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Dabney Herndon Maury, 1822-1900
Recollections of a Virginian in the Mexican, Indian, and Civil Wars
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1894.


Dabney Herndon Maury was born in 1822 in Fredericksburg, Virginia. His father, Captain John Minor Maury, was a celebrated U.S. Naval officer who died at the age of twenty-eight while protecting U.S. interests in the West Indies. Young Dabney Maury was raised by his uncle, Matthew Fontaine Maury, who was both a writer and a scientist. At seventeen, Maury entered the University of Virginia and graduated in 1842. He then received a commission to West Point, graduating in 1846. His most notable classmates included George McClellan, Ulysses S. Grant, and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. Following his graduation, Maury became a second lieutenant in the Third Cavalry, fighting in the Mexican War and then serving in military operations against Native Americans in the west until Virginia seceded from the Union. Promptly enlisting in the Confederate army, he was appointed Colonel of the Virginia cavalry.

After the war, Maury pursued various careers. He founded a school in Fredericksburg, worked as an express-agent in Louisiana, established an unsuccessful business in naval stores, and finally assumed the post of secretary for the Southern Hospital Association. In 1868, he founded the Southern Historical Society and chaired its executive committee until 1886. After serving briefly as U.S. minister to Colombia (1885-1889), Maury moved to live with his son in Peoria, Illinois, where he died in 1900. His publications include Skirmish Drill for Mounted Troops (1859), Recollections of a Virginian in the Mexican, Indian, and Civil War (1894), and A Young People's History of Virginia and Virginians (1896).

Maury's memoir, Recollections of a Virginian in the Mexican, Indian, and Civil War (1894), traces his life from his Virginia upbringing through his extensive military career. Though focusing primarily on his war experience, Maury reminisces about his youth in the South, his school companions, and summers spent in White Sulphur Springs, Virginia before the onset of the Civil War. His four years at West Point were particularly pivotal, for his comrades there, including Grant, Jackson, and McClellan, frequently reappear in his memories of the war. His sketches of these young cadets early in the narrative serve as an interesting comparison to his later depictions of the men as generals. In addition to these celebrated individuals, Maury also includes thorough characterizations of Robert E. Lee and Nathan Bedford Forrest, with whom he had contact during his cavalry campaign along the Gulf coast. After providing a full account of his career in the Confederate army and his attempts at settling in the postwar South, Maury closes his narrative by describing the time he spent in Bogotá, Colombia, where he served as United States minister from 1885 to 1889.

Works Consulted: Eicher, John H and David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001; Garraty, John A. and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999; Wakelyn, Jon L., Biographical Dictionary of the Confederacy, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1977.

Armistead Lemon
Harris Henderson

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