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“Old Ironsides” Colour Party to Attend Commemorative Ceremony

(Halifax, N.S. Thursday, May 12, 2005)— A colour party from the USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, will participate in a ceremony here later this month to commemorate the unmarked graves of close to 200 American prisoners who died while imprisoned here in the early 1800s.

Known as "Old Ironsides" because of her seemingly invincible oak hull, the USS Constitution was one of the original six frigates that made up the U.S. Navy. The 44-gun frigate was built in 1797 at the Edmond Hartt Shipyard, in Boston, and she fought in the United States' undeclared naval war with France, as well as against Barbary pirates in Mediterranean. The ship found her greatest fame and glory in the War of 1812. It was in this war, during a battle with the HMS Guerriere, that she earned her famous nickname "Old Ironsides."

Historians have concluded that at least 195 American prisoners from the War of 1812 died while confined to Melville Island Prison, on the North West Arm in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and were buried on an adjoining property, Deadman's Island.

In addition, at least 104 Chesapeake black refugees, who had fled to Canada from 1812 to 1815, died from small pox while being quarantined on Melville Island and most were probably buried on Deadman’s Island as well.
In 2000, with the then-privately held land in danger of being sold to condominium developers, Halifax Regional Municipality purchased the Deadman's Island property in order to protect the burial ground. Much of the credit for protecting this site rests with the Northwest Arm Heritage Association and the Society of the War of 1812 in the State of Ohio.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, through its Memorial Programs Service, agreed to supply a Group Memorial monument. A significant granite monument with a bronze plaque that identifies the dead American soldiers will be erected on Deadman’s Island. It will be inscribed with the names of captured Americans who are buried at the site.

A special commemorative ceremony will be held on the site on Deadman’s Island on at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 30, 2005. A number of dignitaries from Canada and the United States are expected to attend, and members of the United States military and the Canadian Armed Forces will be participating in the ceremony.


Ms. Dale Crory
U.S. Consulate General
Halifax, Nova Scotia
(902) 422-5034 ext.2555

John O’Brien
HRM Corporate Communications
Halifax Regional Municipality
(902) 490-6531

Above content last modified Thursday, November 02, 2023 at 11:40am.