north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
     John Newland Maffitt, United States and later Confederate naval officer and blockade runner, aptly was born at sea. His parents, Ann Carnic and the Reverend John Newland Maffitt emigrated from Ireland and the family lived in Connecticut until the younger John was adopted by his uncle, Dr. William Maffitt, who lived near Fayetteville. Maffitt attended schools in Fayetteville and White Plains, New York. In 1832, just three days after his thirteenth birthday, he was commissioned a midshipman in the United States Navy. He spent three years in the Mediterranean aboard the Constitution, which would later serve as the basis for his novel, Nautilus; or, Cruising under Canvas. In 1838 Maffitt became a passed midshipman and three years later was acting master of the frigate Macedonian.

     Lieutenant Maffitt, in 1842, reported to the U. S. Coast Survey, where he worked in hydrographic operations for fourteen years. He then returned to the high seas with orders to capture pirates and slaves as commander of the brig Dolphin. In 1861 Maffit resigned his commission in the United States Navy in order to join the Confederacy. He was appointed lieutenant and served initially as a naval aide to General Robert E. Lee.

     In 1862 Maffitt became the first Confederate naval officer to run the blockade with military supplies. His blockade running as captain of the Florida was considered extraordinary, and earned Maffitt a promotion to commander. In the summer of 1864, he was assigned to the ironclad Albemarle. Maffitt assumed command of the vessel just as repairs of damage from the Battle of Plymouth were completed. At the close of the war he was in command of the steamer Owl, which he refused to surrender to the United States and instead retuned it to Confederate agents in England. He remained in England for two years, passing the British naval examination and commanding a merchant steamer. John Maffitt returned to North Carolina and settled on a farm on the sound at Wrightsville Beach in 1868. He died of Bright’s disease on May 15, 1886, and was buried in Oakdale Cemetery.


References:
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, IV, 210-202—sketch by B. W. C. Roberts
John Newland Maffitt Papers, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Edward Boykin, Sea Devil of the Confederacy: The Story of the Florida and Her Captain, John Newland Maffitt (1959)
Emma Martin Maffitt, The Life and Services of John Newland Maffitt (1906)
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