A Project of the USS Constitution Museum

A Project of the USS Constitution Museum

Cockpit After Battle

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On the decks above, cannon and musket fire do murderous jobs, but here in the cockpit everyone works to save lives, not take them. When battle rages, this cramped space just above the hold becomes an operating room. On a makeshift table the ship’s surgeon removes bullets and huge wooden splinters from the broken bodies of American sailors – and sometimes from their British foe, too. Brandy and poppy sap numb the pain, but patients are fully conscious – even as the surgeon saws off their smashed legs.


What does it take to be a Doctor?

What kind of education was required to practice medicine for the United States Navy during the War of 1812? Were there universities and hospitals? What kind of education do you need now? How was Surgeon Amos Evans of Constitution trained? Using the resources below, have students research the early 19th century medical training of doctors and compare to today’s system.

Brought to Life, the History of Medicine at the Science Museum

Exploring Illness Across Time and Place

Naval Medicine in 1812

Sailor’s Stories: Surgeon Amos Evans

Primary Source: Surgeon Amos Evan’s Lecture Notebook


Injuries & Instruments Aboard Ship

In this lesson, students view the Surgeon’s kit and use their powers of observation to imagine what these tools might have been used for. They will compare them to today’s surgical tools and understand that the cockpit during battle was a place of action, acting as a floating emergency room.

Object: Surgeon’s kit from USS Chesapeake

Lesson Plan: Injuries & Instruments Aboard Ship


Richard Dunn and Supporting our Troops

The sailor undergoing an amputation surgery in this scene is Richard Dunn, who served on Constitution in 1812. During the battle against HMS Guerriere, he sustained an injury that required the removal of his leg. He continued to serve the Navy for many years in a variety of capacities and was treated well as a veteran. Have students read his story and brainstorm ways they could support active duty soldiers, sailors, or retired veterans. Visit the Operation Gratitude page for ideas.

Sailor’s Stories: Richard Dunn


All Guts and Gory

After studying both the “Sickbay” and “Cockpit after Battle” annotated scenes, have students complete the All Guts and Gory crossword puzzle to check for understanding and attention to detail.

All Guts and Gory Crossword Puzzle