Return to DANFS IndexImage of an anchorReturn to Naval History and Heritage Command homepage
flag banner
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships banner
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060



(SwStr: t. 771; l. 230'; b. 26'; dph. 9'6" or 10'9"; dr. 7'6"; s. 14-16 k.; cl. Owl)


Maffitt's last command, "long, low and painted light-red color," Owl, sister to Bat (q.v. supra for background) was more fortunate than her twin which followed her closely: Owl succeeded in running into Wilmington, N.C., some time in September, 1864, although U.S. Consul M. M. Jackson telegraphed Washington that Owl had "a large, valuable cargo" cleared 31 August—officially for Nassau. She escaped to sea from Wilmington, 3 October; her masts were visible all the while she lay in port loading. The blockaders wounded her captain and several crewmen but 9 shots failed to stop Owl.


She was now commanded by Comdr. John Newland Maffitt, CSN—the "Prince of Privateers"—detached from CS Ram Albemarle at Plymouth, N.C., on or about 9 September. Secretary Mallory, telegraphing 19 September, warned Maffitt: "It is of the first importance that our steamers should not fall into the enemy's hands…these vessels, lightly armed, now constitute the fleetest and most efficient part of his blockading force off Wilmington." [cf. Bat] Maffitt was to take no passengers, as a rule, and Asst. Paymaster Adam Tredwell, CSN, would deliver "5,000 pounds in sterling bills before sailing," Mallory concluded.


Owl was at Bermuda with cotton, 24-29 October, as the U.S. Consul faithfully reported. Mallory on 5 December instructed Maffitt to pick up Florida's men in Bermuda. A letter to Mallory captured, along with Asst. Paymaster Talley, CSN, by USS Forest Rose, 7 May 1865, bears an endorsement by her commander, Lt. A. N. Gould, USN, "It shows that Maffitt has been landing on the Florida coast with the Owl." U.S. Consul W. T. Minor at Havana reported 20 May 1865 that Maffitt was to leave there in a day or two for Galveston. This last trip Owl was almost captured at Wilmington by a Federal cruiser and had to jettison valuable mail as well as sustain 12 casualties; Maffitt then tried Galveston, grounded on Bird Island Shoals at the entrance within range of 16 enemy cruisers. Capt. James H. MacGarvey, CSN, in little Diana, got Owl off barely in time; she not only ran into port but ran out safely too. There is some evidence Owl's last two runs through the blockade were made under the name of Foam.


Owl was delivered to Fraser, Trenholm & Co. in Liverpool after war's end and Maffitt took the Board of Trade examinations to command British merchant ships to South America.