Dabney Herndon Maury was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, on May 21, 1822. Following the death of his father, he and his brother were raised by their uncle, Matthew Fontaine Maury (Confederate naval commander and the "Pathfinder of the Seas"). After graduating from the University of Virginia and studying law, which he did not find to his liking, Maury enrolled at West Point. He distinguished himself with one brevet during the Mexican War (where a musket ball shattered his left arm, crippling it permanently) and then returned to West Point, where he served as an instructor for five years.
When the War Between the States began, Maury was serving as an assistant adjutant general of the Department of New Mexico on the frontier. He turned in his resignation early in May of 1861 but was discharged from the U.S. Army on May 25 for "treasonable designs." Maury returned east to Richmond, where he was given commissions as a captain of cavalry in the Confederate Army, a colonel of cavalry in Virginia's forces, and a lieutenant colonel in the provisional army. He served on the staff of Major General Theophilus Holmes until February of 1862, when he was given the rank of colonel and sent to the Trans-Mississippi Department to become chief of staff for Major General Earl Van Dorn. Maury spent the War in the Western theatre, taking part in the battles of Pea Ridge, Iuka, and Corinth.
In April of 1863, Jefferson Davis sent Maury to Knoxville to take command of the Department of East Tennessee. Two weeks later, he was ordered to Mobile, Alabama, to replace Major General Simon Bolivar Buckner as commander of the District of the Gulf, where he remained until the end of the War.
Maury returned to his native Virginia after the War and opened the Classical and Mathematical Academy for boys in Fredericksburg. When he tired of teaching, he relocated to New Orleans, Louisiana, where he became an express agent and eventually ran a naval stores manufacturing company. In 1868, he founded the Southern Historical Society, which he served as chairman for 20 years. During his tenure, he made available to the U.S. War Records Office all of the Society's extensive holdings (the War Records Office returned the favor). The fruits of Maury's labors -- the Southern Historical Society Papers -- today provide a wealth of knowledge for serious researchers and amateur historians alike.
In 1885, Maury was appointed U.S. minister to Colombia, a post he held until 1889. He returned to the States at the end of his term and lived with his son in Peoria, Illinois, until his death on January 11, 1900. He is buried in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Arthur W. Bergeron, Jr., writing in The Confederate General, says of Maury:One of Maury's men remembered him as "'every inch a soldier,' but then there were not many inches of him. The soldiers called him 'puss in boots' because half of his diminutive person seemed lost in a pair of immense cavalry boots. He was a wise and gallant officer."
"General Dabney H. Maury"
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Last modified 16-April-2001