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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Somers

 

Richard Somers-born in 1778 or 1779 at Great Egg Harbor, N.J.-was appointed midshipman on 25 April 1797 and served in the West Indies during the Quasi War with Prance in frigate United States commanded by Capt. John Barry. Promoted to lieutenant on 21 May 1799, Somers was detached from United States on 13 June 1801 and ordered to Boston on 30 July 1801. He served in the latter frigate in the Mediterranean.

 

After Boston returned to Washington, Somers was furloughed on 11 November 1802 to await orders.

 

On 5 May 1803, Somers was ordered to Baltimore to man; fit out; and command Nautilus; and, when that schooner was ready for sea, to sail her to the Mediterranean. Nautilus got underway on 30 June; reached Gibraltar on 27 July; and sailed four days later to deliver dispatches to Capt. John Rodgers at Malaga, 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 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.

 

III

 

(Torpedo Boat No. 22: dp. 143; 1. 156'; b. 17'6"; dr.5'10" (mean); s. 23 k.; cpl. 21; a. 4 1-pdrs., 2 18" tt.; cl. Somers)

 

The third Somers, a steel torpedo boat built as a private speculation by Friedrich Schichau, Elbing, Germany, was launched in 1897 as yard No. 450; purchased for the United States Navy on 25 March 1898; commissioned on 28 March 1898, Lt. John J. Knapp in command; and named Somers the next day.

 

Purchased through Schichau's London representative as the United States prepared for a possible war against Spain, Somers sailed for England on 30 March, manned by a German contract crew. On 5 April, she arrived at Weymouth, whence she was to be escorted across the Atlantic by the gunboat, Topeka. However, the British crew contracted for the voyage thought Somers unsafe and refused to put to sea. A second attempt to sail also failed, and the torpedo boat was ordered laid up at Falmouth until the conclusion of the Spanish-American War.

 

Somers arrived at New York, on board SS Manhattan, on 2 May 1899 and remained at the New York Navy Yard until 8 October 1900, when she got underway for League Island, Pa. Subsequently decommissioned there, she was reassigned to the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla at the Norfolk Navy Yard, where she was based from 1901 to 1909. On 26 June 1909, she was loaned to the Maryland Naval Militia and made periodic training cruises from Baltimore until returned to the Navy in 1914.

 

Scheduled for transfer to the Illinois Naval Militia, Somers was recommissioned on 17 August 1914 for the passage to Cairo, Ill., where she was decommissioned and transferred to the state of Illinois on 13 October. Later renamed and redesignated Coast Torpedo Boat No. 9 to allow the name Somers to be given to destroyer number 301, she served as a training ship until returned to Navy custody after the end of World War I. She was commissioned for the passage back to the east coast and returned to Philadelphia where she was decommissioned on 22 March 1919. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 7 October 1919, and her hulk was sold for scrapping on 19 July 1920 to the U.S. Rail and Salvage Corp., Newburgh, N.Y.