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NavSource Online: "Old Navy" Ship Photo Archive

USS Somers (II)

Bainbridge Class Brig-of-War:
  • Laid down, date unknown, at New York Navy Yard
  • Launched, 16 April 1842
  • Commissioned, 12 May 1842, CDR. Alexander Slidell Mackenzie in command
  • USS Somers departed New York, 13 September 1842, for the West Coast of Africa
  • Sailed for the West Indies, 11 November 1842, from Monrovia, Liberia
  • On 26 November 1842, CDR. Mackenzie arrested Midshipman Philip Spencer, the son of Secretary of War Spencer, for inciting mutiny. The next day, Boatswain's Mate Samuel Cromwell and Seaman Elisha Small were also put in irons. An investigation by the officers of the ship indicated that these men were plotting to take over the ship, throw the officers and loyal members overboard and use Somers for piracy. On 1 December the prisoners were found guilty of intention to commit a mutiny and were promptly hanged
  • A Naval Court of Inquiry at New York exonerated CDR. Mackenzie
  • 20 March 1843, LT. John West assumed command of USS Somers, and the brig was assigned to the Home Squadron
  • During the Mexican War of 1846, USS Somers was commanded by LT. Raphael Semmes as was assigned to blockade duty at Vera Cruz
  • Final Disposition, On 8 December 1846, while chasing a blockade runner off Vera Cruz, Somers capsized and foundered in a sudden squall. 32 crew members drowned and 7 were captured
    Displacement 259 t.
    Length Between Perpendiculars 100'
    Beam 25'
    Depth of Hold 11'
    Depth 13' 6"
    Speed unknown
    Complement 120
    ten 32-pdr carronades
    Propulsion sail

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    Size Image Description Contributed
    Somers 110k
    Richard Somers, Master Commandant, U.S. Navy (1778- 1804)
    Richard Somers was born in 1778 or 1779 at Great Egg Harbor, N.J. and was appointed midshipman, 25 April 1797, serving in the West Indies during the Quasi War with France in the frigate United States commanded by Captain John Barry. Promoted to Lieutenant, 21 May 1799, Somers was detached from United States, 13 June 1801, and ordered to the frigate Boston, 30 July 1801. He served in the latter frigate in the Mediterranean. After Boston return to Washington, Somers was furloughed, 11 November 1802, to await orders. On 5 May 1803, Somers was ordered to Baltimore to man; fit out; and command the schooner Nautilus; and when ready for sea, to sail her to the Mediterranean. Nautilus got underway, 30 June; reached Gibraltar, 27 July; and sailed four days later to Spain. He then returned to Gibraltar to meet Commodore Edward Preble, in the frigate Constitution, who was bringing a new squadron for action against the Barbary pirates. 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 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. On 4 September 1804, Somers assumed command of bomb ketch 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.
    Congress passed a resolution of sympathy for the relatives of Somers and his men. A monument to the memory of Somers and his brave companions was created in Italy and shipped back to the US in crates aboard Constitution. The monument, known as the Tripoli monument, was first erected at the Washington Navy Yard, where it remained until after the British Raid on Washington in 1814. It now stands on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, and is the oldest monument commemorating combat in the United States.
    There is currently a movement to have Somers and his men, who are currently buried in Tripoli, repatriated to the United States. (John Paul Jones, who was buried in France, was returned to the U.S. and is now buried at Annapolis.) Former Congressman and ambassador to Panama, William Hughes, is spearheading this effort. The current thaw in relations with Libya give an opportunity that hopefully will not be lost.
    Thanks to CDR Tyrone Martin (USN RET), and Bill Kelly, (Author of the book "300 years at the point") for their contribution to this section.
    Bill Gonyo
    Somers (II) 245k Drawing showing the lines of the Brigs-of-War USS Somers and USS Bainbridge, 1842. Robert Hurst
    Somers (II) 156k Drawing showing the inboard details and deck plan of the Brigs-of-War USS Somers and USS Bainbridge, 1842. Robert Hurst
    Somers (II) 136k Sail plan of the Brig-of-War USS Somers. Robert Hurst
    Somers (II) 125k Colored sketch of USS Somers by a crewman of USS Columbus.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # 97588-KN
    Tommy Trampp
    Somers (II) 167k Lithograph, published circa 1843, depicting USS Somers under sail, bound home from the African coast on 1 December 1842, after the hanging of three alleged mutineers. The men executed were: Midshipman Philip Spencer, Boatswain's Mate Samuel Cromwell and Seaman Elisha Small. The print shows two of them hanging from the yardarm.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # 51922 Courtesy of Rear Admiral Elliot Snow, USN, 1925
    Tommy Trampp
    Somers (II) 171k Line engraving from "The Illustrated London News", 23 January 1847, entitled "Wreck of the American Brig 'Somers'.", depicting USS Somers on her beam ends after she capsized off Vera Cruz, Mexico, while chasing a blockade runner.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # 82556
    Tommy Trampp
    Somers (II) 100k Lithograph by A. Mayer, Paris, depicting a whaleboat crew from the French Navy brig le Mercure rescuing survivors of the capsized Somers, off Vera Cruz, Mexico. Somers is visible in the right background, on her beam ends. Collection of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command Photo #: NH 1117
    Robert Hurst

    USS Somers (II)
    Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (DANFS)
    Additional Resources and Web Sites of Interest
    USS Somers - The only US Navy ship to experience a mutiny that resulted in executions
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    Last Updated 19 August 2016