To the editor:
The War of 1812 and the USS Constitution has drawn a lot of media attention on this 200th anniversary of that event.
The War of 1812, or known locally as: "Mr. Madison's War," was disastrous for Cape Ann.
The odds of success were not in favor of the United States: the English had about 85 ships on the Atlantic seaboard and the United States 17.
It was fortunate that the U.S. Navy had a notable native son on board: Nathaniel Haraden of Annisquam, who had already been commended by the Navy for his earlier service on the U.S.S. Constitution.
Nathaniel Haraden was the sailing master for the Constitution during the turmoil with the Barbary pirates in 1804. A plaque memorializing this commendation is in plain view: As you cross the Blynman bridge heading towards Magnolia, at the intersection of Essex Avenue you will see a large granite rock with a bronze plaque on the boulevard side of the road about 100 yards from the Fishermen's Wives statute.
The plaque reads: "In Honor of an Intrepid Son of Gloucester, Nathaniel Haraden, Sailing Master of the U.S. Frigate Constitution, Commended for Gallantry in Action at the Siege of Tripoli, August 3, 1804, placed by the City of Gloucester — 1932."
Haraden was in charge of the Washington Navy Yard in 1812 when the Constitution arrived for refurbishing.
For Haraden's contribution to the War of 1812, the noted author, James Fenimore Cooper, wrote the following: "After lying some time at Cherbourg, the Constitution sailed for home, reaching Hampton Roads late in the winter of 1812. Captain Hull told the Secretary of the Navy of the bad sailing of the ship, and advised that she should be hauled out so that her copper bottom might be examined. Haraden, her old sailing master, under Captain Preble, was then Master of the Washington Yard, and he offered to put the ship in sailing trim and went to work, like the true seaman he was.
"After repairing the ship's copper, she was fitted with about two-thirds of her former ballast, and the effect was magical. Her old officers, when they came to sail her, scarce knew the ship, she proved to be so much lighter and livelier than before. There is little question that Nathaniel Haraden's knowledge of how the U.S.S. Constitution should be refitted served Old Ironsides well in the arduous trial she would soon undergo in her successful battle with the British warship, the Guerriere."
As an aside: Nathaniel Harden had what seems to be an odd nickname: "Jumping Billy."
Some research reveals that "Jumping Billy" was a name often given to one of a fighting ship's cannons known for jumping about on deck when fired, so the crew had better stand clear of that cannon.
The author, Patrick O'Brien, used the name carved into a cannon carriage in "Master and Commander" and the name appeared on that cannon in the movie of the same name. Another author, C. S. Forester, of Captain Hornblower fame, also had a cannon named "Jumping Billy" in his book, "Ship of the Line."
With the Haraden family history of ancestors chopping the heads off pirates, likening Nathaniel Haraden to a cannon seems just as appropriate as when General George Patton of World War II fame was nicknamed "Old Blood and Guts."
JAMES C. GROVES
Revere Street, Gloucester