11 Nov 2009

Old Ironsides Under Fire From Bourgeois Neighbors

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Michel Felice Corne, The Constitution and the Guerriere

Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!
Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
That banner in the sky;
Beneath it rung the battle shout,
And burst the cannon’s roar; —
The meteor of the ocean air
Shall sweep the clouds no more.

Her deck, once red with heroes’ blood,
Where knelt the vanquished foe,
When winds were hurrying o’er the flood,
And waves were white below,
No more shall feel the victor’s tread,
Or know the conquered knee; —
The harpies of the shore shall pluck
The eagle of the sea!

Oh, better that her shattered hulk
Should sink beneath the wave;
Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
And there should be her grave;
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,
The lightning and the gale!

–Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1830

The Boston Herald reports that the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship in all the world’s navies, is under attack again.

Her haute bourgeois neighbors are unmoved by the martial glory the renowned frigate won almost two hundred years, earning the nickname “Old Ironsides” as British cannon shot bounced off her double-built oaken hull when she humbled the pride of Nelson’s Navy.

They don’t like listening to the National Anthem every morning when the Constitution’s colors are raised, and her war-like cannon salutes are spoiling the digestion of their brie.

Old Ironsides’ upscale Charlestown neighbors are trying to pull off what British, French and Barbary pirate guns failed to accomplish in more than two centuries – silencing the cannons of the nation’s oldest commissioned naval vessel.

Miffed residents of a posh condo complex have invited the commanding officer of the USS Constitution over for a glass of wine so he can hear for himself that the frigate’s twice-daily cannon blasts – a tradition dating to 1798 – are “more disruptive to the neighborhood than you might have imagined.”

Commanding Officer Timothy Cooper received the most recent complaint two weeks ago from neighbors suggesting naval officers assigned to the historic vessel eliminate the morning and evening blasts on weekends, reduce the size of the gunpowder charge and turn down the volume of the national anthem recording played during the daily flag raising and lowering ceremonies.

“The residential population and congestion of this area has (sic) grown significantly and, it seems to us, that the cannon charge/noise is excessive,” the unidentified resident first wrote in an Aug. 26, 2009, letter obtained by the Herald.

High-end condominium developments have sprung up across from the Charlestown Navy Yard over the past decade, transforming the once hardscrabble waterfront into a toney enclave.

“Over the summer, we have entertained several times, and we have had guests sit up in shock when the cannon goes off,” the resident wrote. “It has also awakened them at 8 a.m. while they are vacationing and then blasted them again at sunset.”

4 Feedbacks on "Old Ironsides Under Fire From Bourgeois Neighbors"

Scott D

There is a man who built a home on a golf course I play. He built it about 20 yards off the right fairway and 190 yards from the tee box. And he goes out every day and curses the golfers who slice drives onto his property. If you don’t like loud noises you might want to think twice about moving next to a ship that has been firing its cannons for 200+ years.

Lazarus Long

Dear Charlestown Elite. Get your asses out of bed, and go to your balconies and stand at attention. The routine would do you good.

Lucius Quinctius

A pity the Navy doesn’t have some ancient tradition associated with bagpipes.


A 200-year ritual, American through and through, threatens the morning peace of a few scalawags. Too bad!


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