After letting the US Navy virtually disappear as a national force, Congress enacted the Naval Act of 1794 on this very date. Six frigates were contracted in order to establish the new nation as a naval power in direct response to raids off of the Barbary Coast of Africa, one, the USS Constitution acquired the nick name of “Old Ironsides” after surviving numerous exchanges with British warships with seeming impunity, In the end, the use of soft green Maine pine in the construction of these ships made them less vulnerable to cannon shot than the sturdy oak vessels used by the Brits which threatened the crew before their opponents.
The USS Constitution is the nation’s oldest commissioned naval vessel. It is also the world’s oldest military vessel that is still afloat.
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