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A few things:

1) HMS Victory is not a commissioned naval ship, she isn't technically even afloat. USS Constitution is not only afloat, she is carried on the books as a active ship in the US Navy.

2) Sadly that whole story about the water and taking on of spirits is all made up.

a) "Her mission: "To destroy and harass English shipping"

Well, on 27 July 1798, the US and the Kingdom of Great Britain were at peace. The Revolution ended 15 years earlier and the War of 1812 was 14 years in the future. Actually, we were in a "Quasi-war" with France at the time.

b) "Making Jamaica on 6 October,... "

Official records state the USS Constitution sailed from Boston on the evening of July 22, 1798*, with orders to cruise between Cape Henry, Virginia, and Charleston, South Carolina. On October 6, the ship was at Hampton Roads, Virginia, very far away from Jamaica. (Jamaica, by the way, was the headquarters of the British West India squadron, a strange place to steer for if one were at war with them).

c) "Then she headed for the Azores , arriving there 12 November...."

Again history records a less interesting November, on the 12th the USS Constitution lay at anchor in Boston Harbor, having just returned from a largely uninteresting first cruise.

d) "On 18 November, she set sail for England . . . In the ensuing days she defeated five British men-of-war ships, and captured and scuttled 12 English merchant ships, salvaging only the rum aboard each."

Well, on the 18th of November, the Constitution was still in Boston...but she did sail for the Caribbean after Christmas. On January 26, 1799, she was heading for Prince Rupert’s Bay, Dominica, to repair the injured foremast–not launching a foray into the Firth of Clyde. On February 20, Captain Nicholson and his crew were patrolling the waters off Guadeloupe.

c) "She carried no evaporators (i.e. fresh water distillers)."

Here's a big problem. At this time in history, evaporators were part of the ship's stove, and the British certainly had them as part of their Brodie stoves. And since Constitution‘s first galley stove came from England, it is entirely possible that it was outfitted with a condenser.

d) " . . . and 79,400 gallons of rum."

In 1799, a Navy Department estimate of provisions for a 44-gun frigate included 8,650 gallons of rum (at a dollar per gallon).

In 1814, Captain Charles Stewart testimony in a court of inquiry included a list of all the provisions taken on board USS Constitution for a six month cruise. These “load out” figures were: 9,546 gallons of spirits and 47,265 gallons of water.

At a dollar a gallon the price of the story's rum provisions are about a third of the cost the ship herself.

e) "On July 27, 1798, the U.S.S. Constitution sailed from Boston with a full complement of 475 officers and men..."

In fact, the muster rolls for the first cruise are missing, so, we don’t know the exact number of people this ship had on board when she sailed in 1798 – however, according to the Naval Armament Act of 1797, a 44-gun frigate was authorized to carry 359 officers and men**, a plus-up of 116 men seems a bit extreme.

1 - Captain
4 - Lieutenants
1 – Chaplain
1 – Surgeon
2 – Surgeon’s Mates

Warrant Officers:
1 Sailing Master, 1 Purser, 1 Boatswain, 1 Gunner, 1 Sail-maker, 1 Carpenter, 8 Midshipmen,

Petty Officers:
2 Master’s Mates, 1 Clerk, 2 Boatswain’s Mates, 1 Coxswain, 1 Sailmaker’s Mate, 2 Gunner’s Mates, 1 Yeoman, 11 Quarter Gunners, 2 Carpenter’s Mates, 1 Armorer, 1 Steward, 1 Cooper, 1 Master-at-Arms, 1 Cook

150 Able Seamen
103 Ordinary Seamen

1 - Lieutenant of Marines
1 – Sergeant
1 – Corporal
1 – Fife
1 – Drum
50 - Marines

* This was her maiden voyage, by the way.
** An Act to Provide Naval Armament, 27 March 1794, Third Congress, Session I

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There is a TRUE story about the USS Constitution, the Royal Navy, and some wine . . .

In early 1799, The USS Constitution was assigned to Commodore Barry’s West Indies Squadron patrolling for French shipping and/or privateers in that area. On the 1st of March the USS Constitution encountered the Royal Navy's HMS Santa Margarita. Captain Samuel Nicholson (Constitution) and Captain George Parker (Santa Margarita) were acquainted and Nicholson gave Parker a tour of his brand new “super”-frigate. Parker gave praise to the condition and size of the American ship, but boasted that while the American ship might out-gun his ship*, he could outrun her, if it came to that. Obviously, Nicholson disagreed.

The bet was on. The two ships would race, and a casket of Madeira from the loser would go to the winner**.

On 2nd of March, the two ships would begin the race at dawn and whoever was in the lead at sundown would be the winner. A cannon shot marked the dawn and the two ships set off, eleven hours later, as dusk began to settle, the USS Constitution was several miles ahead of HMS Santa Margarita. After dark the two ships rendezvoused and Captain Parker was rowed over to the USS Constitution with the prize casket of wine for Nicholson.

I don't know if he shared the prize with his crew....

* The HMS Santa Margarita was a 36-gun frigate, originally in the Spanish Navy. She was captured off Lisbon by HMS Tartar in 1779, an action that was part of the American War of Independence, oddly enough, and taken into the Royal Navy in 1780.

** Actually, wine, like this, would not be part of the ship’s stores, but be part of the Captain’s personal provisions.

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Was the Constitution involved in any operations against the Confederates during the War Between The States?
I believe she was a receiving hulk for the Naval Academy during the war. (EDIT: Her late day as a operational warship was 14 June 1855.)

Her sister, the USS United States was captured by the Confederates at Norfolk in 1861. Later, they scuttled her.
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