Richard Somers Monument Nears Completion in Somers Point
The monument will be near the Route 52 causeway that connects Somers Point and Ocean City.
A 36-inch tall, 400-pound bronze bust of Barbary War hero, Richard Somers, recently arrived at the Somers Point Historical Museum. The bust is the first stage towards completion of a monument in honor of local naval hero Somers and the Intrepid crew, who died in 1804.
The monument will be located near the Somers Mansion at the opposite end of the reconstructed Route 52 causeway from Ocean City, where a pedestrian and bicycle lane is near completion.
The Somers Point Historical Society began planning for the monument in 2010. While ongoing contributions by Society members and local businesses have been collected, a few thousand dollars more is needed to complete the entire project. The bust will rest on a five foot tall granite pedestal, which is now underway, and will be placed next to the Atlantic County Library/Somers Point Branch on Shore Road. This is the site of the original Veteran’s Park and is also in close proximity to the original birthplace of Richard Somers, his family burial plot at New York Avenue School, and the ancestral home of the Somers Family, Somers Mansion. Two local museums which have artifacts and information about his life are also located nearby. The dedication of the newly completed monument will take place on Saturday, October 19, 2013.
Plans for a mural project to be painted on the side of the library building are expected to be completed in 2014.
The bust is the work of Italian born sculptor, Luigi Badia, from Somers, New York. While local residents visited Somers, New York, in 2011 to accept their Key to the City and form a sister-city relationship, they saw that they had their own monument to town namesake, Richard Somers. Contact information was given for sculptor, Badia, and with the permission of the town government of Somers and Mr. Badia, this new cast of Richard Somers was completed for the city of Somers Point.
“It is extraordinary and exciting to share the same bust with our friends in Somers, New York,” said Somers Point Historical Society President Sally Hastings. “We are very honored to have this beautiful work of art available to honor Richard Somers. We look forward to the dedication when Luigi Badia will be with us as well as friends from Somers, New York, attending,” she added.
Master Commandant Richard Somers was the commanding officer of a fire ship laden with explosives that entered the harbor of Tripoli, Libya, on September 4, 1804. The plan was to use the ship as a distraction for the Barbary pirates while the remainder of the U.S. Naval Fleet waited outside the harbor to enter once the ship exploded. Somers, along with Henry Wadsworth, uncle of famed poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Joseph Israel and 10 other volunteers fitted the ship and sailed into the harbor. An explosion took place a bit sooner than expected, and the Fleet waited to catch sight of rowboats carrying the crew of the Intrepid to safety, but no boats appeared.
There are a few scenarios of what happened. The Intrepid may have been spotted prematurely going to their destination; the boat may have exploded prematurely on its own; or, Somers and his officers seeing that the mission was going to fail and not wanting explosives in the hands of the pirates, exploded the ship themselves, killing the entire crew so as not to become prisoners of the brutal Barbary pirates.
Initiatives are ongoing in an attempt to return the crew of the Intrepid to the United States from Libya. If the crew of the Intrepid should be returned to the United States, burial of all 13 crew members will be with the monument.
To make a donation toward the Richard Somers Monument or the mural project, please send to Somers Point Historical Society, PO Box 517, Somers Point, NJ, 08244. For more information about the Somers Point Historical Society call 609-927-2900 or visitwww.somerspointhistory.org.
For more information about the City of Somers Point, NJ, visit www.somerspointgov.org or call609-927-9088.
— News release from Suasion Communications Group