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Old Ironsides Summary
Oliver Wendell Holmes

Everything you need to understand or teach Old Ironsides by Oliver Wendell Holmes.

  • Old Ironsides Summary & Study Guide

Old Ironsides Summary


In 1830, the U.S. Navy made plans to scrap the 44-gun frigate Constitution, the nation's most celebrated warship. Launched in 1797, "Old Ironsides" had earned her nickname during the War of 1812, defeating a number of fabled British vessels including the HMS Guerierre. Though the war as a whole ended indecisively, from it the young republic drew many symbols of its recent independence. One such symbol was "The Star Spangled Banner," written in 1814 to memorialize the shelling of FortMcHenry. Another symbol profound to many Americans was the Constitution itself, which represented the nation's freedom on the seas, an issue that had initially sparked the conflict with the British. When the young Holmes read a Boston newspaper account of the proposed dismantling of the Constitution in 1830, he penned "Old Ironsides," a sentimental poem remembered mostly for its role in saving the frigate from decommission. In the poem, Holmes offers emotional reminiscences of...

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