Letter from Captain Raphael Semmes, 1864

old handwritten letter
Archive reference B/FT/1/30

Captain Raphael Semmes was commander of 'CSS Alabama'. In this letter to Fraser, Trenholm and Co, he refers to the 'Alabama's campaign, pursuing and raiding Union merchant ships in the East Indies and Singapore, a reminder of the global reach of the Civil War at sea. He describes the poor condition of both the ship and himself after a continuous two years at sea.



Do me the favour to forward the enclosed letters to their destination by the first favourable opportunity. I reached the Cape yesterday from my 'foray' in the East Indies. The Alabama ____ waters and ____ panic among the enemy's shipping, & although I destroyed but seven of their ships, I estimate the damage (incidental) done them at five million ____ dollars. There were 18 Yankee ____ in Singapore alone, having ____ to get any employment. The Alabama has 'run' all the copper off her bottom, ____ two years of battles [?] & ____ it is absolutely ____ that she should go into dock; for which purpose I shall ____ the best of my way to a European port. The Alabama's Captain has worn himself out almost as completely as he has worn his ship. I shall therefore hope [?] to be relieved. Tell my proud ____now, be on North, or ____ someone else will have a chance at the basting[?]; that I have already christened. Of course you will keep the secret of my intended return until the 'cat is out of the bag'

____very truly
R Semmes, Captain"

Find out more about Liverpool and the American Civil War

This Maritime Archives and Library display is part of National Museums Liverpool's programme to mark the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. From 2011-2015 there is a series of displays and a gallery trail highlighting Liverpool's involvement in the war; through the collections of Merseyside Maritime MuseumMaritime Archives and Library and the International Slavery Museum.

Liverpool and the American Civil War