FEBRUARY 10TH, 1865: Captain Raphael Semmes was appointed Rear Admiral in the Provisional Navy of the Confederate States of America "for gallant and meritorious conduct, in command of the CSS Alabama." Secretary Mallory had created the Provisional Navy as a means of instituting selection to higher rank on the basis of ability rather than strict seniority.
Semmes later wrote: "After I had been in Richmond a few weeks, the President was pleased to nominate me to the Senate as a rear-admiral. My nomination was unanimously confirmed, and, in a few days afterward, I was appointed to the command of the James River Fleet....
"An old and valued friend, Commodore J.K. Mitchell, had been in command of the James River Fleet, and I displaced him very reluctantly. He had organized and disciplined the fleet, and had accomplished with it all that was possible, viz., the protection of Richmond by water."
Except for this powerful fleet backing up the forts and the extensive obstructions and torpedoes in the James River, Richmond would have long since fallen.