marissa_doyle (marissa_doyle) wrote,

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A History Geek Moment

I collect early nineteenth century fashion plates.  All the magazines of that time always included fashion news and a few hand-tinted engravings showing the latest fashions, and I just love them, especially the one from Ackermann's Repository (an English mag published from 1809-1828).  As items to collect, these are pretty harmless.  They don't take up vast amounts of space in my house, they're easy to care for, and they're fun.

I just got a new one yesterday, an Ackermann from April 1813, and to my delight I found it included a few pages of text.  There's nothing more fun than reading news items from 194 years ago.  There was part of an article about Napoleon's having given one of his generals the title of Prince of Moscow, and an article about the agricultural outlook for the spring.  And then there was this brief item, which I'll quote in full:


It is with feelings of more than the keenest grief, we have to pollute our pages with the record of another victory of the Americans over the proud, the hitherto invincible navy of Great Britain.  By American journals recently arrived , we learn, that, on the 29th Dec. last, at about ten leagues from the coast of the Brazils, our frigate the Java, Captain Lambert, in her way to the East Indies, was met by the American frigate Constitution, Commodore Bainbridge.  An action of nearly two hours duration ensued, in which the British frigate lost 60 killed and 101 wounded; had her bowsprit and every mast and spar shot away; was altogether reduced to an unmanageable wreck, and compelled to strike to the enemy, whose loss is stated not to have exceeded nine killed and twenty-five wounded.  The British commander, Captain Lambert, is reported mortally wounded, and among the prisoners who were released on parole, is Lieutenant-General Hislop and his staff, who were proceeding to Bombay in the Java."

The funky punctuation isn't mine.  That's how it was written.

Sounds pretty boring apart from the hyperbolic language in the first sentence.  But were you paying close attention?  The American ship mentioned in this one hundred and ninety-four-year-old article was the Constitution...which this very day is still in its berth in Boston Harbor, about twenty miles from where I'm sitting and typing this.  You might also know her by her nick-name "Old Ironsides".  She was one of the newly-independent United States' first naval vessels.  Think about that.

All right, I know I'm a total history geek.  I freely admit it.  But I also think the whole thing was pretty cool.


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