RICHARD SOMERS & THE BARBARY PIRATES
1804 September 13 Commodore Samuel Barron issues secret – verbal orders – to Isaac Hull of the Argus, to facilitate Easton’s plans to support Hamid Karamanli.
1804 November 28 Plans instituted to convince Hamad Karamanli to retake Tripoli throne.
1805 February 25 Captain Preble arrives in New York, unexpectedly finds himself a hero. 53 Preble boys sign letter.
1805 March 5 Congress of US passes resolution: “RESOLVED, that the President of the US be requested to communicate to the parents, or other near relatives, of Captain Richard Somers, Lts. Henry Wadsworth,...”
1805 – March 19 – President Jefferson receives Commodore Preble’s dispatch, learns of the loss of USS Philadelphia and 307 captured prisoners.
1805 March 6 US diplomat-warrior William Eaton and US Marine Corps Sgt. Presley O’Bannon, eight marines, 200 Greek mercinaries begin attacks across the desert from Egypt to Derna, and capture the port city east of Tripoli.
1805 April 28 With support from the Argus, Hornet and Nautilus, Eaton and company attack Derna, city falls in 2 hours, Stars & Stripes raised on conquered foreign soil for first time.
1805 June 3 Treaty settled with Yousuf Karamanli, who accepts $60,000 ransom for prisoners, no tribute, $60,000 in war reparations (Ratified by Congress on April 17, 1806)
1805 June 11 Captain Hugh Campbell & USS Constellation anchors off Derna. Eaton learns of peace treaty, escapes with Hamad Karamanli, O’Bannon’s squad and other Christians, abandoning Derna.
1805 November Eaton returns to USA, a hero.
1805 December 11 Tripoli treaty submitted to Senate for ratification, paying $60,000 to Pasha Yousuf Karamanli ransom for USS Philadelphia prisoners, no tribute.
1806 April 17 Tripoli treaty ratified by Congress.
1806 May 27 John Rogers confers command of the USS Constitution and U.S. squadron to Hugh G. Campbell and returns aboard Essex.
1806 Nautilus arrives back in USA. Somers’ brother-in-law, William Jonas Keen pays prize money to officers and men for the capture of Brig Nomenato Crucifisso.
1806 March 17 Report published backing Eaton’s account.
1806 April 12 Senate ratified peace treaty with Tripoli (21-8), Congress votes to pay Hamad Karamanli $2,400 and $200 a month pension.
1807 Eaton reimbursed $12, 636, 60.
1807 January 1 Monument to the men who died off Tripoli set at the US Navy yard, Washington, D.C.
1807 – A. Burr stands trial for treason.
1808 James Madison becomes president.
1811 June 1 William Eaton (47) dies at Brimfield, Maine, relatively unnoticed.
1811 August 29 Constant, Jr. dies at sea in Cronstadt, Russia.
1812 July U.S. counsel Tobias Lear leaves Algiers with wife and son three Americans
1812 August 25 Brig Edwin of Salem taken enroute from Malta to Gibraltar. Captain George C. Smith and ten man crew taken, with American passenger Mr. Pollard. Imprisoned in Algiers.
1813 New U.S. counsel Mordecai Manuel Noah appointed to Tunis.
1814 British capture Washington, burn Tripoli monument. It is repaired and moved to front of Capitol.
1813 to 1814 Schooner USS Somers deployed.
1814 Bey Hammuda dies of natural causes, succeeded by his brother Uthman.
1814 December 21 Bey Uthman assassinated by cousin Mahmud.
1815 March 2 Congress declares war on Algiers, granting the president authority to take whatever measures he deems necessary.
1815 May 20 Commodore Decatur’s squadron puts to sea.
1815 Aug 5 A peace treaty with Tripoli, which followed treaties with Algeria and Tunis (Aug 28), brought an end to the Barbary Wars. Commodores Stephen Decatur and William Bainbridge had conducted successful operations against the Barbary States of Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli.(HN, 8/5/98)(WSJ, 10/9/01, p.A22)(ON, 10/06, p.10)
1815 December 21 Peace treaty ratified, signed by President Madison on Dec. 26.
1815 Decatur and Bainbridge return to Tripoli to secure truce.
1815 August 2 Commodore Decatur arrives off Tripoli.
1815 August 5 Decatur obtains treaty with Pasha Yousuf Karamanli (also spelled Qaramanli ) “I trust that the successful result of our small expedition, so honorable to our country, will induce other nations to follow the example; in which case the Barbary states will be compelled to abandon their piratical system.” – Decatur.
1816 August, British under Lord Exmouth and Dutch bombard Algiers to secure truce.
1820 March 22 Stephen Decatur killed in a duel with Commodore James Barron.
1823 British Major Dixon Denham and Captain Hugh Clapperton (1788-1827) entered Northern Nigeria from the north, crossing the desert from Tripoli. (Econ, 1/7/06, p.74)( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Clapperton)
1825 Jul 16 Alexander Gordon Laing (32), British Army Major, set off on camel from Tripoli in an attempt to become the 1st European to cross the Sahara Desert and reach the fabled city of Timbuktu (Mali). (SSFC, 1/1/06, p.M2)(ON, 11/06, p.5)
1830 May 26 French invade Algiers. City falls July 5.
1830 - British Counsel in Tripoli bury British citizens and build wall around Old Protestant Cemetery, where some Christian graves may have previously existed.
1842 James F. Cooper writes biography of Richard Somers.
1842 US Brig Somers deployed. Becomes involved in “mutiny” that inspires Herman Melville to write “Billy Budd”.
1846 December 8 – USS Somers sinks in gale storm off Veracruz, Mexico.
1850 January – Richard’s sister Sally dies.
1851 Monument erected at Somers’ family burial ground at Somers Point “In memory of Richard Somers…perished in the 25th year of his age in the ketch Intrepid in the memorable attempt to destroy the Turkish flotilla in the harbor of Tripoli….
1850 January - Sarah Somers dies.
1860 Tripoli monument moved from Capitol to Annapolis.
The Tripoli Monument at Annapolis
1898 to 1919 Torpedo Boat USS Somers deployed.
1903 President Roosevelt orders the remains of John Paul Jones to be repatriated from Paris, France to Annapolis, Md., where he is reburied with honors.
1904 Alfred Heston wrote The Annals of Eyren Haven & Atlantic City - 1609-1904, which includes the following:
Beneath the escarpments of Tripoli, lulled in their everlasting sleep by the song of the sea, are the bones of Richard Somers, American patriot and hero.
Within the grounds of the Naval Academy at Annapolis is a monument which perpetuates his name, and in the old family burial ground near Somers Point, enclosed by a brick wall, is a cenotaph, whereon is chiseled;
IN MEMORY OF
SON OF RICHARD AND SOPHIA SOMERS
IN THE NAVY OF THE UNITED STATES,
BORN SEPTEMBER 15, 1778.
He perished in the 25th year of his age, in the ketch Intrepid,
In the memorable attempt to destroy the Turkish flotilla, in the
Harbor of Tripoli, on the night of 4th of September, 1804.
DISTINGUISHED FOR HIS ENERGY,
HIS COUAGE AND HIS MANLY SENSE OF HONOR.
“Pro Partia non timidus mori.”
But the valor and the virtue of Richard cannot be told by sculptured urn or stories monument. These are but symbols of national or family pride – memorials for the living rather than of the dead.
Richard Somers, “Master Commandant in the Navy of the United States,” was the son of Colonel Richard Somers, a Revolutionary War soldier, grandson of Richard Somers (born March 1, 1693) and great grandson of John Somers, the immigrant.
Commander Richard Somers was therefore the third of that name in the family and was born at Somers Point, as above stated. He went to sea when quite a youth, after an academic education at Burlington. He joined the American Navy in its infancy, receiving his warrant as a midshipman in the spring of 1798, and soon became distinguished for great courage. He was intimately associated with Charles Stewart and James Lawrence, both Jerseymen, one a resident of Bordentown and the other a native of Burlington, who were also conspicuously identified with the American Navy early in the last century
Stewart earned for himself, as commander of the Constitution, the soubriquet of “Old Ironsides,” and Lawrence, while wounded and dying off Boston in 1813, gave the order, “Don’t give up the ship,” which has since become the watchword of the American Navy.
Of sterner stuff, perhaps, than any of these, was Richard Somers, whose exploit in the harbor of Tripoli demanded equal courage and greater sacrifice than that of Decatur, which Nelson pronounced the “most daring act of the age.” Between Somers and Decatur there was a singularly loving friendship. The character of Somers was also much admired by Washington, and as a special token of his admiration he presented Somers with a ring, containing a lock of hair. This ring is now in the possession of the Leaming family, of Cape May, descendants of Constant Somers, brother of the naval hero. There are but three locks of hair now in existence, one of which is the property of Richmond Lodge, No. 4, A.F.A.M. Another belongs to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and the third is the ring given to Richard Somers, now owned by the Leaming family.
Of the grandmother of Commander Somers were are told that during the early part of the eighteenth century the widow of Sir James Letart, a native of Acadia, came to reside in Philadelphia. She was the mother of several children, one of whom, a daughter, was adopted by a wealthy gentleman named Peter White, who subsequently moved to Absecon. It was here that Miss Judith Letart White, a very Evangeline for beatuty and devotion, won the heart and became the wife of the first Richard Somers, at the age of fifteen. Of their nine children, the second was the father of Captain Somers.
He was a colonel of the Egg Harbor militia, judge of the court and member of the Provincial Legislature. He was particularly obnoxious to the British and Tories during the Revolution, and Atlantic County being much exposed to depredations by the enemy, he was induced to remove to Philadelphia for protection. He remained there until near the time of his death in 1794. The house in which Commander Somers, the hero, was born, at Somers Point, is still standing. The only picture of the hero now extant is a silhouette, with his signature underneath.
Somers was promoted to lieutenancy in the spring of 1799, and was subsequently placed in command of the Nautilus. This was in the spring of 1803. The Mediterranean Squadron, which sailed in the summer and autumn of 1803, was that which became so celebrated under the orders of Commodore Preble. It consisted of the Constitution, the Philadelphia, the Argus, the Vixen, the Enterprise and the Nautilus. These vessels did not proceed to their station in squadron, but sailed away for the Mediterranean as they were ready, being ordered to the Mediterranean to subdue the Tripolitans, who persisted in exacting tribute of the American merchant marine.
After settling a similar difficulty with Morocco, without any waste of powder, Commodore Preble, in command of the squadron, declared the blockade of Tripoli, before which he believed the frigates Philadelphia and Vixen were then cruising, though, unknown to him, the former had run upon the rocks and had been captured by the enemy, Commodore Bainbridge and crew being then prisoners of war. Somers, Lawrence, and Bainbridge were all Jerseymen by birth and education. Decatur by education and Stewart by adoption….
The arrival of reinforcements had been expected in vain for several weeks. Somers finally conceived a plan for destroying the enemy’s flotilla as it lay at anchor in the harbor. A ketch that had been captured from the Tripolitans by Decatur was in the squadron, and had been rechristened the Intrepid, for the brilliant occasion on which she had been used, when Decatur recaptured and destroyed the Philadelphia. Somers proposed to fit up the ketch in the duel capacity of fire ship and infernal, take he into the harbor of Tripoli , and there explode her in the midst of the Tripoitan vessels. The panic created by such an assault, in the dead of night, it was hoped, would produce peace and the liberation of Bainbridge and his crew. Somers, after some difficulty, secured the permission of Preble to engage in this hazardous undertaking.
1911 Sep 30, Italy declared war on Turkey over control of Tripoli. (HN, 9/30/98)
1911 Oct 5, Italian troops occupied Tripoli. (MC, 10/5/01)
1911 Nov 1 - Italian planes performed the first aerial bombing on Tanguira oasis in Libya. Lt. Giulio Cavotti dropped a hand grenade on an oasis outside of Tripoli. In 2001 Sven Lindqvist authored "A History of Bombing." (HN, 11/1/98)(SFC, 4/22/01, BR p.3)
1911 Nov 5, Italy attacked Turkish North-Africa (Libya), and took Tripoli and Cyrenaica. First use of a plane dropping bombs. [see Nov 1] (MC, 11/5/01)
1911 Nov 5, Italy attacked Turkish North-Africa (Libya), and took Tripoli and Cyrenaica. First use of a plane dropping bombs. (MC, 11/5/01)
1911 to 1930 Omar Mukhtar harassed the Italian forces attempting to subdue Libya. The 1981 film “Lion in the Desert” starred Anthony Quinn as Omar Mukhtar. (Econ, 11/26/05, p.29)
1920 to 1930 USS Somers DD-301 deployed.
1922 Sep 13 In El Azizia, Libya, a temperature of 136.4 degrees Fahrenheit (57.8 Celsius) was the hottest ever measured on Earth. (AP, 7/23/03)
1924 - Alfred Heston writes a History of South Jersey. He had previously wrote
1930s Sometime in the 1930s, during the Italian occupation, the Italian Army uncovers the remains of five bodies from park during the construction of a new road. The five are reburied at the Old Protestant Cemetery.
1937 to 1947 USS Somers DD-381 deployed.
1937 - Alfred Heston dies.
1938 In response to an inquiry form the American embassy in Rome concerning the fate of the men of the USS Intrepid, Mr. Mustafa Burchis, harbormaster of Tripoli, undertakes a meticulous examination of the old Jewish records, private Arab collections of letters, papers and diaries, and interviews innumerable descendants of residents of Tripoli at the time of the disaster, and completes a report of the matter that is transmitted to the US Embassy Rome. The report is said to have been lost in the chaos of WWII.