Two Captains from Carolina

Moses Grandy, John Newland Maffitt, and the Coming of the Civil War

By Bland Simpson

A Nonfiction Novel

208 pp., 5.5 x 8.5, 26 halftones, appends., bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-4229-1
    Published: February 2018
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-3810-5
    Published: September 2012

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In Two Captains from Carolina, Bland Simpson twines together the lives of two accomplished nineteenth-century mariners from North Carolina--one African American, one Irish American. Though Moses Grandy (ca. 1791- ca. 1850) and John Newland Maffitt Jr. (1819-1886) never met, their stories bring to vivid life the saga of race and maritime culture in the antebellum and Civil War-era South. With his lyrical prose and inimitable voice, Bland Simpson offers readers a grand tale of the striving human spirit and the great divide that nearly sundered the nation.

Grandy, born a slave, captained freight boats on the Dismal Swamp Canal and bought his freedom three times before he finally gained it. He became involved in Boston abolitionism and ultimately appeared before the General Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1843. As a child, Maffitt was sent from his North Carolina home to a northern boarding school, and at thirteen he was appointed midshipman in the U.S. Navy, where he had a distinguished career. After North Carolina seceded from the Union, he enlisted in the Confederate navy and became a legendary blockade runner and raider. Both Grandy and Maffitt made names for themselves as they navigated very different routes through the turbulent waters of antebellum America.

About the Author

Bland Simpson is Kenan Distinguished Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and longtime member of the Tony Award-winning Red Clay Ramblers. He is author of numerous books, including Into the Sound Country: A Carolinian's Coastal Plain, Ghost Ship of Diamond Shoals: The Mystery of the Carroll A. Deering, and The Coasts of Carolina: Seaside to Sound Country.
For more information about Bland Simpson, visit the Author Page.


β€œTwo Captains from Carolina is. . . an 'improving book' that offers real history in specific and captivating anecdotes.”--Metro Magazine

β€œSimpson makes you believe you are there, with Grandy and Maffitt, experiencing these significant moments of their lives. . . . Using historical fact [Simpson] becomes the storyteller. And he tells one helluva story.”--Daily

β€œPlump with facts and anecdotes.”--Chatham County Line

β€œIt is hard to see how anyone could bring these points of view [of Grandy and Maffitt] together in the same book, but Simpson has done it in Two Captains from Carolina.”--D. G. Martin, The Mountaineer

"Beautifully written, nicely illustrated, highly recommended."--Gerry Prokopowicz, Host, Civil War Radio, World Talk Radio Network, May 24th, 2013

β€œ[A] beautifully crafted narrative.”--The Historian