Raphael Semmes was
born in Charles County, Maryland, on 27 September 1809. Entering the Navy as
a Midshipman in 1826, he subsequently studied law and was admitted to the bar
while remaining in the service. During the Mexican War, he commanded the brig
USS Somers in the Gulf of Mexico. She was lost in a storm off Vera Cruz in
December 1846, but Semmes was commended for his actions in that incident.
While on extended leave after the war, he practiced law in Mobile, Alabama.
Promoted to the rank of Commander in 1855, Semmes was assigned to Lighthouse
duties until 1861, when Alabama's secession from the Union prompted him to
resign from the U.S. Navy and adhere to the Confederacy.
Appointed a Commander in the Confederate Navy in April 1861, Raphael Semmes
was sent to New Orleans to convert a steamer into the cruiser CSS Sumter. He
ran her through the Federal blockade in June 1861 and began a career of
commerce raiding that is without equal in American naval history. During
Sumter's six months' operations in the West Indies and the Atlantic, he
captured eighteen merchant vessels and skillfully eluded pursuing Union
warships. With his ship badly in need of overhaul, he brought her to Gibraltar
in January 1862 and laid her up when the arrival of Federal cruisers made a
return to sea impossible.
After taking himself and many of his officers to England, Semmes was promoted
to the rank of Captain and given command of the newly-built cruiser CSS
Alabama. From August 1862 until June 1864, Semmes took his ship through the
Atlantic, into the Gulf of Mexico, around the Cape of Good Hope and into the
East Indies, capturing some sixty merchantmen and sinking one Federal
warship, USS Hatteras. At the end of her long cruise, Alabama was blockaded
at Cherbourg, France, while seeking repairs. On 19 June 1864, Semmes took her
to sea to fight the Union cruiser USS Kearsarge and was wounded when she was
sunk in action. Rescued by the British yacht Dearhound, he went to England,
recovered and made his way back to the Confederacy.
Semmes was promoted to Rear Admiral in February 1865 and commanded the James
River Squadron during the last months of the Civil War. When the fall of
Richmond, Virginia, forced the destruction of his ships, he was made a
Brigadier General and led his sailors as an infantry force. Briefly
imprisoned after the conflict, he worked as a teacher and newspaper editor
until returning to Mobile, where he pursued a legal career. Raphael Semmes died
on 30 August 1877.
second Semmes (DDG-18) was laid down on 18 August 1960 at Avondale Shipyards,
Inc., Westwego, La.; launched on 20 May 1961; sponsored by Mrs. F. E. Hebert;
and commissioned on 10 December 1962, Comdr. Richard G. Alexander in command.
Following shakedown, Semmes joined Destroyer Division (DesDiv) 62, Destroyer
Squadron (DesRon) 6, at Charleston, S.C., in July 1963; and, into the summer
of 1964, participated in various fleet exercises in the Atlantic and
Caribbean. Toward the end of that summer, she sailed east for a six-week NATO
exercise, “Masterstroke/Teamwork,” in the North Atlantic-Norwegian Sea area;
and, on 22 September, she crossed the Arctic Circle. Two months later, on 28
November, she deployed to the Mediterranean for her first tour, of four
months, with the 6th Fleet. She returned to Charleston in time to participate
in the 2d Fleet's exercises during the spring of 1965. She then took part in
support operations off the Dominican Republic.
From February to July 1966, the guided missile destroyer conducted her second
tour with the 6th Fleet; and, on her return to the United States, changed her
home port from Charleston to Norfolk, effective 1 August, in anticipation of
her first major overhaul at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. In April 1967, Semmes
resumed operations with refresher training in the Caribbean. In July, she
rejoined DesRon 6 at Charleston; and, in August, she deployed for her third
tour with the 6th Fleet. She participated in fleet and NATO exercises into
January 1968; then returned to Charleston, arriving on the 31st for a month's
rest before resuming operations in the Caribbean and off the east coast.
On 10 June, Semmes again sailed east. During that month and into July, she
visited Germany and Denmark; then turned south for another 6th Fleet
deployment. On 15 November, she was relieved by John King (DDG-3) at Rota,
Spain; and, 11 days later, she returned to Charleston where she remained in port
for the rest of the year.
In January 1969, she cleared Charleston to oarticipate in ASW and
“Springboard” exercises in the Puerto Rican operating area; then returned to
her homeport. In April, she returned to the Caribbean for 2d Fleet exercises.
Through the summer, Semmes continued to conduct exercises in the Caribbean
and off the southeastern seaboard. In late September, she again crossed the
Atlantic for a seven-month deployment with the 6th Fleet; and, on 10 February
1970, while moored at Naples, she was struck by the Greek freighter, SS
Mautric. The damage sustained to her bow was quickly repaired; and, before
the end of the month, she had resumed operations. By mid-March, she had
arrived at Barcelona for turnover with Conyngham (DDG-17). On the 18th, she
departed the Mediterranean; and, on the 28th, she returned to Charleston.
During 1971, her schedule remained basically the same; but her annual tour
with the 6th Fleet, 16 July to 11 October, was followed by visits to the
Netherlands and to Denmark for binational and NATO operations. On 20
December, Semmes returned to South Carolina; and, in January 1972, she
entered the Charleston Naval Shipyard for conversion of her engineering plant
to the Navy Distillate Fuel Oil System. With the spring, she resumed
operations off the east coast and in the Caribbean. In September, she
participated in NATO exercise "Strong Express," which again took
her above the Arctic Circle and which was followed by visits to Norway and
Denmark. In October, she returned to Charleston. In November, she conducted
exercises in the Caribbean; and, in December, she prepared for another
deployment in the Mediterranean with NATO's Standing Naval Force, Atlantic.
After sea trials in the Charleston operating area, Semmes got underway from
that port on 4 January 1973. She arrived in Portsmouth, England, on the 15th,
joining the NATO naval force there. For the next seven months, the guided
missile destroyer cruised the Atlantic visiting ports on both sides of that
ocean and participating in three exercises: NATO Exercise “Sunny Seas,” in
January and February; Canadian Exercise MARCOT 2/73, in April and May; and
Norwegian Exercise “Midnight Sun” in June. On 1 July, Semmes changed
operational control back to the 2d Fleet and, nine days later, returned to
Following a month of post-deployment standdown, from 10 July until 10 August,
she resumed operations along the eastern seaboard and in the Caribbean. In
November and December, she took part in Exercises "Fun in the Sun"
and LANTREADEX 2-74. Semmes reentered Charleston on 19 December to prepare
for overhaul. As of 31 July 1974, she is still in Charleston completing
-- more DDG 18
history wanted --
Greece and renamed HS Kimon (D 218).
decommissioned on 17 June 2004, and, as of 2005, in reserve at Souda Bay,
Crete. Finally scrapped in Greece in 2006.