Ocean City, NJ has a magnificent Library, Arts Center, and Historical Museum with informative special programs at least every month. This summer, they had programs on “A Hotel on St. James Place” in Atlantic City, Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, Ocean City’s movie theaters, and the “Whaler Yeoman” of Cape May. However, they have not had a program about Somers Point native Richard Somers during the past 20 years. Why?
How about the Atlantic County public libraries? Or the Atlantic City Public Library? Or Stockton University? Or any high schools or other public schools in the area? Shouldn’t each of them have at least some program to recognize or remember Richard Somers each September? During the past 17 years, only LibertyAndProsperity.com and the Somers Point Historical Museum have held programs to remember Richard Somers. Why? Was he forgotten? Or “cancelled”?
Richard Somers was born in Somers Point on September 15, 1778. He died at Tripoli, North Africa on September 4, 1804. His remarkable story is told in great detail by historian Chipp Reid in his book “Intrepid Sailors” published in 2012. According to Reid:
“There was a time in our country when names like Decatur, Somers, and Stewart were household names, and the feats of these men off the coast of North Africa were fireplace stories. . . they were stories that inspired generations of young men to take to the sea and follow their legacy. . . “The story of Intrepid and sacrifice of her brave crew off the shores of Tripoli is legendary. It is a story that is as amazing today as it was two hundred years ago”.
The first war memorial built in America stands in Annapolis. It was dedicated to Richard Somers and five other navy officers who died at Tripoli in 1804 during the Barbary Wars.
The first war memorial in America, which still stands in Annapolis, was built to remember Richard Somers and five other midshipmen who came to Annapolis and died in the “Barbary War”. Their stories were once told to every school child in America. They inspired navy officers for generations. Several major navy ships were named after Richard Somers. Veterans who served on one of those ships will have a reunion in Somers Point on September 15.
Richard Somers symbolized everything good about America. He excelled in his studies, and finished school at age 16. He skippered merchant ships by age 18. When foreign enemies threatened our new nation, he was one of the first to join our new navy. At age 24, he was assigned to convert a merchant ship to a warship. He was then given command of that ship and a crew of 108 men. He sailed it to Spain, and then North Africa at age 25. Richard Somers and his boyhood friends Stephen Decatur and Charles Stewart became the most admired and respected men in the new American navy. They won battle after battle against Barbary sea fighters who had robbed, killed, and enslaved people on ships and in coastal towns throughout southern Europe for a thousand years.
When America’s biggest warship, the Philadelphia, ran aground and was captured with its crew of 300, Somers, Decatur, and Stewart inspired the remaining Americans to overcome that loss. Decatur led a daring mission to destroy that captured ship, so it could not be used against us. Richard Somers replaced it by refitting a replacement fleet of gunboats, and training Italian sailors to fight with Americans. That led to a series of American victories that won the respect and admiration of the world. And it guaranteed the freedom of Americans on ships to safely travel almost anywhere in the world.
Richard Somers and Stephen Decatur were praised in literature, song, and art for their bravery and character. Although both were ambitious for glory and recognition, they never let their personal ambitions hurt their friendships, the navy, or the their assigned missions. On September 4, 1804, Richard Somers and his entire crew were killed in a daring gamble to win the war with a fireship.
Neither Richard Somers, Stephen Decatur, nor Charles Stewart owned slaves. On the contrary, they freed slaves and exposed the evil of slavery. None of them killed or mistreated Native Americans. All had respectful, equal relationships with women.
So why are we and the Somers Point Historical Society the only groups in South Jersey who remember Richard Somers every September?
Have we reached a point where public institutions only teach history, literature, and art that advance a particular political agenda? Are Somers, Decatur, and Stewart “cancelled” because their stories present America in a positive light? Are they forgotten because are not members of a victim group supposedly oppressed by mainstream America?
We are a group of roughly 200 citizens who mostly live near Atlantic City, New Jersey. We volunteer our time and money to maintain this website. We do our best to post accurate information. However, we admit we make mistakes from time to time. If you see any mistakes or inaccurate, misleading, outdated, or incomplete information in this or any of our posts, please let us know. We will do our best to correct the problem as soon as possible.
Also, because Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms falsely claim our posts violate their “community standards”, they greatly restrict, “throttle back” or “shadow ban” our posts. Please help us overcome that by sharing our posts wherever you can, as often as you can. Please click the social share links below. Also copy and paste the link to the “comments” section of your favorite sites like Patch.com or PressofAtlanticCity.com and email them to your friends. Thanks.
Seth Grossman, Executive Director