Richard Somers III

Male15 September 1778–4 September 1804

Brief Life History of Richard

Born at Great Egg Harbor, New Jersey, he attended school in Philadelphia with future naval heroes Stephen Decatur and Charles Stewart. He was appointed midshipman on April 23 1797 and served in the West Indies during the Quasi-War with France on the frigate United States with Decatur and Stewart, a ship commanded by Captain John Barry. He was promoted to lieutenant on May 21 1799. In 1800, Somers fought three duels on the same day with multiple opponents because they accused him of cowardice for failing to challenge Decatur over a joking insult they overheard. Somers was wounded in the first two duels and had to be supported during the third (by Decatur, who was acting as his second). [1] Somers was detached from United States on June 13 1801 and ordered to Boston on 30 July 1801. He served in the latter frigate in the Mediterranean. After Boston returned to Washington, DC, Somers was furloughed on November 11 1802 to await orders. On May 5 1803, Somers was ordered to Baltimore, Maryland, to man, fit out, and command USS Nautilus, and when that schooner was ready for sea, to sail her to the Mediterranean. Nautilus got underway on 30 June, reached Gibraltar on July 27, and sailed four days later to Spain. He then returned to Gibraltar to meet Commodore Edward Preble, in Constitution, who was bringing a new squadron for action against the Barbary pirates. Nautilus sailed with Preble on October 6 to Tangier where the display of American naval strength induced the Europeans of Morocco to renew the treaty of 1786. Thereafter, Tripoli became the focus of Preble's attention. Somers' service as commanding officer of Nautilus during operations against Tripoli won him promotion to Master Commandant on May 18 1804. In the summer, he commanded a division of gunboats during five attacks on Tripoli, during the First Barbary War. On September 4, 1804, Somers assumed command of fire ship Intrepid which had been fitted out as a "floating volcano" to be sailed into Tripoli harbor and blown up in the midst of the corsair fleet close under the walls of the city. That night, she got underway into the harbor, but she exploded prematurely, killing Somers and his entire crew of volunteers.[2][3] His Headstone reads: IN MEMORY OF RICHARD SOMERS son of Richard and Sophia Somers MASTER COMMANDANT in the Navy of the United States Born 15th Sep. 1778 He perished in the 26th year of his age in the ketch Intrepid in the memorable attempt to destroy the Turkish Flotilla in the Harbor of Tripoli on the fourth of September 1804. Distinguished for his energy, courage, and manly sense of honor. Somers is buried in Tripoli, Libya.[3] In 2004, the New Jersey state assembly passed two resolutions calling for the return of his remains. It is hoped that with the fall of Muammar Gaddafi's regime in Libya in August 2011 that the effort to repatriate the remains will finally be successful. Since 1804, six ships of the US Navy have successively been named the USS Somers in his honor. The town of Somers, New York, located in Westchester County is named in his honor. Somers Point, New Jersey, is named after Richard's great-grandfather. Every year there is a Richard Somers Day celebration in Somers Point. From "Hero Tales of the American Soldier and Sailor - As told by the heroes themselves and their comrades" Century Mfg Co. Philadelphia, PA 1899: Tripoli had several times been bombarded, but so small had the damage been that the Moors remained defiant andd their power was little curtailed. A scheme was at length proposed to destroy the Moorish harbor-squadron by a desparate strategy, which Capt Somers and his companions volunteered to execute, though to do so meant certain death to them. In pursuance of the plans adopted the "Intrepid" was fitted out as a bomb-vessel, or improvised torpedo boat. Under her decks were stored one hundred barrels of powder, about which were disposed shells, scraps of iron and solid shot, the whole being connected with fuses that it might be exploded at any moment desired. The original intention of this brave crew, no doubt, was to apply a slow match when the vessel should be brought to a position where the energy of the explosion would be most disastrous to the enemy's boats, and then row away. When this desparate undertaking was put into effect (May 25 1804) (note other records state this occurred 4 Sep 1804), the night was perfectly clear, save for a mist that hung on the water, and for what followed we are indebted to Admiral Stewart, a spectator of the holocaust, who thus reported the incident: "We watched the 'Intrepid' as she slowly disappeared in the gloom. I held my night-glass levelled until the vessel was lost to sight. Then followed the anxious minutes of suspense. I was still looking, when I saw a point of light move rapidly to one side, slightly rising and falling, as it would do if a man held a lantern in his hand while running. Then the light dropped from sight, as if the one carrying it had leaped down a hatchway. I instinctively knew what it meant. Somers had been discovered and was about to blow up the 'Intrepid.' Suddenly a vast column of fire shot upward, and the sea rocked. The air was filled with flaming bombs, sails, missles, and fragments which continued splashing into the water, as it seemed to me, for several minutes, when all became dark and silent as before. It can never be known whether the explostion was intentional or not, but I have no doubt Somers deliberately blew up the vessel when he found it was a choice between that and being taken prisoner. Not a single one of the thirteen heroes lived to tell the story."

Photos and Memories (8)

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Family Time Line

Richard Somers Jr.
Sophia Suffiah Stillwell
Jane Somers
James Somers
Constant Somers
Sophia Somers
Edward Somers
Sarah Somers
Richard Somers III

Sources (8)

  • Richard Somers, "Find A Grave Index"
  • Richard Somers Wikipedia Entry
  • Lieut Richard Somers, "Find A Grave Index"

Parents and Siblings

Siblings (7)

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World Events (7)


Age 2

"Sometimes referred to as the ""forgotten victory"", the Battle of Springfield was one of the last major battles fought in the north during the Revolutionary War. The British defeat effectively ended their ambitions to reclaim New Jersey. Washington praised the New Jersey Militia for their universal effort and great spirit"

1781 · The First Constitution

Age 3

Serving the newly created United States of America as the first constitution, the Articles of Confederation were an agreement among the 13 original states preserving the independence and sovereignty of the states. But with a limited central government, the Constitutional Convention came together to replace the Articles of Confederation with a more established Constitution and central government on where the states can be represented and voice their concerns and comments to build up the nation.

1786 · Shays' Rebellion

Age 8

Caused by war veteran Daniel Shays, Shays' Rebellion was to protest economic and civil rights injustices that he and other farmers were seeing after the Revolutionary War. Because of the Rebellion it opened the eyes of the governing officials that the Articles of Confederation needed a reform. The Rebellion served as a guardrail when helping reform the United States Constitution.

Name Meaning

Irish: adopted for Ó Somacháin; see Summers .

Irish: in Northern Ireland, adopted for Gaelic Mag Shamradháin; see McGovern . In Irish samhradh means ‘summer’.

English (Somerset): variant of Summers .

Dictionary of American Family Names © Patrick Hanks 2003, 2006.

Possible Related Names

Story Highlight

From a Book that was printed at Provo, Utah July 1955 Volume 1 Number 1

I will be adding any notations that Marian Hurst Bair has made in this book, as it was at one time hers. This will be done by (comment, rbb) Ruth Bair Bindrup who typed this into the computer. From …

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