U.S.S. Constitution

On August 19, 1812 the British frigate, Guerriere, fired upon the Constitution off the coast of Nova Scotia. In slightly more than an hour, the Constitution destroyed three of the Guerriere’s masts and the bowsprit. Fifteen men aboard the Guerriere were killed and sixty-two were wounded. In contrast, only seven aboard the Constitution were killed and seven injured. The captain of the Guerriere surrendered and was brought aboard the Constitution. That night and into the following day, prisoners were transferred to the Constitution before the Guerriere was set on fire.

The Constitution’s surgeon Amos A. Evans and the Guerriere’s surgeon, Dr. Irwin, worked together to treat the wounded. According to Dr. Evans’ account, the wounded prisoners were sent to the hospital on “Quarantine Island” (Rainsford Island) on August 30. The ship arrived at the Navy Yard on the next day. Between September 1st and 3rd, Evans visited the hospital and Navy Yard and noted that sixty of the men from the Constitution were reassigned aboard the President to replace “a great number of her crew” who were sick with scurvy.

Fragment of mandible lost from gunshot wound

A fragment of the mandible of a British officer on the Guerriere. He was wounded by a shot from the Constitution.

The Constitution left port in October and headed south toward Brazil, with Dr. Evans continuing as the ship's surgeon. On December 29 the Constitution engaged the HMS Java. Although the Constitution suffered damage to the rigging and helm as a result of the four hour battle, the Java was much more severely damaged and surrendered. Of the Constitution’s crew, eight were killed and twenty-seven injured. Five of the wounded seamen required amputations of the arm or leg. The number of crew on the Java killed was not known and about 105 were injured. Prisoners were transferred to the Constitution that night and the ship was destroyed two days later. The Constitution returned to Boston on February 15, and the Captain of the Java died during the voyage.

Dr. Evans remained in Boston and was stationed at the Marine Hospital in Boston from 1813 to 1814, receiving a degree from Harvard Medical School during this time. In 1815 he was appointed first surgeon of the Fleet and stationed aboard the Independence in the Mediterranean from July to December.

Exfoliation from a femur after amputation

Exfoliation from femur eight months after an amputation following an injury received in the action between the Constitution and the Java.