USS Constellation departs Baltimore harbor
Gail Burton  /  AP
The USS Constellation departs the Baltimore harbor Tuesday for its first visit to the U.S. Naval Academy is more than a century.
updated 10/26/2004 6:25:42 PM ET 2004-10-26T22:25:42

The only Civil War-era vessel still afloat left its mooring in Baltimore's Inner Harbor on Tuesday and made its first voyage to the Naval Academy at Annapolis in 111 years.

The venerable USS Constellation can no longer make the 30-mile trip on her own power, so the sloop of war was moved to the academy by tugboats. The six-day visit is part of a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Constellation, launched in 1854.

It's the ship's first time out of the Inner Harbor since 1955, said Christopher Rowsom, executive director of the USS Constellation Museum. "The ship is in good shape for this. But she is old," Rowsom said.

The Naval Academy band greeted the ship when it docked on the Severn River at Annapolis.

"The initial thought when I first saw her was 'Wow, she is pretty,'" said academy spokesman Cmdr. Rod Gibbons. "We're just so pleased to see the return of an old friend, a ship that trained a whole generation of midshipmen in the 1800s. She's a national treasure."

The ship was decked out in red, white and blue bunting and bristling with large black cannons as it left Baltimore's harbor Tuesday morning.

As the Constellation passed Baltimore's Fort McHenry, where American troops withstood the British bombardment during the War of 1812 that inspired "The Star-Spangled Banner," four A-10 Warthogs from the Maryland Air National Guard flew overhead.

The three-masted sloop has patrolled some of the world's most romantic and dangerous ports of call.

The ship served in the Mediterranean Squadron before becoming the flagship of the African Squadron, which was charged with stopping the illegal slave trade.

While patrolling the African coast off the mouth of the Congo River from 1859 to 1861, the ship captured three slave ships. The Constellation was sent in 1862 to protect U.S. merchant shipping from Confederate raiders during the Civil War, according to museum records.

The ship is 186 feet long, with a beam of 42 1/2 feet. The hull is made of white oak.

The Constellation served as a training ship at the Naval Academy from 1871 to 1893.

An earlier Constellation, launched in 1797, was a sister ship to the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship still afloat. That 36-gun ship fought in the Barbary War blockading Tripoli, saw duty in the War of 1812, patrolled in the Pacific and toured around the world. It was broken up in 1854 and some of its timbers went into the current Constellation.

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