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This home once belonged to one of the Confederacy's most successful military officers, Raphael Semmes (1809-1877). It was built in 1858 by a man named Peter Horta. Semmes lived here from 1871 to his death six years later. Today the home belongs to the First Baptist Church of Mobile, located next door. It was designed in the Greek Revival and Federal styles and features ornamental cast-iron railings and decorative elements. It is significant for its architecture and association with Raphael Semmes. For these reasons it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.


  • The Raphael Semmes House, built in 1858 and the home of its namesake from 1871-1877.
  • Raphael Semmes. He earned the nickname "Old Beeswax" because he was seen constantly walking around the deck of the Alabama twisting his mustache.
  • This statue was erected in Mobile to honor Raphael Semmes.
  • Painting of the CSS Alabama.

Raphael Semmes was born in Maryland and sadly became an orphan. His uncle, also named Raphael, became his caretaker. Another uncle, Benedict, was able to secure an appointment for the young Raphael as a midshipman in the U.S. Navy. Rapael also studied law and would practice as a lawyer between 1842-1860 when not out to sea. He married Anne Elizabeth Spencer in 1837 and they had six children. During these years he steadily rose in the ranks in the Navy, eventually obtaining the position of rear admiral.

After the election of President Lincoln, Raphael decided to resign from the Navy. He supported state's rights and did not like Lincoln, who was a Republican. During the Civil War, Raphael commanded the CSS Alabama, the most feared commerce raider (a vessel that attacked, and often sunk, enemy merchant vessels; their purpose was to disrupt the economic activity and resupplying of the North). The Alabama captured (and often burned) over 60 Union ships during the course of the war. These victories amounted to $6.5 million dollars, which was more than 40% of the damaged caused by Confederate vessels during the war. The Alabama sailed across the Atlantic and even Indian Oceans, eluding capture from Union vessels. On June, 1864, it finally met its end off the coast of Cherbourg, France (where it was being repaired). The Union ship, the USS Kearasage, and the Alabama engaged in a battle that lasted an hour. The Alabama was sunk; the Kearsage's guns and marksmanship were greater than that of the Alabama's. Luckily for Semmes, he was rescued by a British vessel, made his way to London, and was smuggled back to the South. There, he was given the rank of brigadier general and led troops during the last year of the war. 

Semmes was captured and imprisoned but was found not guilty of committing war crimes or other offenses. After his release, for a brief time he taught at Louisiana State University. He moved to Mobile in 1871 and practiced law until his death in 1877. Private owners lived in the house until 1946, when they donated it to the church. 

Delaney, Norman C. "Raphael Semmes." Encyclopedia of Alabama. September 20, 2007 [last updated May 26, 2013]. http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-1359.

Floyd, Warner. "Admiral Raphael Semmes Home." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places. February 26, 1970. https://focus.nps.gov/GetAsset?assetID=681daa24-1000-4d96-8f66-bc3965f49769.