USS Constitution “Old Ironsides” Earns Respect for the Nation


Today in History, August 18: 1812 – During the War of 1812, the USS Constitution defeats the Royal Navy Frigate Guerriere off Boston. It had been assumed that the Royal Navy had better ships, better commanders, better tactics than the young American Navy. On this date, the British sailors said their shot bounced off of the Constitution as if she were made of iron rather than wood, thus her historic name “Old Ironsides”.

The Frigate had originally been one of six ships built for defense and to fight Barbary Pirates.  The peace treaty ending the Barbary wars was signed on her deck.

The American ship out maneuvered and out fought the British ship, de-masting her and leaving her a wreck. This was not to be a one time affair, either, as the Constitution went on to defeat 7 more of the King’s best during the war. From fighting Barbary Pirates to a world good will tour in the 1840’s, Old Ironsides served the nation well. Today she is the world oldest commissioned warship, docked at Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston.

She has been in the news lately as she was placed in dry dock and underwent and extensive refurbishment, returning to “sea” just recently.

Untimely Ends


Today in History, August 19: 1895 – An El Paso policeman, John Henry Selman, Sr, ends the notorious career of outlaw John Wesley Hardin in a bar in El Paso.

Hardin had killed many men…one allegedly just for snoring; he had idolized lawman Wild Bill Hickock…who had let him live once in a bad situation.  Hardin claimed to have killed 27 men before being sentenced to 25 years hard labor in 1878.  He would be released in 1894, now an attorney!

Hardin set up shop in El Paso, intending to keep straight, which didn’t last.  He was involved in some shady dealings involving a prostitute legal client, which ended with the death of her husband during the husband’s arrest by Texas Rangers.

John Selman, Senior’s son, John Selman, Jr., also an El Paso Constable, made an unrelated arrest of Hardin’s girlfriend / client,  On today’s date Hardin and Selman, Sr. argued in the street, as Hardin threatened Jr. and Sr.

And that turned out to be a mistake, for Selman, Sr. also had a checkered past.  He had been a Texas militia member during the Civil War, a lawman, outlaw, then lawman again.  He had already shot and killed another lawman…ironically with the last name “Outlaw” and been acquitted of murder charges.

Later the same day of the argument, Hardin was playing dice in the Acme Saloon when Selman, Sr. stepped into the bar and shot Hardin once in the back of the head, the added shots to his midsection to make sure of the result.

Within months of killing Hardin, in April, 1896, Selman got into an argument with US Deputy Marshal George Scarborough, who shot Selman dead with four shots.  Four years later to the day, Scarborough would be shot and killed in a gunfight with robbery suspects.

Hardin’s end was ironic, considering the man he idolized (although certainly did not emulate) died nearly the same way.  August 2, 1876, “Wild Bill” Hickok was shot in the back of the head while playing cards in a Deadwood, South Dakota saloon.