“To watch Constitution come round the opening of the harbor, you couldn’t help but think it did the same thing when it was chased by the two British warships 200 years ago,” Christensen said.
By 1814, Constitution was already something of a legend, having defeated two British Navy frigates, the Java and Guerriere, in 1812. It shocked the world that the upstart American Navy could deliver such a punch. And the warships Tenedos and Junon must have been hungry for vengeance when they spotted their American nemesis off the coast of Cape Ann.
What followed was a classic sea chase, with Constitution fleeing toward Boston and hurriedly tossing overboard everything it could to lighten the load. But the U.S. frigate was traveling under a handicap, a cracked mainmast that might have splintered at any moment. Meanwhile, on land, North Shore residents began collecting on the shore in large numbers, desperate to see their countrymen escape.
As Capt. Charles Stewart neared Marblehead’s tricky harbor entrance, he saw his chance. Calling forward the Marbleheaders in his crew, he asked if one felt sure enough to pilot the ship into the harbor. Samuel Green stepped forward. Thus, he sailed into the harbor while the regulars at Fort Sewall rolled out their cannon.
“I would have liked to have seen the look on the face of the British captains when they saw the cannon,” Christensen said. The threat of shore batteries was enough to keep the British Navy at a safe distance.
Alan Burke can be reached at email@example.com.