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USS Intrepid (I)

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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

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