Semmes, Raphael (sĕmz) [key], 1809–77, American naval officer, b. Charles co., Md. He took part in the Mexican War, practiced law at Mobile, Ala., and was in the Lighthouse Service from 1856 to Feb., 1861, when he resigned his commission as commander. He soon took the same rank in the Confederate navy. His first ship, the Sumter, did considerable damage to Northern commerce before she was bottled up at Gibraltar in Jan., 1862. In Aug., 1862, Semmes, now a captain, took command of the Alabama (see Confederate cruisers), and a two-year cruise made him the naval hero of the Confederacy. After the Alabama was sunk by the Kearsarge, Semmes returned to the South. He was promoted to rear admiral (Feb., 1865) and charged with the naval defense of Richmond.
See H. A. Gosnell, Rebel Raider (1948); C. G. Summersell, The Cruise of C.S.S. Sumter (1965).