C.S.S. Sumter

A short lived Confederate commerce raider (American Civil War). The C.S.S. Sumter was a converted merchant ship, originally known as the Habana. She had been purchased by the Confederate government in April 1861, and converted into a five gun ship of war. Command was given to Captain Raphael Semmes, a very able young naval captain, who had served in the Mexican War. He would go on to fame as captain of the C.S.S. Alabama, the most successful Confederate commerce raider of the war.

In June 1861 the Sumter sailed from New Orleans. Breaking through the Union blockade, she escaped into the Gulf of Mexico. Between July 1861 and January 1862 she captured eighteen U.S. merchant ships while cruising in the Atlantic.

However, in January 1862 she was trapped at Gibraltar. Semmes was unable to make necessary repairs, and U.S. warships soon arrived to prevent her escape. In April the ship was laid up. Meanwhile, in Britain work was proceeding on the C.S.S. Alabama, a much superior ship. In July, Semmes travelled to the Azores, where he took command of the new ship. Finally, in December 1862 the Sumterwas sold. Ironically, the next year she reappeared as a blockade runner, renamed the Gibraltar! After that she returned to private hands. Although the Sumter herself was a short-lived menace, she gave Captain Semmes invaluable experience of commerce raiding. As captain of the Alabama he sank or captured sixty six northern ships.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (3 September 2007), C.S.S. Sumter, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_css_sumter.html

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