, Salem, MA

Local News

April 1, 2014

A rescue to remember

Talks, gun salute to mark Marblehead's saving of Constitution


To escape, a desperate Stewart tossed overboard anything nonessential that might slow his ship, including the grog. It wasn’t enough. Though his destination was Boston, Stewart decided his only hope was to find some way to slip into Marblehead’s tricky harbor.

The War of 1812 was not popular in New England. It was disparaged as Mr. (President James) Madison’s war, and there was even talk of breaking away from the union. The British blockade crippled the economies of seaport towns like Salem and Marblehead.

“The merchants had pretty much stagnated,” Brenckle said.

Opposition to the war was such that when U.S. Navy hero Stephen Decatur attempted to sneak his ship past the British blockade of New London, Conn., someone on shore sent signals to warn the enemy.

Yet, there was also anger at the British who had been harassing U.S. shipping and seizing sailors on American ships to force them into the British navy. Thus, there were up to 50 Marbleheaders among the Constitution’s crew. Their presence proved a godsend as Stewart recruited ’Header Samuel Green to help pilot his ship into the harbor.

Onshore crowds cheered in wild approval. The British, leery of harbor obstacles and the guns of Fort Sewall, drew off.

Though a member of the Revolutionary War re-enactors Glover’s Regiment, Larry Sands won’t be in his Continental Army uniform on Sunday. Rather, another Glover’s Regiment veteran, Bob Erbetta, will appear dressed as a Constitution sailor to fire the weapon recalling the fort’s role in saving an American icon.

In addition to its rescue in 1814, Constitution made return visits as a gesture of gratitude to the town in 1931 and 1997.

Alan Burke can be reached at

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