Richard Somers, Master Commandant

An Educational Venue

 for former U.S.S. Intrepid (CV, CVA, CVS-11) Crewmembers

Chapter IV

–        Richard Somers, Master Commandant –


                           Richard Somers (1778 or 1779– September 4, 1804)

Born at Great Egg Harbor, NJ he attended school in Philadelphia with future naval heroes Stephen Decatur and Charles Stewart. He was appointed midshipman on 25 April 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.

Promoted to lieutenant on 21 May 1799, Somers was detached from the United States on 13 June 1801 and ordered to the Boston on 30 July 1801. He served on the latter frigate in the Mediterranean. After Boston returned to Washington, DC, Somers was furloughed on 11 November 1802 to await orders.

On 5 May 1803, Somers was ordered to Baltimore, MD, to man, fit out, and command the USS Nautilus, and when that schooner was ready for sea, to sail her to the Mediterranean. The Nautilus got underway on 30 June, reached Gibraltar on 27 July, and sailed four days later to Spain. He then returned to Gibraltar to meet Commodore Edward Preble, aboard the Constitution, who was bringing a new squadron for action against the Barbary pirates.

The Nautilus sailed with Preble on 6 October 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 the Nautilus during operations against Tripoli won him promotion to Master Commandant on 18 May 1804. In the summer, he commanded a division of gunboats during five attacks on Tripoli, during the First Barbary War.

On 4 September 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.

Somers is buried in Tripoli, Libya. 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 Moammar Gadhafi’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, NY, located in Westchester County is named in his honor. Somers Point, NJ, is named after Richard’s great-grandfather.



Intrepid Project Works To Return Intrepid Sailors To United States

The bodies of five New York sailors who were killed when the first USS Intrepid sank back in 1804 may at last be returned to American soil thanks to improved relations between the United States and Libya, but tension between advocates and the Navy could bring things to a halt.

The bodies of five New York sailors who were killed when the first USS Intrepid sank back in 1804 may – hopefully – be returned to American soil, but tension between advocates and the Navy could bring things to a halt.  

The United States didn’t send Americans to fight in Libya this last time, but they did two centuries ago. Some never came home.

I only have one hero in my family. I would like to visit his grave,” says Dean Somers, a descendent of Captain Richard Somers, who led a crew of 13 men, including five sailors who enlisted in New York City.

In 1804, the Intrepid was loaded with explosives to repel Barbary pirates attacking merchant ships. It blew up, either from an enemy cannon, or an intentionally lit fuse to escape capture.

The sailors’ bodies washed ashore. They were fed on by dogs. Most ended up in communal graves long left in disrepair.

I saw the pictures of the graves and I heard the story of how they were treated, and I’m just not able to sleep at night until these men come home,” says Michael Caputo of the Intrepid Project.

The cause has attracted a motley crew that includes Caputo, who ran the campaign of Carl Paladino, the failed GOP candidate for governor. On the other side of this issue has been an unlikely opponent…the United States Navy.

Officials have said they would consider the men’s final resting spot, adding that the cemetery is being renovated.

Congress has been expecting to force the Navy to begin a nine-month study into the feasibility of bringing the remains home. Some say that may not be good enough.

We think we have a window, but we don’t know what a future government will look like. We don’t know what their relationship will be like with the United States. We don’t know if they will be friendly,” says New Jersey Representative Frank Lobiondo.

And the Somers family says their demand has always been a U.S. burial.

For years after Somers’ death, his sister asked that his body be returned from Tripoli and be reinterred at the family plot in New Jersey. Her wish was unfulfilled at the time of her own death, so she asked that a marker in memory of her brother be placed next to her grave.

I could come and be here and visit it. It’s home for him,” says Somers.

The others sailors may never be paired with their descendants, but under the plan, the nation could honor their service with a burial at Arlington National Cemetery.







This Educational Venue is for former Intrepid Crewmembers

who served …’with pride and dedication’