Two Irishmen in the Confederate Army

Another post about the Irish in North Carolina, this time from someone who does look good in green!  We’ve got material about two Irishmen whose paths crossed as they fought for the Confederate Army that I thought I’d share with you today:

Thomas Conolly’s experience is recounted in a book edited by Nelson D. Lankford called, “An Irishman in Dixie:  Thomas Conolly’s Diary of the Fall of the Confederacy,” which is a published version of the diary Conolly kept while fighting for the Confederate Army.  The diary opens while Conolly is in Nassau awaiting passage to North Carolina, and contains descriptions of the South during the war as well as many colorful descriptions of social events with prominent Confederate leaders, including General Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis.  Don’t ask what he thinks of Varina Davis, wife of Jefferson Davis!

An excerpt from Conolly’s entry dated “Patrick’s Day,” Friday, March 17, 1865, when Conolly was near Richmond, VA reads:

“After dinner Genl Lee showed me the defences of Richmond on the map extending in a Line of 35 miles from the E of Richmond to 5 miles W of the Appotomax & Petersburg He showed me also the enemies lines confronting them nearly the entire way with his bastions & battery (marked & numbered.  Now he said we have 2 lines of defence… Whether under certain circumstances the exigencies of way might not render it advisable to evacuate Richmond I of course said nothing Tho’ when pressed by an unjudicious young Lady Oh General Lee I hope you’ll never give up Richmond He floor’d her by saying “Oh Miss have you no faith in our boys …”

Interestingly enough, the captain of the ship that brought Conolly from Bermuda to the coast of North Carolina was John Newland Maffitt, a blockade runner who was born at sea while his parents were emitrating from Ireland to New York.  Maffitt worked for the US Navy beginning when he was 13 years old and quickly rose through the ranks, but quit at the outbreak of the Civil War to fight for the Confederate Army.

The NCC has a novel written by Maffitt titled, “Nautilus: Or Cruising Under Canvas,” which was published in 1872 and is a fictional account of his time spent on a US Navy ship in 1835.  The John Newland Maffitt Family Papers are held at the Southern Historical Collection, Collection Number 1761.

Writing seems to have been a strength for the Maffitt family.  The NCC has two volumnes of poetry written by Maffitt’s father, the Rev. John Newland Maffitt, who was a Methodist preacher in several New England states.  Both volumes of poetry were publsihed in 1839.  One that is particularly appropriate for today’s post is titled, “Ireland: A Poem.”

One thought on “Two Irishmen in the Confederate Army”

  1. Interesting article about U.S. history. I have had a copy of Maffitt’s Poems published by Prentiss and Weissinger, Louisville 1839. The binding says Maffitt’s Poems and the the title page says Poems by John Newland Moffitt. I’ve had the book for so long, I don’t know where I got it. I have always wondered if it has any value, since it is old.

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