Henry Thomas Dixon

Henry Thomas Dixon was born on July 28, 1803, in Fauquier County, Virginia, to John Edward Henry Turner Dixon and Maria Turner Dixon. The Dixons were a large slave-owning family that had lived in Virginia for almost a century. Henry and his brother Turner enrolled at UVA in the spring of 1826, the university’s second session. That May, a quarrel with fellow student Arthur Smith turned violent. After Dixon aimed a blow at Smith’s head, Smith drew his pistol and pulled the trigger. The gun, however, failed to discharge. The faculty suspended Dixon until July 1, 1826, although they allowed him to return for the next session that fall. In November, the faculty voted to expel Dixon because he “absented himself from the university without permission.” Dixon, they discovered, left grounds in order to fight a duel with fellow student Livingston Lindsay.

After his expulsion, Dixon returned to Fauquier County, where he married Annie Elizabeth Brown on January 1, 1835. They had eleven children over the next 24 years: Laura, born 1835; Collins, born 1838; Richardetta, born 1839; Susan, born 1845; Annie, born 1846; Henry, born 1848; Camden, born 1849; Alice, born 1853; Claudia, born 1855; Frank, born 1857; and Thomas, born 1859. The family lived at Courtney, their Fauquier County estate, where they owned at least 19 slaves. By 1860, Dixon owned $48,000 in real estate and almost $6,000 in personal estate.

In the election of 1860, Dixon was the only man in Fauquier County to vote for Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln. According to one account, he cast his ballot with "revolver in hand" to protect himself from his neighbors. Even after Virginia seceded, Dixon remained staunchly loyal to the Union. He fled to Washington, D.C., during the Civil War, as “his sentiments made it dangerous for him to remain at home.” In late April 1861, he was serving as a lieutenant in Kentucky Congressman Cassius Clay’s “Clays Guards,” a volunteer company formed to protect the nation’s capital from Confederate attack. In June 1861, he took part in the Second Wheeling Convention, a Unionist meeting that established a Reorganized Government of Virginia. On August 7, he accepted a position as paymaster in the Union army and served with the rank of major throughout the war. While living in Georgetown, Dixon maintained his slaveholdings, even buying “an accomplished dining room servant” named William Johnson in December 1861. When the D.C. Emancipation Law freed Johnson the following year, Dixon filed for compensation, affirming his “true and faithful allegiance to the Government of the United States.”

In early 1865, an examining board deemed Dixon “incompetent” to continue as a paymaster in the army. Judge John C. Underwood, another Virginia Republican, intervened to help Dixon maintain his position. Underwood argued that it would be a great “mistake” to dismiss a “faithful officer who has suffered for his loyalty more than any one I know.” In May 1865, Unionist Governor Francis H. Pierpont appointed Dixon as a commissioner to help reorganize Fauquier County "under the restored Government of Virginia." He mustered out of the army on July 31, 1865, in Washington, D.C., and in November he petitioned President Andrew Johnson for a position in the regular army.

On November 10, 1865, Dixon was mortally wounded in a duel with Thomas Clay Maddux, who had served as a surgeon in the Confederate army. Their feud dated back to 1857, when Dixon severely wounded Maddux for attempting to arrest one of his sons. The two men met again on October 27, 1865, at Alexandria’s Mansion Hotel, when Maddux approached Dixon and spat in his face. Two weeks later, when they encountered each other outside the City Hotel, a gunfight broke out, and Dixon received two bullets to the hip. He “lingered in great agony through the night” before dying on the morning of November 11. A local judge acquitted Maddux a few days later, insisting he was “justified in shooting Major Dixon.” 

Dixon’s family briefly returned to Fauquier County after the war, but General Ulysses S. Grant ultimately arranged for them to settle permanently in Washington, D.C. Grant praised Dixon as a “loyal Virginian,” and he understood that that loyalty had rendered their former home “unpleasant for them, even dangerous.” He interceded with Postmaster General Alexander Randall to help Annie Dixon secure a position in the post office. In 1890, Congress passed a special act granting Annie a pension of $25 a month, the amount normally given for soldiers who died on active duty. She died on February 13, 1899, and was buried alongside her husband at Arlington National Cemetery.

Image: (1) Henry T. Dixon (courtesy Ancestry.com).



Henry T. Dixon Files for Compensation under D.C. Emancipation Law

Account of Gunfight between Henry T. Dixon and Thomas C. Maddux, November 10, 1865

Ulysses S. Grant Assists Henry T. Dixon's Family

Report to Congress Regarding Henry T. Dixon, April 15, 1890

Name:Dixon, Henry Thomas
Alternative names:
  • Soldier
  • UVA (Union)
Paymaster's Department
Branch of service:Army
Muster In1861-06-01
Muster Out1865-07-31
Residence at UVA:Warrenton, VA
UVA Begin Year:1826
UVA End Year:1826
Residence at enlistment:
Rank In:Major, Paymaster
Rank Out:Major
Highest rank achieved:Major
Person 1Person 2NumberRelation Type
Dixon, Henry Thomasnoneapplication-invalid
Dixon, Henry Thomasnoneapplication-minor
Dixon, Henry Thomasnoneapplication-parent
Dixon, Henry ThomasDixon, Annie Elizabeth427787application-widow
Dixon, Henry ThomasDixon, Annie Elizabeth273888certificate-widow
Birth date:1803-07-28
Birth date certainty:Certain
Birth place:Fauquier County, VA
Death date:1865-11-10
Death place:Alexandria, VA
Causes of death:murder
Person 1Relation TypePerson 2
Dixon, Henry Thomasparent ofDixon, Laura
Dixon, Henry Thomasparent ofDixon, Collins
Dixon, Henry Thomasparent ofDixon, Richardetta C.
Dixon, Henry Thomasparent ofDixon, Susan W.
Dixon, Henry Thomasparent ofDixon, Annie B.
Dixon, Henry Thomasparent ofDixon, Henry T.
Dixon, Henry Thomasparent ofDixon, Camden P.
Dixon, Henry Thomasparent ofDixon, Alice P.
Dixon, Henry Thomasparent ofDixon, Claudia M.
Dixon, Henry Thomasparent ofDixon, Frank
Dixon, Henry Thomasparent ofDixon, Thomas P.
Dixon, Annie Elizabethwife ofDixon, Henry Thomas

Compiled Service Records for Henry T. Dixon, RG 94, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, D.C.; Pension Records for Henry T. Dixon, RG15, NARA; Henry T. Dixon to the Office of the Adjutant General, August 7, 1861, John C. Underwood to “Mr. President or Mr. Secretary Stanton,” March 22, 1865, Commission Branch File for Henry T. Dixon, RG94, NARA, accessed through Fold3.com; United States Federal Census and Slave Schedules, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, accessed through Ancestry.com; “Session 2 of the Faculty Minutes January 8, 1826 - December 22, 1826,” accessed through Jefferson’s University — the Early Life (http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/faculty-minutes...); Alexandria Gazette, October 28, 30, November 1, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 23, December 4, 1865; U. S. Grant to A. W. Randall, August 4, 1866, in The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant Digital Edition (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, Rotunda, 2018, http://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/founders/GRNT-01-16-02-0153 (accessed 15 Jul 2019)); “Trial of Henry Dixon, Esq.” Richmond Enquirer, September 15, 1857, April 23, 1861; Chicago Tribune, June 12, 1861; Alexandria Gazette, June 4, 1863; “Local News,” The Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), November 11, 1865; The Wheeling Daily Register, May 27, 1865; “The Shooting of Major Henry F. Dixon,” The Daily Standard (Raleigh, North Carolina), November 20, 1865; “Dixon, of Yazoo,” The Richmond Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), August 22, 1879; “Killed at the Polls,” The Baltimore Sun, November 9, 1881; “Mortuary. Judge Livingston Lindsay,” The Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas), January 31, 1892; “A Tragedy Recalled,” The Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, Virginia), July 20, 1895; Rex Bowman and Carlos Santos, Rot, Riot, and Rebellion: Mr. Jefferson’s Struggle to Save the University That Changed America, (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013); William Montgomery Clemens, “The Turner Family Magazine: Genealogical, Historical, and Biographical,” Vol. I & II, January 1916 to April 1917, (New York: William M. Clemens, 1920), accessed through Archive.org (https://archive.org/stream/turnerfamilymaga00newy/turnerfamilymaga00newy...); Richard Nelson Current, Lincoln’s Loyalists: Union Soldiers from the Confederacy, (Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press, 1992); Brown, Kathi Ann, Walter Nicklin, John T Toler and Fauquier Historical Society (Va.), 250 Years in Fauquier County: A Virginia Story (Fairfax, Va: GMU Press, 2008); Joanne B. Freeman, Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2012); Roger Keller, Roster of Civil War Soldiers from Washington County, Maryland, Second Ed., (Baltimore, Maryland: Clearfield, Genealogical Publishing Co., 2008); William A. Link, Roots of Secession: Slavery and Politics in Antebellum Virginia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003); Joseph Meredith Toner, Transactions of the American Medical Association, Vol. XXXIII, (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Times Printing House, 1882); Kimberly Protho Williams, A Pride of Place: Rural Residences of Fauquier County, Virginia (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2003); Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Honor and Violence in the Old South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986); “Harry Dixon,” Early Colonial Settlers of Southern Maryland and Virginia’s Northern Neck Counties, https://www.colonial-settlers-md-va.us/getperson.php?personID=I026486&tr... “Henry Thomas Dixon,” Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/119557693/person/352005...); “Terry Mason’s Family History Site,” http://www.tmason1.com/pafg2100.htm; “Major Henry T. Dixon,” FindAGrave.com (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/34883545/henry-t.-dixon); “Annie Elizabeth Brown Dixon,” FindAGrave.com (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/73241749/annie-elizabeth-dixon); “Dr. Thomas Clay Maddux,” FindAGrave.com (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/11221073); “Virginia County Vote on the Secession Ordinance, May 23, 1861,” New River Notes, https://www.newrivernotes.com/historical_antebellum_1861_virginia_votefo....