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James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

August 19

The Capture of the Guerriere by the Constitution

By Philip Freneau (1752–1832)

  • A naval victory of the war of 1812, fought on August 19 of that year. The Constitution under Capt. Isaac Hull captured the Guerriere, Capt. Philip Vere Broke, and burned her.

  • LONG the tyrant of our coast

    Reigned the famous Guerriere;

    Our little navy she defied,

    Public ship and privateer:

    On her sails in letters red,

    To our captains were displayed

    Words of warning, words of dread,

    “All who meet me, have a care!

    I am England’s Guerriere.”

    On the wide, Atlantic deep

    (Not her equal for the fight)

    The Constitution, on her way,

    Chanced to meet these men of might;

    On her sails was nothing said,

    But her waist the teeth displayed

    That a deal of blood could shed,

    Which, if she would venture near,

    Would stain the decks of the Guerriere.

    Now our gallant ship they met—

    And, to struggle with John Bull—

    Who had come, they little thought,

    Strangers, yet, to Isaac Hull:

    Better soon to be acquainted:

    Isaac hailed the Lords anointed—

    While the crew the cannon pointed,

    And the balls were so directed

    With a blaze so unexpected;

    Isaac so did maul and rake her

    That the decks of Captain Dacre

    Were in such a woful pickle

    As if death with scythe and sickle,

    With his sling, or with his shaft

    Had cut his harvest fore and aft.

    Thus, in thirty minutes ended,

    Mischiefs that could not be mended;

    Masts, and yards, and ship descended,

    All to David Jones’ locker—

    Such a ship in such a pucker!

    Drink a bout to the Constitution!

    She performed some execution

    Did some share of retribution

    For the insults of the year

    When she took the Guerriere.

    May success again await her,

    Let who will again command her

    Bainbridge, Rodgers, or Decatur—

    Nothing like her can withstand her,

    With a crew like that on board her

    Who so boldly called “to order”

    One bold crew of English sailors,

    Long, too long our seamen’s jailors,

    Dacre and the Guerriere!