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This Month in Naval History
Somers II

Somers II

(Brig: t. 259; Ibp. 100'; b. 25'; dph. 11'; cpl. 120; a.
10 32-pdr. car.l)

The second Somers was launched by the New York Navy Yard on 16 April 1842, and was commissioned on 12 May 1842, Comdr. Alexander Slidell Mackenzie in command.

After a shakedown cruise in June and July to Puerto Rico and back, the new brig sailed out of New York harbor on 13 September 1842 bound for the Atlantic coast of Africa with dispatches for frigate Vandalia. On this voyage, Somers was acting as an experimental schoolship for naval apprentices.

After calls at Madeira, Tenerife, and Porto Praia looking for Varulalia, Somers arrived at Monrovia Liberia, on 10 November and learned that the frigate had already sailed for home. The next day, Mackenzie headed for the Virgin Islands hoping to meet Vandalia at St. Thomas before returning to New York. On the passage to the West Indies, the officers noticed a
steady worsening of morale. On the 26th, Mackenzie arrested Midshipman Philip Speneer, the son of Seeretary of War Speneer, for inciting mutiny. The next day, Boatswain's Mate Samuel Cromwell and Seaman Elisha Small were also put in irons.

An investigation by the officers of the ship over the next few days indicated that these men were plotting to take over the ship, throw the officers and loyal members of the crew to the sharks, and then to use Somers for piracy. On 1 December the officers reported that they had "come to a eooi, decided and unanimous opinion" that the prisoners were "gulity of a full and determined intention to commit a mutiny;" and they recommended that the three be put to death. The plotters were promptly hanged.

Somers reached St. Thomas on 5 December and returned to New York on the 14th. She remained there during a naval court of inquiry which investigated the mutiny and the execution and the subsequent court martial. Both proceedings exonerated Mackenzie.

On 20 March 1843, Lt. John West assumed command of Somers, and the brig was assigned to the Home Squadron. For the next few years, she served along the Atlantic coast and in the West Indies.

Somers was in the Gulf of Mexico off Vera Cruz at the opening of the Mexican War in the spring of 1846, and but for runs to Pensacola for logistics, she remained ;n that area on blockade duty until winter. On the evening of 26 November, the brig, commanded by Raphael Semmes, was blockading Vera Cruz when Mexican schooner Criolla slipped into that port. Somers launched a boat party which boarded and eaptured the schooner. However, a ealm prevented the Americans from getting their prize out to sea so they set fire to the vessel and returned through gunfire from the shore to Somers, bringing back seven prisoners. Unfortunately, Criolla proved to be an American spy ship operating for Commodore Conner.

On 8 December, while chasing a blockade runner off Vera Cruz, Somers capsized and foundered in a sudden squall. Thirty-two members of her crew drowned and seven were captured.


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