Gun Deck in Battle
Roaring and belching fire, Constitution‘s guns were like huge and dangerous dragons when the enemy drew near. Seamen fed their smoking mouths with gunpowder and iron. Thick ropes controlled them, yet with every shot they jerked and lurched, threatening to break loose. Constant training taught each member of the gun crew his job in handling these hot, heavy beasts. Yet nothing could really quite prepare him for the smoke, the noise, the blood and the deadly flying splinters of the gun deck in battle.
Skits and Quotes
Using the list of primary source quotes, ask students to write a historic fiction short story or skit to perform for their classmates about battle. The quotes are divided between the three main phases of a battle: the anticipation of impending warfare, the chaos of battle, and the aftermath from the point of view of both sides. All the quotes are taken from letters, journal entries, reports, and other primary source documents from the War of 1812.
Ready, Aim, Fire!
Loading and firing a cannon was not an easy task. Try out our online shooting game to try your hand at target practice.
Each gun aboard Constitution was manned by the same gun team in practice and battle. The men developed a team identity and named their cannon, much as sports teams today are unified under a team name. Cannons were often named after famous American generals or patriots. And while many men would not have considered themselves religious, a bible was often strapped to the gun carriage and served as a kind of talisman or charm to ward off evil. An example of this survives in a bible removed from USS President found strapped to the “Montgomery” gun, named for General Richard Montgomery who fell during the attack on Quebec in 1775. After viewing the image, ask students if they can draw any parallels to their own life of times where they have bonded over a shared team identity. What is their team or school named for? What are the qualities that this name inspires them to emulate?