Raphael Semmes was captain of the Southern commerce raider Alabama, the first of its kind to be unleashed upon the shipping of a commercial nation. Under Captain Semmes she caused enormous financial loss to the northern business; his unconsummated plan for a raid into New York Harbor to destroy shipping at anchor was audacious in conception and nearly carried out.
Indispensable Servant for Dr. Galt
“On the second day after the capture of the Northern merchant ship Tonawanda, another merchant vessel Manchester of New York and bound for Liverpool was stopped and boarded. After disposing of the prizes I took on board one of the former’s passengers.
This was a likely negro lad named David of about seventeen years of age – a slave until he was twenty-one under the laws of his State, Delaware. He was on his way to Europe in company of his master. He necessarily came to me under the laws of war, and I brought him on board the Alabama where we were in want of good servants and sent him to wait on the ward-room mess.
The boy was a little alarmed at first, but when he saw kindly faces beaming upon him, and heard from his new masters and the servants of the mess, some words of encouragement, he became reassured and in the course of a few days was not only at home but congratulated himself on the exchange he had made.
He became, more especially, the servant of Dr. Galt and there at once arose, between the Virginia gentleman and the slave boy, that sympathy of master and servant, which our ruder people of the North find it so impossible to comprehend. David soon became to Galt as my own servant was to me – indispensable – and the former was really as free as the latter, except only in the circumstances that he could not change masters.
I caused his name to be entered on the books of the ship as one of our crew and allowed him the pay of his grade. In short, no difference was made between him and the white waiters of the mess. His condition was in every respect bettered; though, I doubt not, a howl went up over his capture by the pseudo-philanthropists of the North, who know as little about the negro and his nature as they do about the people of the South.”
(Memoirs of Service Afloat. Raphael Semmes, LSU Press, 1996, original 1868. pp. 464-465)