- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 9, 2008

Two of the most important names in early U.S. naval history will take to the sea together again as the USS Constellation was pulled from its slip Friday to take part in the commissioning of the Navy’s newest destroyer, the USS Sterett.

The 154-year-old Constellation, the centerpiece of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, was towed three miles from its home to South Locust Point for Saturday’s formal introduction of the $1.3 billion Sterett, a guided-missile destroyer. The Sterett DDG 104, the fourth Navy ship to bear the name, is christened in honor of Andrew Sterett, the first lieutenant to sail the original, 18th century Constellation and a celebrated naval hero.

“This is the big one,” said Constellation Museum Executive Director Christopher Rowsom. “It really reminds us all that all of our men and women in uniform are really important to our country.”

Sterett, a Baltimore native, at the rank of Third Lieutenant sailed on the USF Constellation, a predecessor of Baltimore’s 1854 Constellation, and defeated the frigate L’Insurgente in 1799 during the little-remembered and undeclared Quasi-War with France, which took place entirely at sea. The war lasted two years.

In 1800, as a First Lieutenant, Sterett took command of the schooner Enterprise and successfully fought the Barbary pirate ship Tripoli, which earned him a sword from President Thomas Jefferson and extra pay.

The trip was a rare one for the Constellation, which is typically moved or given a “turnaround” once a year to ensure the wooden ship weathers evenly. The ship is a National Historic Landmark.

However, the ship left the Inner Harbor in 2004 for a celebration of its 150th birthday in Annapolis. Moving the Constellation still requires permission from the Naval Sea Systems Command by the Navy, which retains oversight of the ship.

“I think it’s very special for us to be part of this,” Mr. Rowsom said. “A lot of people don’t think of Baltimore as a naval city even though it has an extensive naval history.”

The Constellation now in Baltimore is the Navy’s last all-sail warship. It was launched from the Gosport Navy Yard at Portsmouth, Va. The original was built in Baltimore.

Before the Civil War, the Constellation was used to intercept slave ships and during the war it was used to chase Confederate raiders, according to the ship’s Web site. It was also used for training at the U.S. Naval Academy in the late 1800s.

The Constellation was brought to Baltimore for restoration in 1955.

The 505-foot Sterett was built by Maine’s Bath Iron Works, which dates to 1884 and is now a unit of Falls Church-based defense giant General Dynamics. It can carry 32 officers and 348 enlisted sailors, according to the U.S. Naval Vessel Register.

The Sterett is capable of fighting air, surface, and subsurface battles simultaneously and contains a wide array of offensive and defensive weapons, according to the Defense Department.

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