelson’s last and greatest victory against the French was the Battle of Trafalgar, which began after Nelson caught sight of a Franco-Spanish force of 33 ships. Preparing to engage the enemy force on October 21, Nelson divided his 27 ships into two divisions and signaled a famous message from the flagship Victory: “England expects that every man will do his duty.”

In five hours of fighting, the British devastated the enemy fleet, destroying 19 enemy ships. No British ships were lost, but 1,500 British seamen were killed or wounded in the heavy fighting. The battle raged at its fiercest around the Victory, and a French sniper shot Nelson in the shoulder and chest. The admiral was taken below and died about 30 minutes before the end of the battle. Nelson’s last words, after being informed that victory was imminent, were “Now I am satisfied. Thank God I have done my duty.”

Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar ensured that Napoleon would never invade Britain. Nelson, hailed as the savior of his nation, was given a magnificent funeral in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. A column was erected to his memory in the newly named Trafalgar Square, and numerous streets were renamed in his honor.

“Battle of Trafalgar.” 2008. The History Channel website. 21 Oct 2008, 12:05 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5457.

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