Constitution's control center was the quarterdeck, the part of the spar deck behind the main mast. Here officers guided the ship's course and gave orders to trim the sails or launch an attack! For young midshipmen, the quarterdeck was a classroom, where they learned the skills and customs of command. To mere sailors it was a special place of ceremony and honor. They were respectful and polite when they came here to haul a line, or fire guns in battle.
In this scene, a boy delivers a message to the officers gathered on the quarterdeck. Many means of communication were necessary on a ship as large as Constitution. A Boatswain’s pipe signaled a change in watch for the sailors with a special call: a pipe to dinner, or to begin a chore like holystoning; a speaking trumpet carried over longer distances and called orders to the men aloft; boys ran messages to and from the officers; the beat of marine’s drum was heard far and wide and sent men scurrying to their battle stations. Discover these artifacts with your students and compare the elements of noise (load, shrill, or private) with the intent behind the message. Who was the message communicated to, and why? Have students compare the different modes of communication on Constitution to those in your school like classroom speakers, letters, megaphone, fire alarm, or the loudspeaker.