Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Constitution, Cassin Young and Breed's Hill

We visited Boston on our way to Ireland and spent the morning at the Charleston Navy Yard.  This is the home of the U.S.S. Constitution and the U.S.S. Cason Young.

The Constitution is the oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat anywhere in the world.  As such it has an active duty naval crew.  One of their duties is to serve as tour guides aboard ship.  We got to see the main deck, gun deck and berthing deck.  You can peer through locked doors at officer country.  The galley is forward of a “do not cross” line (rope) so you can look at it from a distance. 

The Constitution from the rear.  She has her name painted on her and everything.

The ship is simply amazing.  It is in very good shape.  The guns are all there, as are the huge number of carronades she carried.  Everything is ship shape and sparkling.  Interestingly, she weighs more than the WW II Fletcher class destroyer in the dry dock next to her.  She is moored, in real water, not gelatin, as someone asked.  Once a year, on the 4th of July, they take her out and turn her around.

The gun deck.  This is where her main batter, of 24 pounders, lived.

A close up of one of the 24 pounders and its carriage.
The capstan, on the gun deck.
A close up of one of the carronades.  I think these were 38 pounders.
Old Glory flying in the breeze.  This sight still gives me shivers.

After the Constitution we walked up the hill to Breeds hill to visit the Battle of Bunker Hill memorial.  There is no sign of the battlefield left.  There is a giant obelisk at the top of the hill, in the center of a park.  It is all surrounded by 1860’s houses, which while nice, block out all sight of Boston.  Other than the giant stone column in the center, it just looks like a small neighborhood park.  This was the bloodiest battle of the American War for Independence.  1000 British regulars and 500 colonial militia were killed.  1/8 of all British officer casualties for the entire war fell in this one battle.  In the end the British achieved their aim and threw the Americans off of the hill and destroyed their earth works, winning the battle at a horrible price.

Climbing to the top of this monument is the only way to see Boston, or anything else, from the battlefield.
The current view from ground level.
This quote, from one of our few competent generals, pretty much sums up the battle.
And the view from the British side.  Did I mention this was a blood bath in AWI terms?
A couple of years ago a mass grave of British troops was found  behind this house.  They had been there since the battle.
No long after the British set sail from Boston and never returned.

Looking from the bow, aft down the dry dock.
Following the trip up the hill we walked back down to the Naval Yard and walked around the outside of the Cassin Young.  Sadly, we didn't have time to tour her, though she is open to the public.  I did grab a couple of pictures of the outside.  

Look at those sexy five inch guns.
Quad 40mm Bofors guns.  Damn!  I love those things.
Torpedo tubes and that odd, mid-mounted 5 incher.

The Fletcher class have a distinctive shape with five, 5" guns, the center one being mounted, well, centrally.  It is only able to fire to the broadsides.  This was a common enough layout on early Dreadnoughts but had been abandoned by the second world war.  

She also carried, like all later USN vessels, a crap ton of AAA.  The current ship does not have its 20mm Oerlikon cannons mounted, though you can see where they would go.  These ships were the backbone of the Destroyer fleet in the last part of the war.

It was a good few hours of American history.  The Constitution's battles were some of the finest moments in US naval history, which is saying something.  The Cassin Young was, itself, a survivor but also represents one of the greatest classes of Destroyers ever built.  The Battle of Breed's Hill; usually, erroneously, called Bunker Hill, was bloody and pointless.  A pretty good cross section of the true face of war.

I have more pictures of everything but the internet connection here is slow and I'm about to do a face plant on the keyboard.  If there is something that interests you, drop me a line in the comments and I'll see if I have a shot of it.  Tomorrow we descend into the heathen, savage wilds of Ireland, leaving behind the urban delights of Dublin.  I don't know if I'll have internet access, or running water, so it may be awhile before I'm able to respond.  Don't lose heart.


  1. Great pics!! Thanks for sharing!

  2. What are you like, us Dublin boys survived them savage wilds and made it back, just don't call anybody a culchie! Lovely pictures and explanation.

  3. Survived and thrived but the lack of internet access had me stressed. Sad I know.


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