As the Bicentennial of the War of 1812
is observed in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, one of its most important artifacts sits relatively intact and unknown in England. The USS Chesapeake was launched in Portsmouth, Virginia
in 1799, and captured by the British in one of the most storied naval battles of the War of 1812. Though broken up in Portsmouth, England in 1819, she endures more than any of the other American warships of her day, including the USS Constitution
. Since 1820, the uncut and unaltered timbers of the Chesapeake have survived as the structure of a flour mill beside the Meon River in Wickham, Hampshire County, UK. When the Chesapeake Mill became obsolete and abandoned in the 1970s, the ship was in danger of being broken up once again. Then, at the beginning of the 21st century, the forces of historic preservation returned her to life in another form.
Sometimes called the second American war for independence, the War of 1812 was the last battle against foreign troops on American soil. Virginia was the site of the first permament English settlement in the American colonies and was the largest state at the founding of the country. The USS Constitution, a 44-gun frigate, served from the undeclared naval war with France in 1797 through the War of 1812 and was nicknamed "Old Ironsides."