Join the officers and crew of USS Constitution in commemorating the battle against HMS Java on Saturday, December 29th with remarks and a firing of “Old Ironsides” saluting battery.
Shortly after Christmas, 1812, Constitution was sailing in the Atlantic just off the coast of Brazil. On the morning of December 29, sails were sighted on the horizon, and Constitution‘s new captain, William Bainbridge, altered course to investigate. The ship proved to be HMS Java, a frigate similar to Guerriere. Both frigates stood for each other and cleared their decks for action. The battle saw USS Constitution‘s spars and rigging damaged, her wheel completely shattered, and her captain wounded in both thighs from shrapnel. Despite these setbacks, Constitution was able to best her enemy, and the Java struck her colors after a hard fought three and half hour battle.
Defeat of the HMS Java was a turning point for the naval fight of the War of 1812. Having lost their third frigate in just four and a half month’s time, the Royal Navy revitalized gunnery training, built larger frigates to counter the American’s ships, and effective immediately, no frigate of the Royal Navy was to engage an American 44-gun ship one-to-one.