Captain Isaac Hull ordered extra sail… and the USS Constitution ran down the HMS Guerriere. Broadsides were exchanged, and in 15 minutes, the engagement was over. The gunners on board the British ship did minimal damage, watching in horror as many of their shots bounced harmlessly off the American vessel’s hull. The US sailors cheered, “Huzzah!! Her sides are made of iron!!”
When asked if surrender was his intention… British Captain James Dacres responded, “Well, Sir, I don’t know. Our mizzen mast is gone, our fore and main masts are gone – I think on the whole you might say we have struck our flag.”
The victory of “Old Ironsides”…was the first in a series of ship-to-ship triumphs for the tiny US Navy. The American frigates were bigger and faster than any similar vessel in the British North American squadron. British captains came at the Americans with commendable gusto, but quickly realized their folly. It didn’t take long for the Brits to start complaining that the American ships were fighting out of their class– maybe John Bull shouldn’t have picked the fights??