Author: John B. Boles

the William P. Hobby Professor at Rice University

Robert Lewis Dabney (1820–1898)

Robert Lewis Dabney was a Presbyterian minister who, during the American Civil War (1861–1865), emerged as one of the most influential leaders of the southern Presbyterian Church. Born in Louisa County, he was educated at the Union Theological Seminary and served on the school’s faculty, becoming chair of theology in 1859 and preaching Calvinist orthodoxy. Dabney opposed secession but served as chaplain to the 18th Virginia Infantry Regiment and, for several months in 1862, as adjutant, or chief of staff, to Confederate general Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. Ill health forced him to return to the seminary, but he later wrote a biography of Jackson. Dabney was an ardent defender of slavery and the Old South, opposed the Progressive Movement, and was skeptical of modern science. As an important Presbyterian leader in the South, he opposed reunifying the southern church with its northern counterpart. In 1883, he left Virginia to teach at the new University of Texas, in Austin, where he helped to found the Austin School of Theology. He died in Victoria, Texas, in 1898.