Built at Boston and launched on 21st October 1797, Constitution was the third of six frigates ordered by Congress to form the basis of a new United States' Navy. Measured by her builders at 2,200 tons, she was 175 feet in length with a 42 foot beam, and mounted 44 guns although she would often carry more in the years ahead. Leaving Boston on her first commission in July 1798, she played a minor role in the quasi-war with France (1798-99), but then went on to distinguish herself as flagship to the Mediterranean Squadron during the Barbary Wars of 1803-04. By the time war with England was declared in 1812, she was back in Boston and put to sea on 12th July under the command of Captain Isaac Hull. On 19th August she sighted the British frigate Guerriere and engaged her at close quarters in one of the most celebrated encounters in American naval history. After a desperate fight lasting two hours Guerriere, by now battered into a dismasted wreck, struck her colours and surrendered. It was a bitter blow for British naval pride and an incident from which Constitution emerged with the affectionate sobriquet "Old Ironsides" which she has never relinquished. In the last week of December 1812, she scored a similar victory when she took the Royal Navy's frigate Java off the coast of Brazil in another spectacular action which merely cemented her reputation into the American consciousness. Subsequently saved from the breakers, she is currently preserved at Boston and enjoys the reputation of being the oldest warship in the world still afloat.