Happy Birthday to the USS Constitution: Old Ironsides!

By Guest Author, Tara Ross

On this day in 1797, Old Ironsides is launched!

“Old Ironsides” is the nickname that was given to the USS Constitution, one of the first six frigates built for the U.S. Navy during the early years of our country. Initially, the frigate was used in the Quasi War with France and the Barbary Wars, but it is perhaps most famous for its performance during the War of 1812.

USS Constitution defeated four English warships.

A former captain of USS Constitution, Tyrone G. Martin, later wrote a history of the ship. He describes the effect of these victories: “The losses suffered by the Royal Navy were no more than pinpricks to that great fleet: They neither impaired its battle readiness nor disrupted the blockade of American ports. . . . What Constitution and her sister [ship] did accomplish was to uplift American morale spectacularly and, in the process, end forever the myth that the Royal Navy was invincible.”

The ship earned its nickname during a battle fought on August 19, 1812.

On that day, Constitution encountered HMS Guerriere off the coast of Nova Scotia. The two ships got within about 50 yards of each other and began firing their cannons. Constitution was causing great damage to the British ship, even as the British cannon balls were bouncing off the hard oak sides of Constitution. One of the American crewmen saw what was happening and was heard to yell: “Huzza! Her sides are made of iron!”

The nickname “Old Ironsides” was born!

The British surrendered roughly one hour after the attack began. Guerriere was badly damaged and had to be sunk after the battle. The British captain later reported: “The Guerriere was so cut up, that all attempts to get her in would have been useless. As soon as the wounded were got out of her, they set her on fire; and I feel it my duty to state that the conduct of [American] Captain Hull and his Officers to our Men has been that of a brave Enemy.”

If the victory provided a psychological boost to Americans, it seems that it was equally demoralizing to the British. The London Times mournfully reported: “Never before in the history of the world did an English frigate strike to an American.”

Old Ironsides has been preserved and can still be seen at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Massachusetts. It’s well worth the visit.


If you enjoy these history posts, please see the note below.

Gentle reminder: History posts are copyright © 2013-2020 by Tara Ross. I appreciate it when you use the shar e feature instead of cutting/pasting.#TDIH#OTD#History#USHistory#liberty#freedom#ShareTheHistory

EDITOR’S NOTE: Guest author, Tara Ross, is a mother, wife, writer, and retired lawyer. She is the author of The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule,Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College, co-author of Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State (with Joseph C. Smith, Jr.), & We Elect A President: The Story of our Electoral College. She is a constitutionalist, but with a definite libertarian streak! Stay tuned here for updates on pretty much anything to do with the Electoral College, George Washington, & our wonderfully rich American heritage.

Columbus Day: October 12, 2020

By Guest Author: Tara Ross

During this week in 1492, Christopher Columbus lands in the New World. Exactly 300 years later, New York City would hold the first Columbus Day celebration. More unofficial celebrations would follow, and the day finally became a federal holiday in the 1930s.

Since then, the holiday has become controversial—to say the least. Some people want to replace his holiday with an “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” Others want to tear down Columbus statutes, labeling them a “symbol of hate.” But do you know how and why we started celebrating Columbus Day in the first place?

It’s impossible to understand Columbus Day unless you first step into the shoes of our Founders.

During America’s early years, the country was looking for heroes. We’d just cut ourselves off from England and had thus lost much of that heritage. Obviously, we had heroes such as George Washington, but Americans wanted other heroes, too. Christopher Columbus was a natural choice. The Italian explorer had risked everything to make a dangerous trip across the Atlantic. He had no idea that he would find an entirely new continent, of course. He was on a mission to find a quicker route from Europe to Asia.

He never found Asia. Instead, he landed in the New World on October 12, 1492. He would make four voyages to the New World before his death in 1506.

Perhaps it is unsurprising that Columbus came to be admired by so many after the American Revolution? His daring spirit, sense of adventure, and his willingness to put everything on the line were understandably appealing to a generation that had just fought—and won—a war against the mighty British army and navy.

Over time, Columbus grew into an American icon. His name is all around us, although you’ve probably never really thought about it. Columbia University is named for him, as is South Carolina’s capital. The Knights of Columbus adopted the name in remembrance of Columbus’s Catholic roots. Perhaps most notably, the District of Columbia—Washington, D.C.—bears his name.

It’s worth noting that those in the Italian community became especially proud of Columbus over the years. They were immigrants who hadn’t always been treated well. But celebrations of Columbus became an opportunity, one historian writes, “for reminding Americans of the indissoluble and everlasting bonds uniting American and Italian histories.”

Thus, to many people, the holiday took on a pro-immigrant meaning as well.

Obviously, Columbus was far from perfect, and modern Americans will debate the pros and cons of remembering his legacy. But perhaps it would help the dialogue to remember just what it was that our ancestors admired about him in the first place.

Ronald Reagan expressed this particular sentiment the best: “[Columbus] was a dreamer, a man of vision and courage, a man filled with hope for the future and with the determination to cast off for the unknown and sail into uncharted seas for the joy of finding whatever was there. Put it all together and you might say that Columbus was the inventor of the American dream.”


Gentle reminder: History posts are copyright © 2013-2020 by Tara Ross. I appreciate it when you use the shar e feature instead of cutting/pasting. #TDIH#OTD#History#USHistory#liberty#freedom#ShareTheHistory

EDITOR’S NOTE: Guest author, Tara Ross, is a mother, wife, writer, and retired lawyer. She is the author of The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule,Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College, co-author of Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State (with Joseph C. Smith, Jr.), & We Elect A President: The Story of our Electoral College. She is a constitutionalist, but with a definite libertarian streak! Stay tuned here for updates on pretty much anything to do with the Electoral College, George Washington, & our wonderfully rich American heritage.


Texas Revolution Began 185 Years Ago Today

By Tara Ross, Guest Author

On this day (October 2nd) in 1835, the Texas Revolution begins! Did you know that the first battle was fought because Texans decided that the Mexicans would have to pull an old, small cannon out of their cold, dead hands?

Does that fact, alone, explain my home state?!

The Texas Revolution wasn’t fought entirely over one old cannon, of course. That cannon was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, prompting a skirmish that came to be known as the Battle of Gonzales.

In 1835, Texans (or “Texians”) were concerned about the increasingly dictatorial Mexican government and its army. But the town of Gonzales found itself in the crossfire for a rather unexpected reason. It possessed one small cannon that had come from San Antonio de Béxar in 1831. Some thought the cannon was loaned, others thought it had been given. Either way, Gonzales felt that it needed the cannon to scare off local Indian tribes.

As tensions between the Mexican government and the Texians escalated, the Mexicans decided that Gonzales could not keep its cannon anymore. The given reason was that the cannon had been given only as a loan. But perhaps the real reason is that the government wanted to disarm citizens? Either way, town officials were notified that the cannon must be returned.

The alcalde, or mayor, of Gonzales called a town meeting and a vote was taken. All but three people agreed: Gonzales should keep its cannon!

Nevertheless, Mexican commander Francisco de Castañeda was sent to retrieve the cannon.

The Mexican force reached the Guadalupe River on September 29, but then it got stuck. Recent rains had made the river difficult to cross. Complicating matters, Texians had taken all the boats from Castañeda’s side of the river. Eighteen Texians were now guarding the river on the other side. In the meantime, Gonzales was calling for help from nearby towns. Its citizens buried the cannon in a nearby peach orchard.

Come hell or high water, they were not giving up that cannon!

The Texians managed to stall for a while. Castañeda wanted to talk, but the Texians noted that the talks were more properly held with the alcalde, Andrew Ponton. (Surprise, surprise. He wasn’t there.) Even when the Texians did engage in talks, they just shouted across the river at Castañeda. At one point, a single Mexican was allowed to swim back and forth with messages.

What a scene! Naturally, the delay mostly ensured that the Texians got reinforcements.

The stalemate continued until October 1, when Castañeda moved his men a few miles upriver. By now, the Texians were getting tired of the situation. They dug up the cannon and created shrapnel from anything they could find. They hauled the cannon across the river and approached the Mexican camp early on October 2. A thick fog hid them from view.

A few shots were exchanged during the early morning hours, but the more serious fighting began after sunrise. Naturally, the controversial cannon was brought into battle. The Texians had created a white flag, which waved proudly over the cannon.

You guessed it. The flag bore the words: “Come and Take It.”

The fighting itself was more of a brief skirmish than a true battle. In the end, Castañeda quickly retreated because he thought his orders required him to do so before the conflict escalated into war. His retreat came too late. The Texas Revolution was on.


Gentle reminder: History posts are copyright © 2013-2020 by Tara Ross. I appreciate it when you use the share feature instead of cutting/pasting.#TDIH#OTD#History#USHistory#liberty#freedom#ShareTheHistory

Guest author, Tara Ross, is a mother, wife, writer, and retired lawyer. She is the author of The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule,Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College, co-author of Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State (with Joseph C. Smith, Jr.), & We Elect A President: The Story of our Electoral College. She is a constitutionalist, but with a definite libertarian streak! Stay tuned here for updates on pretty much anything to do with the Electoral College, George Washington, & our wonderfully rich American heritage.

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