(1809–77) Confederate naval officer, born in Maryland. He fought in many of the major engagements of the Mexican War (1846–48), including Veracruz, Cerro Gordo, and Mexico City. When the Civil War broke out, he enlisted in the Confederate army and took the lead in outfitting a ship to serve as a commerce raider against the Union; Semmes took eighteen prizes. He then took command of the CSS Alabama, with which he captured sixty-nine Union vessels; however, the ship sank in an ill-advised confrontation with a Union ship off the coast of Cherbourg, France, where it had sailed for repairs. For his efforts, Semmes received a hero's welcome back in the Confederacy and was commissioned a rear admiral. After the war he was threatened with federal charges of piracy but never tried.
From The Oxford Essential Dictionary of the U.S. Military in Oxford Reference.
Subjects: Warfare and Defence.