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Semmes enrolled in the University in 1840, listing his home as Washington, Georgia. In November 1840, Semmes and fellow student William A. Kincaid were celebrating the student revolt of 1836 by firing their pistols on the lawn while masked. When Professor Davis attempted to apprehend the obstreperous youth, Semmes turned and shot Davis, who died two days later. Semmes was apprehended but fled after posting a $25,000 bail. He is believed to have committed suicide following the incident.