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Posted on Nov 7, 2005 in Front Page Features, War College

The Fate of USS Chesapeake

Armchair General

I found a few signs of woodworm, and bits of the flooring were less than stable, but not unsafe. It was quite a thrill to think that I was walking on decking which came from so far away and which had such a history behind it.

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Unfortunately, the loft within the mill was out of bounds, but I managed to sneak some pictures from a staircase.


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This hatchway and the machinery in the photo on the right demonstrate that this was a working Mill for many years, a marked contrast to the original use of the wood used within.

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These two pictures show some good examples of how the original construction of USS Chesapeake can be observed by looking at the discolouration where adjoining timbers would have sat. This "ghosting" gives Naval historians a good idea of which timbers from Chesapeake were used in different parts of the Mill.

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The size of the new Mill was essentially governed by the size of USS Chesapeake with the length of the building being determined by the size of the largest timbers from the ship.

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Occasionally, metal bolts and nails can be see that appear to serve no useful function in the Mill itself. It’s very easy to allow one’s imagination to run away by assuming that these might be from the ship herself, but it’s also difficult to say if this is really the case. Either way, it’s fascinating to speculate.

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The picture on the left is an excellent example showing numerous cut-outs in the massive wooden beams.

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Most of the wood used is softwood and not Oak. Specifically, it is high quality Southern Pine, which had a long straight grain, which was an advantage in constructing deck beams.

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Having been in an enclosed space for so long, the wood is in incredibly condition and it one of the finest examples of 18th century timberwork in the world. Take a look at the precision and craftsmanship on the piece in the right hand picture.

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I am led to believe that these score lines here are race marks. I am further told that there are some timbers in the Mill which have the initials of some of the men who built USS Chesapeake carved into them, as well as some repaired battle damage, but unfortunately I did not find any of this for myself.

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And so there you have it, a visit to an American warship without even leaving the country, and a fine example of recycling a weapon of war into a building of peace and provision.


Chesapeake Mill – the official site of the current owners

To view the complete set of images from my visit, go to the ACG image gallery here.

Discuss this article in our Forums here.

A J Summersgill

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  1. Looking forward to visiting this historical site on the weekend as part of the commemoration party, I feel very honoured to be taking part in remembering those from both sides of the Atlantic who fought and died in what must have been a horrific and bloody encounter.

  2. Great post: I am an English blogger writing on the mill in Hampshire where the timbers from the Chesapeake ended up. I’d like to use your image, complete with watermark, credit and link: please let me know if you’d rather I took it down – regards, Kate Shrewsday

    • Hi Kate, By all means use any image of your choosing,vital to keep alive the memory and indeed the history of this frigate and how its fate brought it to our shores.

  3. HiKate,Please feel free to use any image of your choosing, Its vital to keep alive the memory and indeed the history of this American frigate, and how its fate brought it to our shores. Regards Wayne.