The Dixon-Maddux shooting(s), and ties (maybe not so much) to Southern Unionism

Posted on October 12, 2013 by


Not Shenandoah Valley-related (but with ties to the valley), but something I happened upon a while back…

On p. 202 of Lincoln’s Loyalists, there is mention of a man by the name of Henry T. Dixon. Loyalists author, Richard Nelson Current, uses Ulysses S. Grant’s words in referring to Dixon, as “a loyal Virginian who was driven out of the state at the beginning of the rebellion, on account of his loyalty”. Furthermore, because Dixon was later (November 10, 1865) “murdered” in Virginia by a “Virginia ex-rebel officer”, it seemed to all fall into place… Dixon’s story as a Southern Unionist preceded him… at least some think so.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty…

The key players…

Henry Thomas Dixon was born in 1803, in Fauquier County… a son of John Edward Henry Turner Dixon. As of 1850, Dixon was listed as living in Turners, Fauquier County, with $28,990 in real estate. Ten years later, I might add, Dixon appears to have moved… and was listed as a farmer in Upperville, Fauquier County… and still doing pretty darn well. As of 1860, his personal real estate was valued at $48,080, while his personal estate was listed as $5,875.

Thomas Clay Maddux was also born in Fauquier County, but was much younger having been born in 1836, a son of Thomas Lawrence Maddux. In 1851, Young Thomas graduated from the Alexandria Academy with distinction and, by 1857, had enrolled at Winchester Medical College (the sole tie in this story to the Shenandoah Valley).

In the year that Maddux enrolled in med school, there was an incident in which he was involved… with a son of Henry T. Dixon. An article (1895) from the Alexandria Gazette helps to shed light (I’ve purposefully removed the titles by which both men later held)…

… a son [I believe this was Collins Dixon] of [Henry T. Dixon] got into trouble in Fauquier County, where the family lived at that time. The sheriff of the county, who had a warrant for the arrest of young Dixon, for some reason did not serve it, and T. Clay Maddux volunteered to make the arrest. It was well known that the elder Dixon was of a warlike nature, and would doubtless resist Maddux should he undertake to arrest his son, while it was equally well known that Maddux was also of a determined stature. A conflict was therefore apprehended, and one occurred which came near proving fatal. When Dixon saw him on his premises and became aware of his errand he brought out a gun and discharged its contents into the breast and shoulders of Maddux. The latter’s wounds were exceedingly dangerous, though not necessarily fatal, and after a long and tedious convalescence he recovered. Dixon was subsequently tried for malicious shooting and got off without incurring any serious penalty.

An article from the New York Times (1881) suggests things happened differently, and that Maddux heard that Dixon had insulted a friend of his, and he resented the insult. “There was an exchange of shots, Dr. Maddux receiving a bullet through the neck and lungs, his recovery from which was considered remarkable.”

Whatever story is the truth, let’s just keep that in our back pocket for a while.

Fast-forward to the presidential election of 1860… in which Dixon did something else that most certainly made him stand out among the people of his home county. According to the Alexandria Gazette… Dixon…

… was the only citizen of the county who dared to brave popular clamor and vote for LINCOLN and HAMLIN. The reign of terror coming upon the State, his sentiments made it dangerous for him to remain at home. He left for Washington…

Pension index card for Maj. Dixon

Pension index card for Maj. Dixon

There seems to be a suggestion that Maddux secured an appointment as an officer in the Union army, receiving an honorable discharge in August, 1865 (I can’t seem to find a record for that). Three months later, that same source states that Dixon then secured an appointment from President Andrew Johnson, as major and paymaster in the regular army.

Meanwhile, T. Clay Maddux’s story, following the 1857 shooting, and through the end of the war, is quite different. After surviving his wound, Maddux successfully completed his studies under Prof. Hugh H. Maguire, and graduated from the Winchester Medical College. Initially, he practiced, for about two years, at White Hall, near Winchester, and then left for Richmond, where he began a practice there.

Back to that 1881 article from the New York Times

In February, 1861, at the beginning of hostilities… he left Richmond for South Carolina, where he was commissioned as Assistant Surgeon in the Army of the Palmetto State, and was ordered to duty at Fort Moultrie, and was there at the time of the bombardment of Fort Sumter. On April 14 he was ordered to report to Catp. Hollinquist, who had been assigned to the command of Fort Sumter. While the boat that conveyed the Doctor, in company with Capt. Hollinquist, Gen. Ripley, and others, was lying outside and near Fort Sumter awaiting orders to take possession, the memorable accident of the explosion of cartridges occurred on the parapet of the fort as Major Anderson was saluting the lowering of his flag. One man was killed and several wounded. The hospital flag was run up in distress, and Dr. Maddux was ordered to the fort to render medical assistance. Here he amputated a leg, the first surgical operation of the kind performed during the war. He was soon after ordered to Virginia with the first South Carolina command under Gen. Barbour, being attached to the Second South Carolina Regiment. He served as Surgeon in the Confederate volunteer army, and was in the noted battles of the first Bull Run, Seven Pines, and the seven days’ battles on the Chickahominy. He was captured near Bentonville, N.C., while endeavoring to get within Gen. Joe Johnston’s lines, in April, 1865.

Maddux's petition for amnesty, July 1865 (page 1)

Maddux’s petition for amnesty, July 1865 (page 1)

Maddux's petition for amnesty, July 1865 (page 2)

Maddux’s petition for amnesty, July 1865 (page 2)

Strange as it might seem, despite all they had gone through up till this point, the paths taken by Dixon and Maddux would cross yet again…

Originally buried in Union cemetery, in Alexandria, Dixon was removed (in the 1890s) to Arlington National Cemetery. Image courtesy of Find-A-Grave.

Originally buried in Union cemetery, in Alexandria, Dixon was removed (in the 1890s) to Arlington National Cemetery. Image courtesy of Find-A-Grave.

Again, to the 1895 piece from the Alexandria Gazette

… friends of both had hoped the two would never resume hostilities. The bitterness, however, was, as the sequel proved, as ran as ever. Mr. Martin Maddux was at the time proprietor of the Mansion (now Braddock) House. Dr. Maddux was a guest, and in October, 1865, Major Dixon, who chanced to be in the city, registered there. One night during that month the latter was sitting in the reading room of the hotel with his eyes cast to the floor, apparently in a dejected mood, when Dr. Maddux entered unobserved  by the major and walked up to him. Major Dixon raised his eyes from the floor in order to see who was in front of him (the light in the room being dim at the time) when the doctor spat in his face. Major Dixon , who was then an old white-haired man, but possessing all of the pugnacity of his younger days, arose quickly to avenge the insult, but was knocked down by Dr. Maddux and roughly handled. Friends heard the scuffle and they entered the room and parted the belligerents. It was then seen that the next time the two men met one of the other would be killed, or probably both. They were known to be determined and a Greek vs. Greek conflict between them was looked for daily. Two weeks later Maj. Dixon was standing in front of the old City Hotel, on the southwest corner of Royal and Cameron streets, and Dr. Maddox was passing up Royal street on the east side. Maj. Dixon left an acquaintance with whom he was talking and crossed to the southeast corner to where Dr. Maddox had stopped to converse with a friend. The latter apprised the doctor of Dixon’s approach and both men produced pistols simultaneously. A ball from the major’s weapon passed through the doctor’s clothing but a shot from the latter which took effect in the major’s abdomen, brought the duel to a close, Major Dixon falling along side of a flag pole on the corner on which a Bell and Everett flag had floated five years before. Major Dixon was carried into the City Hotel when it was found his wound was mortal. He died that night and his remains were interred in the Union cemetery where they have remained undisturbed until to-day. Dr. Maddux was arrested and taken before Mr. Frederick Daw, then a magistrate in this city. It was impossible to ascertain who fired first. There had been three shots – one and after a few seconds’ interval two in rapid succession- but the evidence was unsatisfactory and for some reason the case never got into court.

It doesn’t sound quite right, but the 1881 NYT article suggests that, though the incident took place in Alexandria, Maddux’s home was in Richmond, and that he was “compelled to leave that city, and then come to Baltimore” because of the killing of Dixon.

So, in short… despite what some suggests, I really don’t think the encounter was a matter that had its roots in Dixon’s Southern Unionism. Did folks back in his home county think well of him for his Southern Unionism? No doubt, he was not welcome to return. Bottom line, however… Maddux had a score to settle, and as paths crossed, the (seemingly) inevitable took place.

I would be satisfied to end this post here, but… here comes my “but wait, there’s more” moment. This stuff’s just too good not to add in… and it gives us an interesting snapshot of 1880s politics in eastern Maryland.

As fate (?) would have it, Maddux’s life had yet another shooting in the cards.

Again, the 1881 NYT article…

Here was a man notorious in character who was invited by Gen. Frank A. Bond, the regular Democratic candidate for the Legislature, to come down from Baltimore and bring a man with him. In the same letter Gen. Bond wrote to Maddux to “tell John Grier to come down and bring a man with him.” These facts Gen. Bond admitted in his evidence the other day, and said that he asked these men to come that they might see that the purity of the ballot-box was maintained.

So Maddux went. He took a man along, and he carried his gun on his shoulder, had a revolver in his hip pocket, and a couple of magnificent dogs at his heels. There were others who went along from Baltimore to “maintain the purity of the ballot-box” in Anne Arundel, enough, in fact, to fill the house where the polls were held. In order to be on hand bright and early on election morn, they went down the night before and quartered in the house, sleeping on the floors and making themselves as comfortable as possible. When the morning came they were up and ready for work before the Judges of Election arrived with the poll-books. Nothing occurred during the day except that threats were heard that there would be trouble before sunset. Bond’s forces were in the majority, and it was evident that by the assistance of his friends from Baltimore he was going to win the day. His opponent was Mr. Michael Bannon, one of the most prominent Democratic politicians in the State, a man who was once a member of the Democratic ring, but who had broken away from Boss Gorman and was running for the Legislature on an independent ticket. Both Bond and Bannon were on the ground to see that the purity of the ballot-box was maintained. Just as the polls closed the trouble began. It is always the custom in polling places in the counties to allow friends of each candidate to be present within the room and see the county. Some of Bannon’s friends asked to be allowed to go in. Then came Maddux to the front. Planting himself in the doorway, he cried out to the crowd that not a man should pass into that room unless over his dead body. He drew his revolver to show that he meant business, and dared any man in the crowd to attempt to pass him. This exasperated men who knew Maddux, and knew that he had no right to be there, much less a right to interfere with the election. Firing began; Maddux fired at the crowd, and the crowd fired at him. In the scrimmage he was forced from his position, and an instant later a ball passed into his back and killed him instantly.

And now the question was who killed him – a question that will probably never be settled. His body lay in the house all night guarded by the faithful dogs that had followed him on his trip, and the next day a jury of inquest was summoned. The evidence resulted in the arrest of one Claude Wheeler, charged with firing the shot, and of Mr. Bannon as an accessory. The arrest of Mr. Bannon was based upon the fact that the was seen talking with Wheeler before the shooting, and, taking it for granted that Wheeler killed Maddux, it was charged that Mr. Bannon urged him to do it. The arrest of Mr. Bannon caused much excitement in all parts of the State. He was released, however, on Saturday on a writ of habeas corpus issued by Judge Hammond, at Annapolis, as there was nothing to show that he was in any way involved in the affair. As to Wheeler, his case will come up this week at Annapolis, but it is doubtful if anything can be proved against him.

When the news of the violent death of Dr. Maddux reached Baltimore it was curious to notice how it was received. Outside of his family not a tear was shed for him, not a regret was heard from any one, and the general verdict was: “It served him right.” He had no business at the polls, and when he interfered in the election he took his life into his own hands. Dr. Maddux was a bad man – a man of a class of which any community is well rid. He was a notorious violator of law in his profession. His practice was very extensive and he carried it on regardless of the law. Case after case against him had been brought to the attention of the grand Jury, but none of them ever came to trial. He made no secret of his practice, but rather boasted of it. He was a crack shot, a great hunter, and could often be seen in the streets of Baltimore in full hunting costume, with his gun on his shoulder and several splendid hunting dogs at his heels. He was no politician, but had no hesitancy in taking a hand in an election if he thought there was going to be a fight. He was a frequent visitor to the polls in Anne Arundel County to assist his friend, Gen. Bond, “to maintain the purity of the ballot-box.”

In the end, I’m left wondering… did it come full circle back to Maddux?

Maddux's headstone, Marshall cemetery, Marshall, Fauquier County, Va. Image courtesy of Find-a-Grave.

Maddux’s headstone, Marshall cemetery, Marshall, Fauquier County, Va. Image courtesy of Find-a-Grave.