Ida Lewis: Mother of all Keepers

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(Accession Number 2019.0004.000001) -Harper’s Weekly, April 17, 1869. Illustration of Ida Lewis rescuing two drowning soldiers.

Ida Lewis: Mother of All Keepers

Here at The Mariners’ Museum and Park, Ida Lewis is no stranger. We’ve blogged, Tweeted, written, and lectured all about our heroine of Lime Rock Light. However, our mission here at the Museum is all about Maritime Connections because we’re all connected by the water. That’s why I chose Ida Lewis. Her acts of heroism are still inspiring women of all ages and created legacies that now bear her name. Out of these legacies have come a personal maritime connection and a story of another young woman with a link to Ida’s legacy. I want to take Ida’s story one step further than all the reasons she had the reputation of being able to “row a boat faster than any man in Newport.”  As you can probably tell, I’m excited to share these stories with you just in time for Women’s History Month.

Mother’s Keeper

First, I’d be doing you and Ida herself a disservice if I didn’t give you a little background on our brave lightkeeper. Idawalley Zorada (sometimes spelled “Zoradia”) Lewis, the second oldest of four children and eldest daughter of Captain Hosea Lewis. Capt. Lewis became keeper of Lime Rock Light at Newport, Rhode Island, in 1854 when Ida was 12-years-old.   Read more

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