RAPHAEL SEMMES AND CSS SUMTER

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Raphael Semmes. The Mariners’ Museum P0005—UPP434

The CSS Sumter was fitted out as a cruiser by the CS Navy at New Orleans, Louisiana. Commander Raphael Semmes, a former US naval officer who had served with distinction during the Mexican War, had resigned his commission and joined the Confederate navy. Immediately, he sought an active command. He met with Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen Russell Mallory seeking the command of a cruiser that could harass Union shipping. Consequently, Mallory gave Semmes command of a ship in the making, CSS Sumter. The Sumter’s cruise  launched the career of one of the greatest commerce raider commanders in history.

EARLY DAYS

Raphael Semmes was born in Charles County, Maryland, on September 27, 1809. Orphaned at   an early age, he was raised by his uncle, Raphael Semmes. The young Raphael was a cousin of Brigadier General Paul Semmes and Union Captain Alexander Alderman Semmes. He attended Charlotte Hall Military Academy and at age 17, thanks to the influence of another uncle, Benedict Semmes, he was appointed to the US Navy as a midshipman. He took a leave of absence to study law and was later admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1834. Continuing on shore duty he was able to expand his law practice. Semmes was promoted lieutenant in February 1837. During the same year he married Anne Elizabeth Spencer of Ohio. The happy union produced six children. [1]   Read more

Cornfield Ironclad: CSS Albemarle Emerges 

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Building the “Albemarle” at Edwards’s Ferry, from sketch by Miss. M. H. Hoke, 1887.

CSS Albemarle was one of three ironclads laid down in early 1863 to combat control of the North Carolina sounds. Only the ram Albemarle would become operational and able to contest Union control of eastern North Carolina until its dramatic sinking in October 1864.

Cornfield Ironclad 

A 19-year-old boatbuilder, Gilbert Elliot of Elizabeth City, North Carolina, sent a proposal to Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen Russell Mallory. His idea: to construct ironclads up the various rivers that were out of reach of Union forces. Mallory agreed. So, Elliot submitted sketches to Confederate Naval Constructor John L. Porter, who established working drawings.    Read more