USS Constitution A Midshipman’s Pocket Manual, 1814

Published: December 20th, 2017     
Product Image
Front Cover
Author: Eric L. Clements (Illustrated by Peter Dennis)
Reviewed by: 
Scott Hollingshead, IPMS# 34786
Company: Osprey Publishing
ISBN #: 978-1-4728-2793-7
E-Book ISBN #: 978-1-4728-2792-0
Other Publication Information: Hardbound, 4-7/8 x 7-3/8 inches, 144 pages
Price: $15.00

For those interested in the early days of the United States Navy, and particularly the USS Constitution, this new release from Osprey is a fun an interesting read. Explained early on as a work of fiction, this book provides a "what if" look at how such a manual may have appeared during the War of 1812. Covering the early days of the Navy and more importantly, the history of "Old Ironsides" from her beginnings to her current status in the Boston National Historical Park, there is much to learn about the oldest ship in the U.S. Navy.

Following the Introduction, the chapters of the book are as follows: Mister Midshipman, The Frigate Constitution, Manning Constitution, Matters Medical, Provisioning Constitution, Sailing Constitution, Boarding the Enemy, Of Prizes and Pensions, "Old Ironsides": Her Exploits of 1812, A Naval and Nautical Glossary, and Addenda to the 1816 Edition: Constitution's Exploits of 1815. Sources and References as well as an Index complete the book.

Aside from the painting on the inside of the front cover of Constitution & Guerriere (showing Isaac Hull's portrait to the side), and the painting inside the rear cover of the U.S. Frigate Constitution, all remaining artwork is in black and white. A mix of documents from the USS Constitution Museum Collection and National Archives, a few drawings, and two photographs are used to illustrate this manual.

The 44-gun frigate USS Constitution was one of four such ships authorized, but only three, the USS United States, Constitution, and President were completed. Launched in Boston in 1797, the Constitution had an estimated $294,999.95 budget, and a breakdown of the costs is provided in a table. Typical dimensions for the ship are provided as well as those for the masts and sails, armament, small boats, anchors, and ship's complement.

Being a former sailor, the table showing an estimate of the pay for the Captain and crew garnered my interest with totals of $4,080 per month and $48,960 per year being the cost for the crew of 359 with the Captain receiving an estimated $75 per month ($900 annually). There were a total of 383 rations provided per day on the ship, mostly one per man, while the Captain, Lieutenants, Lieutenant of the Marines, Chaplain, Sailing Master, Surgeon, Surgeon's Mates, Purser, Boatswain, Gunner, Sail Maker, and Carpenter each drawing at least two rations. I also found it interesting that included in the provisions of the ship were six barrels and six half-barrels of rum (a total of 18011/2 gallons). This book also provides good descriptions of the Constitution's victories over the HMS Guerriere, HMS Java, HMS Cyane, and HMS Levant. A table lists all of the ships destroyed, recaptured, restored to owner, or taken as a prize, 14 ships between August 1812 and February 1815.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to any modeler or historian wanting unique reference to Old Ironsides as the book is well written and informative. I would like to thank the folks at Osprey Publishing for providing this book to the IPMS-USA for review, and I appreciate having been afforded the opportunity to write this appraisal. As always, thanks to you the reader for taking the time to read my comments.

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