In the fall of 2005 the USS Constitution Museum received an Institute of Museum and Library Services Museums for America grant to fund research into the lives of Constitution’s War of 1812 crew. Since then, we have explored large numbers of genealogical and governmental records kept in archives and libraries around the country, thereby gaining a fuller and more accurate picture of the lives of the approximately 1,180 men who served on board Constitution during the period. By asking who these men were, where they came from, and where they went, we begin to see how and why they were so successful.
The stories we have unearthed are wonderfully powerful and evocative, and provide a glimpse into the lives of these forgotten Americans. Yet they also frequently highlight the forgotten tragedies of the war and a seafaring life. Beyond the fanfare of the famous victories hide tales of woe: veterans disabled by horrific wounds, families torn asunder, and widows and orphans plunged into sudden poverty. It is the legacy of the War of 1812, and of the men and women forever affected by it, that the research confronts, reminding us that wars of any period are won not by the trumpeting of politicians, but by the many sacrifices of individuals. Constitution’s sailors were no different in this regard, and the more we learn about their fates, the more human they become.
Building on the work of Commander Tyrone Martin, the Museum has created a database that will allow us to record all of the information collected about Constitution’s War of 1812 crew. When complete, the database will be an invaluable resource for naval and social historians, as well as genealogists. For more information on the work of Commander Ty Martin, click here.
Researching the lives of Constitution’s 1812 crew is a never-ending process. We are always searching for more details about each individual’s life. If you served on board, or have information about an ancestor who sailed on Old Ironsides, we invite you to share it with us! Call (617) 426-1812 ext. 137 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit our crew database to discover the stories of Constitution's entire War of 1812 crew! Printed reports of individuals are available for $25. See the database page for full details.