Real Southern Quote: On the Nature of Sailors

Today’s Real Southern Quote comes to us from the pages of Memoirs of Service Afloat During the War Between the States, the war memoirs of Admiral Raphael Semmes, captain of the CSS Alabama.

Semmes was such a fantastic writer, his words dripping with the sarcastic wit and hyperbole endemic of the region, that we could quote him every day here on RSM. In fact, don’t tempt us.

Our first Semmes quote deals with nothing less than the fundamental nature of sailors. When describing the virtue of not using the Alabama’s steam-powered screw propeller, because sailing only by canvas allowed him longer periods at sea, Semmes said this of his crew:

“The sailor is as improvident, and as incapable of self-government as a child. The moment a ship drops her anchor in port … he is like the bird let out of the cage. He gives a loose rein to his passions, plunges so deeply into debauchery that he renders himself unfit for duty, for days, and sometimes weeks, after he is hunted up and brought on board by the police, which is most frequently the manner in which his captain again gets possession of him. It was quite enough to have such scenes as these repeated once in every three or four months.”  -Adm. Raphael Semmes

If you are a sailor and feel that you have inherited an unfortunate stereotype, you might want to take it up with the late Adm. Semmes. (You can yell at his statue at the foot of Government St. in Mobile.)


  1. It’s Pirate Week on Real Southern Men! | Real Southern Men - June 3, 2011

    […] Admiral Semmes also contributes our latest Real Southern Quote, as an excerpt from his memoirs elucidates us on the nature of sailors. […]

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