Blockade Runner John N. Maffitt

Maffitt in 1863. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.On May 15, 1886, John Newland Maffitt, captain of Confederate blockade runners, died.

Born at sea in 1819, Maffitt split his formative years between northern schools and his uncle’s home near Fayetteville. At age 13, Maffitt was commissioned as a midshipman in the United States Navy and spent 15 years with the U. S. Coast Survey, experience that proved invaluable during his time as a blockade runner.

Following the bombardment of Fort Sumter in April 1861, Maffitt resigned his commission in the Navy and received a commission as lieutenant in the Confederate States Navy. After a two month stint in command of blockade running operations out of Nassau, Maffitt assumed command of the CSS Florida and was promoted to the rank of commander. At the helm of the Florida, Maffitt shifted his attention to raiding merchant vessels during an eight-month cruise, capturing 23 ships.

Maffitt is credited with making the Confederacy’s last run of the blockade, which took place after Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender. Obeying final orders from the Confederate government, Maffitt delivered the Owl to agents in England, where he remained until 1868.

With his career at sea largely over, Maffitt retired to a farm near Wrightsville Beach.

Visit: The N.C. Maritime Museum at Southport interprets the history of the blockade runners that operated in the lower Cape Fear region.

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