First USS Constellation Launched
Ordered by a Congressional Act in 1794, the first American ship to be christened the Constellation was launched on September 7, 1797.
Designed by naval constructors Joshua Humphreys and Josiah Fox, the Constellation was the first ship commissioned into the United States Navy and the first put to sea. As such, it received the most esteemed name – Constellation, in honor of the ring of white stars against a blue background that was once featured on the American flag.
The Constellation was quickly pressed into service the following year, convoying merchantmen before traveling to the West Indies to protect American commerce in the Quasi War against France. The ship first saw battle on February 9, 1799 in the waters near Nevis. There it captured France’s fastest ship – the L’Insurgente – making it the first U.S. boat to capture an enemy vessel. Over the next few months, the Constellation seized two more French privateers. Amazed by its ability to travel 13 knots while sailing under nearly an acre of canvas sails, French sailors nicknamed it the “Yankee Racehorse.”