Pensacola Historical Society Meeting January 2000
Oliver J. Semmes, III and the Project Alabama Challenge



The Subject of the presentation was the Franco-American efforts now underway to recover, preserve, and display artifacts from the CSS ALABAMA.

This Confederate cruiser was built in England, sailed to the Azores, and commissioned by Captain Raphael Semmes as a Confederate States Steamer. The most successful of any cruiser set against an enemy's maritime commerce, during her 22 months at sea she captured 66 Union ships, commissioned one as a Confederate warship, sank the USS HATTERAS, and boarded 447 ships of all flags. The CSS ALABAMA was sunk in an engagement with the USS KEARSARGE during an engagement off Cherboug, France, on June 19, 1864.

In November 1984, the French Navy discovered the wreck of the CSS ALABAMA in about 30 fathoms of water off Cherboug. Since then a Franco-American agreement has been reached, artifacts recovered, and plans made for future dives and related archaeological activities.

Mr. Semmes' presentation included a biographical sketch of Raphael Semmes, a summary of the cruise of the CSS ALABAMA, and a description of ALABAMA CHALLENGE.


The Sword shown above was presented to Captain Semmes and contains the following inscription:

"Presented to Captain Raphael Semmes, CSN, by officers of the Royal Navy and other friends in England as a testimonial of their admiration of the gallantry with which he maintained the honor of his Country's Flag and the fame of the Alabama in the engagement off Cherbourg with a Chain-plated ship of superior power, armament, and crew, June 19th 1864."


Click on the Speaker Icons to hear the talk which has been divided up into three segments of approx 18 min each.

Click the Speaker icons below for the presentation in three parts.

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