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Sat, 07.28.1855

The USS Constellation, a story

USS Constellation

*On this date in 1855, the USS Constellation was commissioned. Now housed in the Baltimore harbor, this is the last surviving battle ship of the American Civil War and was instrumental in fighting The African slave trade.

Designed by John Lenthall, Chief Constructor of the Navy as a "sloop-of-war,"  the Constellation was much larger than most other ships of that category.  This enabled the Constellation to carry a heavier battery of guns than conventional sloops.  Historically, its namesake the first U.S. Navy ship to bear the name Constellation, for the "new constellation of stars" on the American flag, was launched in 1797. This was the first frigate to be commissioned in the U.S. Navy and it served a long life.  After several overhauls and repairs, this frigate was decommissioned and broken up at the Gosport Navy Yard in Portsmouth, Virginia. Its successor was launched on August 26, 1854 from the same port.

On April 20, 1859, the USS Constellation began duty to fight slavery in America. The Secretary of the Navy designated USS Constellation as the flagship of the U.S. African Squadron.  The Constellation was under the command of Flag Officer William Inman.  The ship took up station off the mouth of the Congo River on November 21, 1859.  In 1860, several ships registered in New York City were seized by the African Squadron along the coastal waters of West Africa.

(The African Squadron, established in 1843, intercepted slave ships leaving the Congo River delta area for the Western Hemisphere) The seized ships included the Clara Windsor with 677 slaves; the Nancy with 690 slaves; the Lyra with 890 slaves; the Ardennes with 488 slaves; the Cora with 705 slaves; the Nightingale with 800 slaves; the Buckeye with 500 slaves; and the Erie with 897 slaves. While the effectiveness of the overall operation may be debated, Office Inman proudly reported to the Secretary of the Navy that during its twenty-two months under his command, the squadron rescued 3,754 slaves.


U.S. Navy Department
Official Record of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion
Series 1, Volume 1,
Operations of Cruisers
January 19, 1861 to December 31, 1862
Washington, DC
Government Printing Office, 1894.


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