Dabney Herndon Maury

Dabney Herndon Maury (1822–1900)

Dabney Herndon Maury was a Confederate general during the American Civil War (1861–1865). The nephew of renowned scientist Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury, he fought in the Western Theater, rising quickly in the ranks after the battles of Pea Ridge, Iuka, and Corinth in 1862. As commander of the District of the Gulf in the war's last two years, he became known for his tenacious defense of the port of Mobile, Alabama. After the war, however, he struggled with poverty. In 1869, he helped to found the Southern Historical Society, which became an important institution for advocates of the Lost Cause view of the war. His 1894 memoir, Recollections of a Virginian in the Mexican, Indian, and Civil Wars, was marked by Maury's distinctively intelligent affability. In fact, he was rare among former Civil War officers on either side for his willingness to maintain an equitable view of the Civil War. MORE...

 

Maury was born in Fredericksburg on May 21, 1822. When his father, John Minor Maury, died during U.S. Navy service, his uncle, Matthew Fontaine Maury, became his guardian. The diminutive, energetic, and cheerful "Dab" Maury, as he was known to family and friends, studied law in Fredericksburg and graduated from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in 1841. He then attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, finishing thirty-seventh of fifty-nine cadets in 1846. His classmates included George B. McClellan (second), Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson (seventeenth), and George E. Pickett (last).

Commissioned a second lieutenant in the cavalry, Maury served in the Mexican War (1846–1848), suffering a shattered arm at the Battle of Cerro Gordo in April 1847. He returned to West Point, where from 1847 until 1852 he taught geography, history, ethics, and infantry tactics. He returned to Virginia to marry Anna "Nannie" Mason in King George County on March 10, 1852. (The couple would go on to have three children: Nannie, Sue, and Dabney Jr.) He then served on the Texas frontier, and in 1858 became superintendent of the army's cavalry school at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. There he authored the classic Skirmish Drill for Mounted Troops (1859), still in use at the time of Maury's death forty-one years later.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Maury resigned from the U.S. Army and was commissioned a captain in the Confederate cavalry. While serving as chief of staff to Confederate general Earl Van Dorn, he fought at the Battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas in March 1862, after which he was promoted to brigadier general. At the Battle of Iuka in Mississippi on September 19, he received a message from Union general William S. Rosecrans: "Tell [General] Maury … I never used to think when I taught him, a little, curly-headed boy at West Point, that he would ever trouble me as he has today." He led a division at Corinth, Mississippi, in October and was promoted to major general. After briefly commanding the Department of East Tennessee, Maury took over the District of the Gulf in July 1863. He earned a reputation for his tenacious defense of the crucial port of Mobile, Alabama, which fell on April 12, 1865.

With peace came poverty for Maury, a career military man with no career and no military pension. He refused to join other Confederates—including his uncle, Matthew Maury—as expatriates from the United States. He opened a school in Fredericksburg and worked as an express agent in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1869 he helped found the Southern Historical Society, an organization dedicated to compiling and preserving manuscripts of the wartime South. He served as chairman of the SHS executive committee, acting as go-between and mediator among the contending accounts of battles and leaders submitted by his former Confederate comrades. These discussions provided the basis for the Lost Cause view of the war.

During the first administration of U.S. president Grover Cleveland (1885–1889), Maury served as U.S minister to Colombia. He also wrote articles on the Monroe Doctrine, his travels, and Virginia history. Unlike many former Confederates, he declined to use his writings for self-aggrandizement or revenge. Among his many postwar correspondents were McClellan and former Confederate president Jefferson Davis. In his 1894 memoir, Recollections of a Virginian in the Mexican, Indian, and Civil Wars, Maury gave a good-natured review of his life, winning accolades from many, including U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt, who complimented his humor, vowing, "no one can help being attracted both to the author and his work."

Maury died on January 11, 1900, at his son's home in Peoria, Illinois. He was buried a month later in Fredericksburg.

Time Line

  • May 21, 1822 - Dabney Herndon Maury is born in Fredericksburg, Virginia. His father, a U.S. Navy officer, dies when Maury is young and his uncle, Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury, is appointed guardian.
  • 1841 - After studying law in Fredericksburg, Dabney Herndon Maury graduates from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
  • 1846 - Dabney Herndon Maury graduates from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, finishing thirty-seventh in a class of fifty-nine. His classmates include George B. McClellan, Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, and George E. Pickett.
  • April 17, 1847 - Dabney Herndon Maury is wounded at the Battle of Cerro Gordo during the Mexican War.
  • 1847–1852 - Dabney Herndon Maury is an instructor of geography, history, ethics, and infantry tactics at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. His roommate is future Union general William "Baldy" Smith.
  • 1852–1858 - Dabney Herndon Maury is stationed in Texas.
  • March 10, 1852 - Dabney Herndon Maury marries Anna "Nannie" Mason in King George County, Virginia. Among the invited guests are future Union generals George B. McClellan and Ambrose E. Burnside, though only Burnside attends.
  • 1856–1860 - Dabney Herndon Maury serves as superintendent of cavalry instruction at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.
  • 1859 - Dabney Herndon Maury, superintendent of cavalry instruction at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, authors Skirmish Drill for Mounted Troops, a classic manual still in use at the time of Maury's death forty-one years later.
  • May 1861 - Dabney Herndon Maury resigns his commission as captain in the U.S. Army.
  • July 19, 1861 - Dabney Herndon Maury is commissioned as captain in the regular Confederate cavalry.
  • February 1862 - Dabney Herndon Maury is commissioned as colonel and assigned as chief-of-staff to Confederate general Earl Van Dorn of the Trans-Mississippi Department.
  • March 18, 1862 - Dabney Herndon Maury is promoted to brigadier general after Confederate general Earl Van Dorn praises his performance at the Battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas.
  • September 19, 1862 - At the Battle of Iuka in Mississippi, Confederate general Dabney Herndon Maury receives a message from Union general William S. Rosecrans: "Tell Maury … I never used to think when I taught him, a little, curly-headed boy at West Point, that he would ever trouble me as he has today."
  • November 4, 1862 - Several weeks after the Battle of Corinth in Mississippi, Dabney Herndon Maury is promoted to major general in the Confederate army.
  • April 1863 - Confederate general Dabney Herndon Maury takes command of the Department of East Tennessee.
  • July 1863–April 12, 1865 - Confederate general Dabney Herndon Maury commands the District of the Gulf. He earns a reputation for his tenacious defense of the crucial port of Mobile, Alabama.
  • May 11, 1865 - Following the end of the Civil War, Confederate general Dabney Herndon Maury receives his parole.
  • 1866 - Former Confederate general Dabney Herndon Maury establishes the Fredericksburg Classical and Mathematical Academy for boys.
  • 1869–1886 - Former Confederate general Dabney Herndon Maury helps to found the Southern Historical Society, and serves as chairman of its executive committee.
  • 1887–1889 - Former Confederate general Dabney Herndon Maury serves as U.S. minister to Colombia in the first administration of U.S. president Grover Cleveland.
  • 1894 - Former Confederate general Dabney Herndon Maury publishes his memoir, Recollections of a Virginian in the Mexican, Indian, and Civil Wars. His good-naturedness and humor win him accolades and set him apart from many of his contemporaries.
  • January 11, 1900 - Former Confederate general Dabney Herndon Maury dies at his son's home in Peoria, Illinois.
  • February 13, 1900 - Former Confederate general Dabney Herndon Maury is buried in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Further Reading
Maury, Anne Fontaine, ed., Intimate Virginiana: A Century of Maury Travels by Land and Sea. Richmond, Virginia: Dietz Press, 1941.
"Dabney Herndon Maury. Major-General C.S. Army—Patriot and Scholar. Sketch of His Honored Career," Southern Historical Papers, Vol. 27 (1899): 335–349.
Bergeron, Arthur W., Jr. Confederate Mobile. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1991.
Cozzens, Peter. The Darkest Days of War: The Battles of Iuka and Corinth. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    Coski, R. A. Dabney Herndon Maury (1822–1900). (2014, March 6). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Maury_Dabney_Herndon_1822-1900.

  • MLA Citation:

    Coski, Ruth Ann. "Dabney Herndon Maury (1822–1900)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 6 Mar. 2014. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: December 16, 2009 | Last modified: March 6, 2014


Contributed by Ruth Ann Coski, a special correspondent for publications at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond.