Constellation makes its annual harbor escape

Civil War-era ship towed to fort, re-docked to weather other side


News from around the Baltimore region

September 10, 2005|By Sarah Abruzzese | Sarah Abruzzese,SUN STAFF

It was the perfect day to take the old lady out, warm with a gentle breeze.

The only child aboard the Constellation, Reese Norton, 7, of Baltimore glowed with excitement. "I'm a really big history fan," he said. "I know a lot about the Civil War, but I don't know everything."

Reese and his mother, Carol, were among 125 guests aboard the Constellation yesterday for its annual cruise from the Inner Harbor to Fort McHenry and back. The 151-year-old ship makes the voyage so it can dock facing the opposite direction to weather its sides evenly. The guests were invited by the USS Constellation Museum, which operates the ship, a popular tourist attraction.

The Constellation, a sloop of war, did not travel by sail yesterday. It was towed by a tug. A flotilla of boats -- including Coast Guard and police vessels -- escorted the Constellation during the voyage.

"One day we would love to see this ship sail," said James Piper Bond, the president of Living Classrooms Foundation, whose students help with projects on the ship and even spend the night, sleeping in hammocks.

When the Constellation reached Fort McHenry it exchanged cannon salutes with the fort, creating clouds of smoke that billowed over the water.

Reese covered his ears and leaned in toward his mother when the ship's cannon fired. "It looks like fun," he said about the prospect of living on the Constellation. But after thinking about what it would be like if the ship was fully armed with 22 cannons, all firing, he said: "It might not be fun."

Edward S. Miller and his brother, Louis H. Miller, were among the descendants of former crew members who made the voyage. Their great-grandfather, Edwin H. Miller, was an officer.

"This ring was probably on this ship," Edward S. Miller said, showing his great-grandfather's gold ring emblazoned with an E.

Susan Butta and her husband, Rob Cavender, sat and relaxed after touring the ship. Butta's two grandfathers trained aboard the vessel during World War I.

Butta, a Baltimore native, said because the city is a maritime center, she "didn't realize it was that rare" to have two ancestors on the same ship.

The Constellation is the last remaining Civil War-era vessel still afloat that saw action.

Cavender, a history teacher, viewed the ship as a marvel of its time. "It's just amazing to think that this was high technology. This was state of the art."

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