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CIVIL WAR CARTE DE VISTE – CAPTAIN RAPHAEL SEMMES – COMMANDING OFFICER OF THE C.S.S. ALABAMA:  This Carte De Viste captures the image of (at the time) Captain Raphael Semmes, the famous commanding officer of the Confederate States Ship Alabama, taken in Liverpool, England during the American Civil War. 

 Rear Admiral Semmes – his CSN rank at the end of the war – was born in Maryland in 1809, and after being orphaned at the age of 15, entered the US Navy as a midshipman in 1826.  Semmes established residence in Alabama in 1841, and after serving during the Mexican War, Semmes took an extended leave of absence to study for the law.  He returned to the US Navy, attained the rank of commander, and when his adopted state seceded from the Union, Semmes resigned his US Navy commission and was appointed as a commander in the Confederate States Navy in 1861.  He established a notable record of commerce raiding in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Atlantic while commanding the C.S.S. Sumter, and in 1862 he was given command of the newly built C.S.S. Alabama.  During the Alabama’s subsequent two year cruise through the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, around the Cape of Good Hope and into the East Indies, Semmes captured some sixty merchantmen and sunk one US Navy warship, the U.S.S. Hatteras.  Eventually taking refuge in the port of Cherbourg, France to affect long needed repairs, the Alabama was blockaded there by a Federal fleet.  Semmes sortied out of the harbor to confront the U.S.S. Kearsarge, and during the ensuing battle the Kearsarge sunk the Alabama.  Semmes was rescued by a British yacht and with some of the Alabama’s crew was taken to England and eventually he returned to the Confederacy.  During his period of command, Semmes gained quite a level of popularity and a large following among the citizens of the Confederacy.  Semmes was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral in 1865 and he was given command of the James River Squadron during the closing months of the war.  When his fleet of ships was destroyed with the fall of Richmond, Semmes was appointed as a brigadier general and led a force made up of his former sailors, serving as infantry.  Semmes was briefly imprisoned after the war, and was tried for “cruelty to prisoners”.  As a testament to his reputation and his personal conduct, numerous ship captains testified on his behalf that Semmes had been “complete in his regard for the rights and privileges” of his prisoners and he was exonerated.  Semmes returned to civilian life in Mobile, where he practiced law, served as the editor of a newspaper, and for a time was a professor at the Louisiana Military Institute.  He died at Point Clear, Alabama on August 26, 1877.      

This CDV is in fine condition and is an original product of the well known Liverpool, England photographer Cesar (Caesar) Ferranti.  Ferranti was well established in Liverpool by the beginning of the American Civil War, and he had been the recipient of a first prize for best life sized portraits from the Photographic Society of Great Britain, had been honored with commissions for portraits granted by Queen Victoria and other members of the royal family, and had received Royal Letters Patent for his improvement in the artistic treatment of photographs.   

One cite identifies Ferranti as a French photographer and painter named Caesar, while another lists him as Italian with the name Cesar.  All references agree that he was married to Juliana (Scott) Ziani Ferranti, a noted 19TH Century concert pianist and that they were the parents of noted electrical engineer and inventor Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti (1864-1930).   

Ferranti apparently recognized, and acted upon, the demand for information concerning the American Civil War and the public's thirst for all forms of media related to the war, not the least of which were the images of the leading heroes and villains of the day.  Located in the active sea port of Liverpool, Ferranti seized the lucrative opportunity to photograph luminaries of both the United States Navy and the Confederate States Navy who called at the port, men who were otherwise unavailable while at sea or in home ports not accessible to the opposing sides in the war.  Ferranti’s reputation, his noted artistic presentations, and his ability to market his work, all served to feed the public’s infatuation with, and the demand for, images of the famous naval officers with the newest, and most economical medium on the market - the CDV.   Ferranti found himself in an enviable position as he was able to produce in the CDV format an affordable image - in particular one of a renown Confederate naval officer - which was far more competitive than the images offered by the material starved southern photographers.  

This photograph of Confederate Capt. Raphael Semmes of the C.S.S. Alabama is in fine condition, mounted on a 3 ¾” by 2 ½” CDV card.  The Ferranti mark on the reverse is clear and legible.  This CDV is in excellent condition, with no edge wear or damage and no bends or damage to the corners.  (0351)  $650 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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