Just Too Cool: The Navy’s Forest

Did you know that the US Navy has its own forest in Indiana?

Here is a spiffing piece (originally at Military.com) I found at Task & Purpose.

Why the Navy manages its own private white oak forest

Maintaining a forest for ship building would make a lot of sense if ships were still made of wood. But they aren’t. So why does the U.S. Navy maintain a white oak forest in the middle of Indiana?

The white oak tree might have been the most fundamental building block of the young United States — literally. These giants provided the earliest Americans with shelter, built the country, laid the railroads that connected its coasts and kickstarted an industrial revolution.

From Maine to Florida and inland to the Great Plains and the American Southwest, white oaks were used to conquer the frontier, enforce U.S. foreign policy and kick the Royal Navy out of our waters. The USS Constitution, the only still commissioned ship in the U.S. Navy that has sunk another vessel, is made from that same white oak.

And the Navy needs to repair her from time to time.


At Naval Support Activity Crane, near Bloomington, Indiana the U.S. Navy maintains “Constitution Grove,” where a forest of white oaks are grown for the sole purpose of restoring and refitting the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned vessel still sailing (the UK’s HMS Victory is older than Constitution, but remains in drydock).


Which it’s a very good read.

USS Constitution and HMS Guerriere.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. JonPatrick says:

    Wow that is amazing. Funny I was just last night reading Patrick O”Brian’s “The Fortune of War” wherein our heroes Capt. Aubrey and Dr. Maturin were unfortunate to be passengers on a ship that was destroyed in battle by the Constitution and are now prisoners on their way to Boston, the War of 1812 having broken out. The destruction of 3 British ships has certainly stunned the Royal Navy, somewhat analogous as to how a certain presidential victory in 2016 stunned the country whose conventional wisdom said this was impossible.

    This is my second time around for this series, it is like painting the Golden Gate bridge, by the time you are finished the series it is time to start reading them over again. I get much more out of them the second time around, picking up details I missed the first time.


  2. Midwest St. Michael says:

    Way cool, Fr. Z. :^)

    My place of employment! (I am ever grateful to God for this job the Lord has given me.)

  3. teomatteo says:

    Father, maybe you should consider model ship building: cerebral, relaxing, art.

  4. Charivari Rob says:

    A local news site here in Boston featured the same story – an interesting read.
    In the comment box, one of the readers linked a good article about woods used in the construction of Constitution, with some nice diagrams.

  5. Suudy says:

    When I was about 10 to 12, my father was stationed at Kings Bay in St Marys GA. While there, one of the ”Washington Oaks” was struck by lightning. These Washington Oaks were planted after President Washington’s death, and were a pride and joy of the St Mary’s community.

    I think they are all gone now, but the wood from these trees was designated for the USS Constitution. And when that tree went down in about ‘85 or so, there was quite a bit of ceremony and excitement about the wood being used.

    To this day that event really cemented in my mind the “small world” feeling history can bring. 200+ year old oaks, planted for the posterity of our first president serving as material for our oldest commissioned ship. Amazing.

  6. WVC says:

    Being a fan of the Aubrey/Maturin epic, I later listened to “Six Frigates” by Ian Toll on Audible. I recommend it – a captivating narrative about the birth and remarkable success of the American Navy. Some of the true life stories (such as when Decatur burned the USS PHILADELPHIA) sound exactly like some of Lucky Jack’s audacious exploits.

    Now if only the Navy had a lumberjack rating – that’s a job I’d be happy to recommend to my boys.

    [An axe and chainsaw, crossed.]

  7. deaconjeff says:

    Near NAS Pensacola Florida we have:
    The Naval Live Oaks Reservation (also known as Deer Point Live Oaks Reservation or Deer Point Plantation) is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, and is near Gulf Breeze, Florida.
    The naval Live Oak Tree Reservation Program started under President John Quincy Adams and his Secretary of the Navy Samuel S. Southland. In 1828, the first national tree farm, called Naval Live Oak Reservation, was established on a peninsula between Pensacola Bay and Santa Rosa Sound. Today it serves today as part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore forest community preserved by the National Park Service on January 8, 1971, and added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on September 28, 1998.
    In 1926 live oak timbers from the Pensacola area were found to be useful in the restoration of the USS Constitution, a National Monument.
    Deacon Jeff

  8. Deacon Jeff, here in Biloxi, MS we also had some live oak reservation areas for the Navy, specifically along the Back Bay where the current Veterans Hospital is located. I love visiting those areas you mentioned in Pensacola, and learning more of the history of our dear Deep South!

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