The USS Constitution, also known as "Old Ironsides" was one of the first frigates commissioned by the United States Navy. It was launched in 1797 and five years later was the flagship of the United States Campagin against thein Tripoli. It was commandered by such great naval heroes as Edward Preble, , and Isaac Hull, and saw great service in the . By 1830 she was considered unfit for service, but due to great public indignations, best expressed by this poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes, was reconstructed and returned to commission.
Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!
Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
That banner in the sky;
Beneath it rung the battle shout,
And burst the cannon's roar;
The meteor of the ocean air
Shall sweep the clouds no more!
Her deck, once red with heroes' blood,
Where knelt the vanquished foe,
When winds were hurrying o'er the flood
And waves were white below,
No more shall feel the victor's tread,
Or know the conquered knee;
The harpies of the shore shall pluck
The eagle of the sea!
Oh, better that her shattered hulk
Should sink beneath the wave;
Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
And there should be her grave;
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the God of storms,
The lightning and the gale!
—Oliver Wendell Holmes