Raphael Semmes

Raphael Semmes

"For other uses, see Semmes (disambiguation)".Infobox Military Person
name= Raphael Semmes
born= birth date|1809|9|27
died= death date and age|1877|8|30|1809|9|27
placeofbirth= Charles County, Maryland
placeofdeath= Mobile, Alabama
placeofburial= Old Catholic Cemetery (Mobile, Alabama)

caption=Portrait of Rear Admiral Semmes
allegiance= United States of America Confederate States of America
branch= United States Navy Confederate Navy
serviceyears=USN 1826-1860 CSN 1860-1865
rank= Rear Admiral (briefly Brigadier General)
commands=USS "Somers" (Mexican War)
CSS "Sumter" (Civil War)
CSS "Alabama" (Civil War)
James River Squadron (Civil War)
battles=Mexican-American War American Civil War
Religion=Roman Catholic

Raphael Semmes (September 27, 1809 – August 30, 1877) was an officer in the United States Navy from 1826 to 1860 and the Confederate States Navy from 1860 to 1865. During the American Civil War he was captain of the famous commerce raider CSS "Alabama", taking a record sixty-nine prizes. Late in the war he was promoted to admiral and also served briefly as a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army.

Semmes was born in Charles County, Maryland, the cousin of future Confederate general Paul Jones Semmes. He entered the Navy as a midshipman in 1826. After serving in the navy, he studied law and was admitted to the bar. After the war, Semmes went on extended leave at Mobile, Alabama, where he practiced law.

During the Mexican-American War, he commanded the brig USS "Somers" in the Gulf of Mexico. The ship was lost in a storm off of Veracruz, Mexico, in December 1846. Semmes was commended for his actions during the loss of the "Somers".

An extremely popular local figure, the township of Semmes, Alabama was named after him. He was promoted to the rank of commander in 1855 and was assigned to lighthouse duties until 1860. When Alabama seceded from the Union, Semmes resigned from the United States Navy and sought an appointment from the Confederate States Navy.

Confederate States service

In April 1861, Semmes was accepted into the Confederate navy as a commander and was sent to New Orleans, Louisiana, ordered to convert a steamer into the cruiser/commerce raider CSS "Sumter". In June 1861, Semmes ran the Federal blockade in the "Sumter" and commenced a career as one of the greatest commerce raiders in naval history.

Semmes's time in command of CSS "Sumter" would last six months. He raided U.S. commercial shipping in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, accounting for 18 merchant vessels while eluding pursuing Union warships. In January 1862, the state of the "Sumter" was such that she required a major overhaul. Semmes attempted to have her repaired at Gibraltar, but the arrival of U.S. warships ended her career.

Semmes and his crew escaped to England, where he was promoted to captain. He then went to the Portuguese island of Madeira in the Atlantic and converted a commercial vessel into a warship that became world-famous as CSS "Alabama". Semmes sailed on the "Alabama" from August 1862 to June 1864. His operations carried him from the Atlantic, to the Gulf of Mexico, around the Cape of Good Hope, and into the East Indies. During this cruise, the "Alabama" captured some 69 U.S. merchantmen and destroyed one U.S. warship, the USS "Hatteras".

The "Alabama" returned to the Atlantic and made port in Cherbourg, France, where she was blockaded by the USS "Kearsarge". Captain Semmes took "Alabama" out on June 19 1864 and met the "Kearsarge" in one of the most famous naval engagements of the war. The commander of the "Kearsarge" cleverly turned his ship into a makeshift ironclad by draping the sides with chains. This, combined with the poor quality of gunpowder on the "Alabama", ensured a Union victory. As the Alabama was sinking, Semmes threw his sword into the sea, thereby depriving Kearsage's Captain John Winslow the traditional ceremony of having the sword handed over to him as the victor of the battle. Semmes was wounded in the battle, but was rescued, along with forty one of his crewmen [Canon, Jill, "Civil War Heroes", Bellerophon Books, Santa Barbara, CA, 2002, p. 39.] by the British yacht "Deerhound". Semmes went to England where he recovered.

Semmes made his way back to the Confederacy where he was promoted to rear admiral in February 1865 and, during the last months of the war, commanded the James River Squadron. With the fall of Richmond, Virginia, in April 1865, Semmes supervised the destruction of his squadron and was appointed as a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army. His sailors were turned into an infantry unit and dubbed the "Naval Brigade".Fact|date=August 2008 The intention was to join Lee's army after burning the vessels, however, Lee's army was already cut off from Richmond and most of Semmes' men boarded a train and escaped to join Joseph E. Johnston's army in North Carolina.Fact|date=August 2008 A few men of the Naval Brigade were able to join with Lee's rear guard and fought at Sayler's Creek. Semmes and the Naval Brigade surrendered to William T. Sherman and were paroled at Durham Station, N.C.Fact|date=August 2008

After the war

Semmes was briefly held as a prisoner after the war. He was arrested for treason on December 15, 1865, but was released on April 7, 1866. After his release, he worked as a professor of philosophy and literature at Louisiana State Seminary (now Louisiana State University), and also as a judge, and a newspaper editor. He returned to Mobile and resumed his legal career.

Semmes defended both his actions at sea and the political actions of the Southern states in his 1869 book "Memoirs of Service Afloat During The War Between the States". The book was viewed as one of the most cogent, but bitter, defenses of the Lost Cause. Semmes died in 1877 and is interred in Mobile's Old Catholic Cemetery.

Raphael Semmes is a member of the Alabama Hall of Fame. One of the streets on the current Louisiana State University campus is name in his honor.

ee also



*Eicher, John H., & Eicher, David J.: "Civil War High Commands", Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3
* [http://www.archives.state.al.us/famous/famebama.html Alabama Hall of Fame]

Further reading

*Semmes, Raphael, " [http://books.google.com/books?id=uBbhsAs2sWwC&pg=PA7&dq=subject:%22History%22+%22civil+war%22+-spanish+-russian+-bosnia&lr=&as_brr=1&ei=EMDFR5fEK47-igH94byeCQ&sig=wkAV-oPiaFDOSDNxBM2xpSv9Hys#PPP5,M1 The Cruise of the Alabama and the Sumter] ", Carleton, 1864, Digitized by Digital Scanning Incorporated, 2001, ISBN 1-58218-353-8.

External links

*gutenberg author| id=Raphael+Semmes | name=Raphael Semmes
*CathEncy|wstitle=Raphael Semmes
* [http://www.geocities.com/rivermersey@btinternet.com/alabama.htm Cruisers, Cotton and Confederates]
*findagrave|21356 Retrieved on 2008-02-13

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Raphael Semmes — (* 27. September 1809 in Charles County, Maryland; † 30. August 1877 in Mobile, Alabama) war ein Seemann, Jurist, Kapitän, Admiral und General. Raphael Semmes, der als Zehnjähriger zur Waise wurde, trat mit 15 Jahren als Seemann in die …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Raphael — /raf ee euhl, ray fee , rah fuy el /, n. 1. (Raffaello Santi or Sanzio) 1483 1520, Italian painter. 2. one of the archangels. 3. a male given name: from a Hebrew word meaning healing of the Lord. * * * I In the Bible and the Qurān, one of the… …   Universalium

  • Semmes, Raphael — (27 sep. 1809, cond. Charles, Md., EE.UU.–30 ago. 1877, Mobile, Ala.). Oficial de marina estadounidense. Ingresó a la armada de EE.UU. en 1826; en la guerra mexicano estadounidense estuvo al mando del desembarco en Veracruz. Como residente de… …   Enciclopedia Universal

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