“Can you imagine how I felt when we arrived in Boston …

… and saw the crowd cheering – for us, ordinary sailors! I am so proud that our very first battle is being heralded as one of the most brilliant naval victories ever achieved. I will always feel a strong bond with the ship that brought us this good fortune and protected me from harm.”

What happened to the crew?

Constitution’s sailors returned victorious three times during the War of 1812. Sailors enjoyed their success and received extra pay called prize money. Eventually, they returned to their ordinary lives with just the memory of an extraordinary moment.

Not all sailors were so lucky. Some were injured in battle, others didn’t return at all.

British prisoner

What happened to the British prisoners in Boston?

Officers gave their word of honor that they would not attempt to escape from captivity or fight against the enemy again until properly exchanged. HMS Guerriere’s officers were given parole as soon as Constitution reached Boston. British Royal Navy Captain James Richard Dacres took up residence in Boston, and other officers settled west of the city in Concord, Massachusetts.

Sailors lived on prison ships. Guerriere’s enlisted men stayed on an old hulk moored in the Charles River, near the Charlestown bridge. A plank walkway from Pond Street gave visitors access. The prisoners became a diversion in wartime Boston, and many Bostonians paid the ship a visit.

According to one Bostonian, the prisoners “led an easy life, and lived ‘on the fat of the land,’ faring better than they had ever dreamed of…Try to run away? Not a bit of it; for here they read, and sang, and danced, and rigged their miniature vessels, and carved their beef-bone ornaments, or chains of wooden links, ‘happy as clams at high water.’”

Today's Crew: What does Constitution mean to you?

Today's Crew: What does ‘thank you for your service’ mean to you?

Stories from artifacts at the USS Constitution Museum