About Paul Jones Semmes
Paul Jones Semmes (June 4, 1815 – July 10, 1863) was a banker, businessman, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War, mortally wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Semmes was born at Montford's Plantation in Wilkes County, Georgia. He was a cousin of future Confederate naval hero, CSS Alabama Captain Raphael Semmes. His half-brother, Albert Gallatin Semmes, later became an Associate Justice of the Florida Supreme Court. Paul Semmes was educated at the Beman School in Hancock County. He attended the University of Virginia and became a banker and plantation owner in Columbus, Georgia. His business endeavors flourished and he became one of Columbus's most prominent citizens. From 1846 to 1861, he served as a captain in the Georgia militia. He was the author of the 1855 manual, Infantry Tactics. In 1860, Governor Joseph E. Brown appointed Semmes as quartermaster general for the state and authorized him to handle all military purchases.
After the start of the Civil War, Semmes was appointed colonel of the 2nd Georgia Infantry. He was promoted to brigadier general on March 11, 1862. During the Peninsula Campaign, he was a brigade commander in Brig. Gen. John B. Magruder's Corps in the defense of Richmond. Rushed northward at the start of the Maryland Campaign, Semmes's brigade rejoined the Army of Northern Virginia in the division of Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws just as it was entering Maryland. His men participated in the holding action at Crampton's Gap during the Battle of South Mountain. At Sharpsburg, Semmes's brigade was a key part of General McLaws's strong counterattack that stunned the Union II Corps. In early November, his brigade was reorganized so that it only contained Georgia regiments. Held in reserve at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Semmes's reconstituted brigade served well at Chancellorsville, where it blunted the advance of an entire V Corps division, and at Salem Church.
Death and legacy
Semmes was mortally wounded in the thigh while leading a charge across the Wheatfield at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 2, 1863. He died eight days later in Martinsburg, West Virginia, and was buried in Linwood Cemetery in Columbus. Shortly before his death, Semmes told a war correspondent, "I consider it a privilege to die for my country."
General Robert E. Lee lamented Semmes's untimely loss, writing that he "died as he had lived, discharging the highest duty of a patriot with devotion that never faltered and courage that shrank from no danger."