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USS Constitution Sails Under Own Power For First Time In 15 Years

CHARLESTOWN (CBS) — The U.S. Navy's oldest commissioned warship sailed under its own power Sunday for just the second time 131 years to commemorate the battle that won it the nickname "Old Ironsides."

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Kim Tunnicliffe reports


The USS Constitution, which was first launched in 1797, left Charlestown at 9:57 a.m. with tug boats attached to her sides and 285 people on board.

View: Photos Of USS Constitution's Sail

A half-hour later, Commander Matt Bonner and Dr. Phil Budden, Britain's Consul General to New England, tossed a wreath into the ocean to honor the Constitution's battle with the British frigate HMS Guerriere during the War of 1812.

The ceremony marked the 200th anniversary of Constitution's victory over the Guerriere. It was the first time a United States frigate defeated a Royal Navy frigate at or nearly equal size, according to the U.S. Navy.

It's also the battle in which Constitution earned her famous nickname "Old Ironsides."

Legend has it a cannonball bounced off the triple-layered hull and a sailor exclaimed "Her sides are made of iron!"

The crew then set three sails and at 12:25 p.m., she detached from her tugs and sailed west under her own power for 17 minutes, hitting a maximum speed of 3.1 knots.

It was the first time the ship had sailed under its own power since 1997 to mark its 200th anniversary.

The tugs then reattached to the Constitution's sides and once it reached Fort Independence on Castle Island, it fired a 21-gun salute.

Finally, the ship returned to its pier at the Navy Yard just after 2 p.m.

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