On August 19, 1812 the USS Constitution defeated the HMS Guerriere off the coast of Nova Scotia. The battle lasted for an hour and marked a great victory for the Navy.
The first major naval encounter of the War of 1812 took place between the USS Constitution, commanded by Captain Isaac Hull, and the HMS British Guerriere, commanded by Captain Dacres. The two ships were both rated as frigates and carried similar armaments. The British captain was sure of victory, and before the encounter he was reported to have said- "There is a Yankee Frigate: in forty five minutes she is surely ours take her and I promise you four months pay."
As the two ships approached each other, the British kept up a steady fire of long-range cannon fire. The early shell bounced off the hull of the Constitution without causing any damage. It is said that a cry went up "hurrah- her sides are made of iron!"- Thus her name soon became "Old Ironside". When the two ships were 25 feet apart, Hull gave the order to open fire. The cannon hit the Geurrier with devastating effect. Within a short time all the masts of the Guerriere were down and Dacres had no choice but to surrender. While the victory of the Constitution militarily was a modest success, its political effect was substantial. It solidified support from New England for the war effort and countered the poor war news coming from the Canadian front.