From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall
James Somerville '47

Date of birth: unknown

Date of death: February 4, 1850

Age: 28


From a book "The Tiernan and Other Families," located by Kathy Franz.

James died on February 4, 1850, at Key West, Florida, "of fever." He was twenty-eight years old.


From the Naval History and Heritage Command:

Midshipman, 10 September, 1841. Passed Midshipman, 10 August, 1847. Acting Master, 17 January, 1848. Died 4 February, 1850.

He was born in, and appointed to the Naval Academy from, Maryland.

He was aboard USS Constitution when that ship was placed in commission on June 22, 1842. Later that year he was listed aboard the frigate Brandywine, "preparing for sea at Norfolk." He was still on that ship, then on the East Indies station, in the January 1, 1843 issue.

Other Information

From researcher Kathy Franz:

James was on the ship North Carolina in December 1841 when he requested a leave. In 1842 he was on the Congress and the Constitution. In April 1843, he had an accident while on leave and almost missed sailing on the Brandywine. In September 1845, he had served two years and three months on the Brandywine sailing 55,987 miles. During her cruise, she went to Rio de Janeiro, Bombay, Columbo, Macao, Hong Kong, Whampoa, Manilla, Honolulu, Papiete and Valparaiso. His commodore was Foxhall Parker.

In November 1845, James was at the Naval Academy and was then ordered to the Potomac. He graduated from the Naval Academy in August 1847. While at the Naval Academy, he did pen and ink drawings of naval education. His uncle Charles Tiernan had the book, and after his death, it was purchased for the library of T. Harrison Garrett.

In November 1847, he was ordered to the steamer Alleghany, and in May 1848, he was back in the United States. He then was on the Brig Porpoise sailing for Africa and the Mediterranean to look for slavers. He was last at sea in November 1848, and then was on a leave of absence.

His parents were Henry Vernon and Rebecca Tiernan Somerville of Baltimore County, Maryland. They married 12/26/1815. He died 8/29/1837 and she died 5/8/1863. His mother helped finance the Church of St. Agnes in Baltimore County near the Convent of Mt. de Sales in 1853. The Honorable John Pendleton Kennedy, a lifelong friend of Rebecca’s, secured the Naval Academy appointment for James.

James’ brothers were: William T. (1816-1857), Henry (1824-1860), William Clarke (1827-1848) Charles (1829-1858), Robert (1833-1854) and Joseph (1835-1859.) His sisters were Ann (1820-1847), Agnes (1826-1861), Elizabeth (1831-1846) and Mary (1832-1833.)

His uncle William Somerville was an author, a major in the War of 1812, and a diplomat. He was on a diplomatic mission to Greece when he died at the Marquis de Lafayette’s Château de la Grange and was buried there on January 5, 1826. He left all his Maryland plantations to James’ father Henry.

He is buried in Florida.

Navy Directories & Officer Registers

The "Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps" was published annually from 1815 through at least the 1970s; it provided rank, command or station, and occasionally billet until the beginning of World War II when command/station was no longer included. Scanned copies were reviewed and data entered from the mid-1840s through 1922, when more-frequent Navy Directories were available.

The Navy Directory was a publication that provided information on the command, billet, and rank of every active and retired naval officer. Single editions have been found online from January 1915 and March 1918, and then from three to six editions per year from 1923 through 1940; the final edition is from April 1941.

The entries in both series of documents are sometimes cryptic and confusing. They are often inconsistent, even within an edition, with the name of commands; this is especially true for aviation squadrons in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Alumni listed at the same command may or may not have had significant interactions; they could have shared a stateroom or workspace, stood many hours of watch together… or, especially at the larger commands, they might not have known each other at all. The information provides the opportunity to draw connections that are otherwise invisible, though, and gives a fuller view of the professional experiences of these alumni in Memorial Hall.

September 1842
Midshipman, Frigate Constitution
January 1843
Midshipman, Frigate Constitution
October 1843
Midshipman, Frigate Brandywine
January 1844
Midshipman, Frigate Brandywine

Others at this command:
January 1848
Passed Midshipman, waiting orders
January 1849
Passed Midshipman, leave of absence
January 1850
Passed Midshipman, waiting orders

Memorial Hall Error

Illness is not a criteria for inclusion in Memorial Hall.


A special thank you to Kathy Franz, a historian who located James' cause of death.

Class of 1847

James is one of 32 members of the Class of 1847 on Virtual Memorial Hall.

QR code

The "category" links below lead to lists of related Honorees; use them to explore further the service and sacrifice of alumni in Memorial Hall.