A Project of the USS Constitution Museum

A Project of the USS Constitution Museum

A Flogging

Anchor Icon

“All hands on deck to witness punishment, ahoy!” This command from the Boatswain brings Constitution’s entire crew to the middle of the ship to watch a flogging. This spectacle is a brutal but effective way to make sure the crew obeys orders. Those who don’t are tied to the ship’s rail, and whipped with nine knotted cords. Flogging is brutal. The lash lifts flesh off the victim’s bare back, spraying it onto the deck and the nearest spectators.


Rules of the Navy

Imagine you are a Captain aboard Constitution in charge of 480 sailors and Marines, working together towards a common goal. What rules would you establish as Captain? Use this resource to see some of Constitution’s one thousand eight hundred and nine rules!

Rules of the Navy aboard Ship – “I will obey the rules of an officer on ship”


Moses Smith

Imagine you witnessed a close friend breaking the rules in the classroom. The teacher comes in, realizes someone has broken a rule and questions all the students in class. If you tell, your friend is punished. If you do not tell, everyone in the class is punished. Read the Sailor’s Story of Moses Smith and the primary source quotes on flogging with students and ask, what would you do, and why?

Sailor’s Story: Moses Smith

Quotes on Flogging


Perspectives on Corporal Punishment

With older students, debate and discuss the history of corporal punishment. Define corporal punishment, that which is physical in nature, and discuss examples that students may have heard about regarding corporal punishment.

Resource: History and Quotes on Flogging in the Navy


Cat o’ Nine Tails

Students may be interested in seeing the tool used for floggings. Study the image of this authentic cat o’ nine tails and ask them if they can see why it was called that.

Object: Cat o’ Nine Tails