Please join us for a brief ceremony at 12 noon in front of the Somers Point branch of the Atlantic County Library near the corner of New Jersey Avenue and Shore Road. ? ?We will gather in front of the statute of Richard Somers that was dedicated last year in the small park there.
We also invite you to join us at that same location 16 days later at 2:00 PM on Sunday, September 20.?? At that time, we will join the Somers Point Historical Society and other community groups to dedicate a mural on the walls of the library to remember Richard Somers.??? We also invite you to a $20 per person fundraising buffet at 3 PM, immediately after the ceremony ?at nearby Gregory?s Restaurant and Bar, one block south on Shore Road.?? Please buy your tickets at our office, by mail, at the door, or by making a $20 donation online on this website.
Richard Somers was born in Somers Point, New Jersey in 1778 during the American Revolution.?? By age 10, he was sailing small boats up and down the Egg Harbor River to carry fish and farm products between Somers Point and Mays Landing.?? He completed school in Philadelphia? at age 16 where he excelled in history, literature, science, and mathematics.? By age 17, he took charge of ocean going sailing ships that carried moved goods between New York in Philadelphia.
Like many young men from the coastal towns of South Jersey he was on his way to earning enough money sailing ships around the world to buy his own ships making a fortune by age 30.?? But at age 20, Richard Somers instead joined America?s new navy that was built in 1798.
For its first 15 years, the United States had no navy.?? When ?Muslim kingdoms in North Africa attacked and captured Americans on the high seas, Congress paid them about a million dollars per year?20% of the federal budget?to free them.?? ?
When French pirates attacked our ships in the Caribbean in 1795, our government could do nothing but beg for help from the French government.??? But in 1798, Americans had enough and shouted ?Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute!???? That was when America first spent millions to build and maintain a navy.
In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson and Congress sent that navy to North Africa to stop the attacks against our ships.??? Richard Somers of Somers Point commanded one of those warships at age 23.?? During the next three years our American sailors amazed the world.??? Our sailors systematically attacked, killed, and captured the fanatic seagoing Jihadis who had terrorized Christian ships and coastal towns throughout the Mediterranean for more nearly a thousand years. ?
In 1804, Pope Pius VII publicly praised the United States for ?doing more to defend Christendom in its infancy than all the European powers had done for ages?.
In August of 1804, Tripoli was the only Muslim kingdom in North Africa that refused to make peace with America. ? After being defeated by the Americans, its king ordered his fleet to remain safely inside the harbor.? He was certain the American Congress would soon get tired of paying for an expensive war overseas and bring the fleet home.??? Richard Somers and most officers in the American fleet shared that opinion, and decided to make a daring attack to destroy Tripoli?s fleet before that happened.
That is why Richard Somers and twelve hand-picked volunteers packed a small sailing ship named the Intrepid with explosives, and sailed it into Tripoli?s harbor during the night of September 4, 1804.?? Their plan was to steer it into the enemy fleet, light the fuse, and then escape by rowboat just before the ship exploded.???? Something went wrong that night.?? The Intrepid exploded while Somers and his crew were still onboard, without damaging the enemy fleet.
However,? the courage and determination of Richard Somers and his crew were so feared and respected by the leaders of Tripoli, that they finally made peace with America the following year.
The first monument at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis is the ?Tripoli Memorial? which was built in 1806 to honor Richard Somers and the twelve crew members who were killed with him on the Intrepid during the night of September 4, 1804.