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Collection Number: 01761

Collection Title: John Newland Maffitt Papers, 1833-1911, 1976

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the section for more information.


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Size 1.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 600 items)
Abstract John Newland Maffitt (1819-1886) was a United States Navy officer, Confederate Navy officer, blockade runner, and author. Maffitt was born in Connecticut; grew up in Fayetteville, N.C.; and retired to Wilmington, N.C. The collection includes family, personal, business and official correspondence of John Newland Maffitt concerning his early career in the U.S. Navy; his Confederate service (for which there is also a journal) on both combat and blockade running vessels, particularly the C.S.S. Florida; service as captain of a British vessel after the war; retirement to Wilmington, N.C., and literary activities; and the controversy over the alleged negligence of Commander George Henry Preble, U.S.N., for allowing the C.S.S. Florida to enter Mobile Bay in 1862. Also included are papers of Maffitt's daughter, Florie, and his third wife, Emma Martin Maffitt, who published a book on her husband in 1906; scrapbooks; genealogical materials; photographs, including a snapshot of Amelia Earhart; and a manuscript novel and speeches by Maffitt.
Creator Maffitt, John Newland, 1819-1886.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the John Newland Maffitt Papers #1761, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Mrs. Albert Ward of Redding, Conn., in 1950; from Robert Maffitt of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, in June 1999 (Acc. 98386) and June 2004 (Acc. 99806).
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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John Newland Maffitt (1819-1886) was the son of Ann Carnic and the Reverend John Newland Maffitt, a Methodist minister. Young Maffitt lived in Connecticut until, at age five, he was adopted by his uncle, Dr. William Maffitt of Ellerslie near Fayetteville, N.C. In 1832, at the age of 13, Maffitt was commissioned a midshipman in the United States Navy. Following a cruise on the sloop-of-war St. Louis, he spent three years in the Mediterranean aboard the Constitution, a frigate, about which he later wrote a novel, Nautilus; or, Cruising under Canvas (1871). In 1838, Maffitt was promoted to passed midshipman, and, three years later, he became acting master of the frigate Macedonian.

In 1842, Lieutenant Maffitt was ordered to the United States Coast Survey. He spent more than fourteen years in hydrographic operations--mapping, graphing, charting, making soundings to determine water depths; plotting the location of shoals; determining the direction and velocity of currents; recording tidal observations; and recommending the placement of buoys, lights, and lighthouses. In 1857, Maffitt was placed in command of the brig Dolphin and ordered to capture pirates and slaves. He was the first American officer to capture a slaver with its cargo.

In 1862, Maffitt resigned from the United States Navy to join the Confederacy. Appointed a lieutenant in the Confederate Navy, he served as a naval aide to General Robert E. Lee while preparations for the defense of Savannah were in progress. In early 1862, Maffitt was ordered to the steamer Cecile to run the blockade with supplies for the Confederacy.

For a short period, Maffitt commanded the Nassau and later the iron-screw steam cruiser, the Florida. The crew of the Florida experienced an epidemic of yellow fever in which Maffitt's stepson, John Laurens Read, died. In order to rebuild his crew and refit the cruiser, Maffitt entered the port of Mobile by running the blockade in daylight. The bombardment from the blockaders was severe and the damage to the Florida was so great that Maffitt did not return to sea for more than three months. To prevent his escape, the Union Navy increased the blockading force near Mobile. Maffitt waited for a violent storm before setting out and used trickery to lose six pursuing blockaders.

Early in 1863, Maffitt was promoted to the rank of commander in the Confederate Navy "for gallant and meritorious conduct in command of the steam sloop Florida." During his service to the Confederacy, Maffitt repeatedly ran the blockade to carry needed supplies and captured and destroyed more than seventy prizes worth $10 to $15 million.

In the summer of 1864, Maffitt was commander of the gunboat Albemarle at Plymouth. After southern ports were captured, he refused to surrender his ship to the United States. Instead, he returned his steamer, the Owl, to agents in Britain. He chose to remain in England, and, after passing the British naval examination, he served for about two years in command of the British merchant steamer Widgeon running between Liverpool and South America. Then, returning to America, he settled on a farm near Wilmington by 1868.

Maffitt was married three times. In 1840, he married Mary Florence Murrell in Mobile, Ala. Their children included Mary Florence (Florie) Maffitt Wright and Eugene Anderson. In 1852, in Charleston, S.C., Maffitt married Caroline Laurens Read, a widow with three children. They were the parents of John Laurens and Colden Rhind. His second wife died in 1859. In 1870, at her home in Wilmington, N.C., Maffitt married Emma Martin. They lived on his farm, located on the sound at Wrightsville Beach, and together worked on Nautilus; or, Cruising under Canvas and some magazine articles. They had three children: Mary Read Maffitt Borden, Clarence Dudley, and Robert Strange.

Maffitt died in 1886. In 1906, Emma Martin Maffitt published The Life and Services of John Newland Maffitt.

Note adapted from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

Family, personal, business and official correspondence of naval officer and author  John Newland Maffitt concerning his early career in the United States Navy; his Confederate Navy service (for which there is also a journal) on both combat and blockade running vessels, particularly the C.S.S. Florida during the Civil War; service as captain of a British vessel after the war; retirement to Wilmington, N.C., and literary activities; and the controversy over the alleged negligence of Commander George Henry Preble, U.S.N., for allowing the C.S.S. Florida to enter Mobile Bay in 1862. Also included are family papers of Mafitt's daughter, Florie, and his third wife, Emma Martin Maffitt, who published a book on her husband in 1906; scrapbooks; Maffitt family genealogical materials; photographs, including a snapshot of Amelia Earhart; and a manuscript novel and speeches by Maffitt.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Papers, 1833-1911, 1976.

About 600 items.

Folder 1

1833-1861 #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 1

Folder 2

1862 #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 2

Folder 3

1863 #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 3

Folder 4

1864-1865 #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 4

Folder 5

1866-1867 #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 5

Folder 6

1868 #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 6

Folder 7

1869-1870 #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 7

Folder 8

1871 #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 8

Folder 9

1872 #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 9

Folder 10

1873-1877 #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 10

Folder 11

1878-1879 #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 11

Folder 12

1880-1882 #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 12

Folder 13

1883-1884 #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 13

Folder 14

1885-1886 #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 14

Folder 15

1887-1896 #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 15

Folder 16

1904-1911 #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 16

Folder 17-20

Folder 17

Folder 18

Folder 19

Folder 20

Undated #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 17-20

Folder 21

Journal and notes, 1861-1864 #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 21

Folder 22

Speech #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 22

Folder 23-25

Folder 23

Folder 24

Folder 25

Writings #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 23-25

Folder 26

Clippings #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 26

Folder 27

Volume 1. Scrapbook of Civil War clippings, chiefly relating to the Florida #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 27

Folder 28

Volume 2. Scrapbook of Civil War clippings #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 28

Folder 29

Volume 3. Pocket memorandum book, 1863 #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 29

Folder 30

Genealogical chart, 1976 #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." Folder 30

Image Folder P-1761/1-2

P-1761/1

P-1761/2

Photographs #01761, Series: "Papers, 1833-1911, 1976." P-1761/1-2

Includes images of Robert Betts, Mary Woodford Betts, John Newland Maffitt, Robert S. Maffitt, other Maffitt family members, and a snapshot of Amelia Earhart

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Processing Information

Processed by: Anna Brooke Allan, March 1961

Encoded by: Linda Sellars, July 2002

Revisions: Finding aid updated in January 2006 by Nancy Kaiser.

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