Crew Members

The Naval career of Raphael Semmes is one of the most amazing stories of the American Civil War history. Born on September 27, 1809 in Maryland, Raphael Semmes began his Naval career as a midshipman in 1806. In June 1861, he commanded the USS Sumter and thus began his career as one of the most successful raiders of commerce in Naval history, putting a 6 million dollar dent in Federal shipping.

In January 1862, Semmes sailed the USS Sumter to Gibraltar to for some much needed repairs but lost her to enemy warships. He was in command of the USS Sumter for only 6 months, but in that short time, he was responsible for the capture of 18 merchant ships. His tactic was to fly a neutral, or sometimes even Union flag upon approach, and then hastily run up the Confederate flag and capture a ship before they had time to react with any real force. While this tactic was against 'the rules of war', it kept casualties on both sides at a minimum. Raphael Semmes was fast becoming well known to both sides of the Civil War. He was branded a dreaded "pirate" to the Union, and a beloved "hero" to the Confederates; however, he was also known for his fair treatment and decency towards those he took prisoner. Semmes had a great regard for life and took every precaution to spare the lives of the merchant captain and crew. He never allowed mistreatment of the officers, crews or passengers of his captive vessels or their personal effects, and demanded his crew treat the captives with the utmost kindness and respect. He also treated his own crew as members of his own family, and mourned the loss of any of them.

After the loss of the USS Sumter, Semmes and his crew escaped to England where he was promoted to Captain. Captain Semmes acquired a commercial vessel in Madiera, an Island belonging to Portugal, and converted her to the famous warship, the USS Alabama. Semmes was in command of the USS Alabama for 2 years and in that time, he was responsible for the capture of 69 merchant ships and the destruction of one warship. He had, between the Sumter and the Alabama, more than 500 men under his command and had held at one time or another, a total of around 2,000 prisoners, but never lost a single one to disease.

One of the most valuable captures of Captain Semmes is that of the Vanderbilt Liner, the Ariel. Captain Semmes was lying in wait for an incoming ship, hoping to replenish his treasury with the gold that usually constituted part of the cargo of the ships coming to port. Disappointingly, an outbound ship, the Ariel, was the first to come in sight, and had her decks crowded with passengers. When the passengers saw they were to be captured by the hated "pirate", they started hiding their valuables and became agitated and fearful. Captain Semmes then sent a handsome young Lieutenant and a midshipman to charm the ladies and allay their fears. When the young Confederate officer and midshipman boarded the Ariel, they assured they were not there to make war on women and children, and that none of their personal belongings would be stolen. The two made such an impression on the women passengers, that they returned aboard the Alabama with their brass buttons and gold lace missing from their uniforms, having been appropriated by the women as keepsakes of their encounter with the dashing Southern Raider.

When the Alabama made port in France, she was blockaded by the USS Kearsarge. On June 19, 1864, the Alabama and the Kearsarge met in one of the most famous sea battles of the Civil War. Draping the Kearsarge with chains, Captain John Winslow turned the warship into an ironclad and therefore was able to withstand the bombardments from the Alabama. The USS Alabama took heavy damage and Captain Semmes ordered his crew to abandon ship. Many of the crew was rescued by the Deerhound, an English yacht. Captain Semmes, injured in battle, recovered in England. Raphael Semmes himself recounted: "My officers and crew formed a great military family, every face of which was familiar to me; and when I looked upon my gory deck, toward the close of the action, and saw so many manly forms stretched upon it, with the glazed eye of death, or agonizing with terrible wounds, I felt as a father feels who has lost his children--his children who had followed him to the uttermost ends of the earth, in sunshine and storm, and been always true to him."

In February 1865, Captain Semmes was promoted to Rear Admiral. In April of the same year he was made Brigadier General and in December became a prisoner of war. On the 15th of December he was arrested for treason. His captors tried in vain to find anyone who would speak against Raphael Semmes. They wrote letters requesting help from former merchant captains and crew of the ships he had captured, but could not find a single former prisoner who had experienced maltreatment from Raphael Semmes or his crew. Semmes was released April 7, 1866, for lack of evidence.

After his release, Raphael Semmes worked as a professor of philosophy and literature at what is now LSU, as a newspaper editor, and a judge. He moved to Mobile, Alabama and there lived out his life. Semmes died in 1877 and is buried in the Mobile Catholic Cemetery. A statue stands in his honor on government Street in downtown Mobile, Alabama, and in 1953, was inducted into the Alabama Hall of Fame.

The actions and conduct of Raphael Semmes stands as a model for all those who are unfortunate enough to find themselves engaged in combat.

Looking for more amazing history? Mysterious and Amazing History

Can crew members from others team and/or NASCAR tamper with the cars in the garage at night?

I was just wondering since there's so much talk that Jeff Burton's car may get sabatoged during the next 5 races to prevent him from winning the Sprint Cup title. And to HELP Jimmie Johnson win his 3rd in a row. I was just wondering if its possible that the cars could get tampered with late at night after the drivers and crew members have gone to bed.

Do you know if the garage area has sercurity?

NASCAR could but teams are not suppose to be in the garage without a NASCAR official assisting them I think. I know that's true for impound races.




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