|Death: ||Feb. 23, 1869|
His tombstone gives his birth date as 1827 while other reference say 1829. His cousin Dabney Herndon Maury wrote that he was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1827, while The Mobile Daily Register, February 27, 1869, said he was born in North Carolina.
"Harry Maury," said the Mobile Press Register later, "was in every essential ‘a character.' Nature stamped him a genius, and as Nature seldom bestows her gifts pure and unalloyed, she gave him this one with all the eccentricities and drawbacks that belong to it."
Descendant of a distinguished Virginia family often called the Fontaine-Maurys, the family tree shows that Col. Maury was--
First cousin once-removed to Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury, the distinguished oceanographer called "The Pathfinder of the Seas."
Second cousin and friend to Confederate Maj. General Dabney Herndon Maury, who headed Mobile's defenses during the Civil War and also founded the Southern Historical Society.
Third cousin to James Henry Maury who reigned as Felix, Emperor of Mardi Gras in Mobile (1874-85) as well as King Rex, ruler of New Orleans' Mardi Gras 1885.
Third cousin to James Fontaine Maury, third-great-grandfather of Mobile's 2014 Mardi Gras Queen Madeleine Maury Downing.
Born in Virginia, the son of Butler Maury and Fannie B. (Sawyer) Maury, Henry Maury set off to sea in his teenage years and traveled around the world. Some accounts say he participated as a sailor in the Vera Cruz campaign in the Mexican War, but in any case he was in command of his own schooner plying the coastal trade along the Gulf by age 20, when he located in Mobile, Alabama. Switching professions, he entered the bar as a lawyer in 1852, practiced for a few years, then ran successfully for Marshal of the City of Mobile in 1855. There, "his administrative ability, promptness, and inflexible determination, secured a state of order and security of life and property, never before or since attained in Mobile."
Maury resigned as Marshal in 1857 to participate in William Walker's second filibustering expedition to Central America, which was organized in Mobile. Maury's part was to transport 200 or so volunteers to Honduras. Apprehended by a Federal Marshall in Mobile Bay, Maury plied the man with "hospitality," induced him to sleep on the vessel, then slipped off during the night. Later, he transferred the lawman to another US-bound ship. Maury's ship wrecked before reaching its destination, without loss of life, but with his usual charm he talked his way out of the situation in British Honduras so well that the British governor lost his job.
Returning to Mobile, Maury fell out with fellow filibusterer and cashiered French officer Captain Henri de Riviere. One version of the story claimed Maury was defending Madame Octavia LeVert's honor. In some versions he referred to de Riviere as "Count No-Account, barren of intellect." Whatever the story of their disagreement, it led to the famous duel, just over the Mississippi state line and out of police jurisdiction, and which attracted a large crowd of celebratory spectators who went to "watch Harry shoot the Frenchman." Harry performed as expected, putting a bullet into Riviere's mouth or nose.
Some stories have suggested the famous duel was fought over young Miss Emily James Blount (1841-1917), with whom de Riviere later eloped, but the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Aug. 21, 1858, p.3)gave this description of the duel and the cause that started it: "MAURY AND De RIVIERE.--The letter of Henry Maury, Esq., of Mobile, published in our paper of yesterday, has brought to mind some of the incidents connected with his duel with De Riviere. Some time during last April, we believe, De Riviere was in Mobile, cutting a rather extensive dash. Endowed with immense brass and a prepossessing address, he had no difficulty in gaining admittance to the aristocratic circles of Mobile. Among other houses whose doors were open to him was that of Madame Le Vert, the distinguished southern authoress. De Riviere repaid her munificent hospitality by slandering her in a public saloon in Mobile, and Mr. Maury chivalrously and immediately gave him the alternative of a flat retraction or a fight. De Riviere accepted the latter proposition, and under the impression that he was a gentleman, Mr. Maury met him. Maury is what is familiarly termed "a crack shot" and was a good deal surprised to see that a well directed shot had no impression on De Riviere. Maury's second explained this by telling him that "the Zouave" had on armor. The next shot was aimed at De Riviere's head and hit that individual somewhere in the vicinity of his nose. He fell, and while down fired at Maury. Happily he missed his aim. Of course we couldn't well excuse Maury for fighting De Riviere even had that person been a gentleman instead of an itinerant Robert Macaire, but they have their own opinion of this sort of thing down South and we are disposed to let them enjoy it. Mr. Maury has been Acting Mayor of Mobile and has occupied other important offices to the satisfaction of the people. He is recognized everywhere as an accomplished, generous and chivalrous gentleman."
Emily Blount was probably a distant relation of Barbara Blount, daughter of Gov. Blount of Tennessee and Gen. Edmund Pendleton Gaines' second wife following the death of his first wife, Frances Toulmin Gaines. The Blounts lived at the southwest corner of Spring Hill Avenue and Lafayette Street.
The New Orleans Times Picayune recounted the story in 1893 (April 29, 1893, p.11): "Madame DeRiviere was one of the most distinguished and beloved women of Mobile…. Madame deRiviere's marriage, which took place in 1862, was a romantic affair, the news of which attracted attention throughout the country. She was hardly more than 15 years of age when she met handsome Captain deRiviere, a visitor to Mobile, who, when wounded in a duel with Harry Maury, was taken to Colonel Blount's residence to be nursed back to health.... The party, going and coming, had to pass in front of Blount's residence, on the Spring Hill road, now Spring Hill Avenue. On arriving at the grounds no time was lost in preliminaries. The men were placed, and on toss for the word it was won by McDonald. At the word "one," both pistols cracked. Maury stood perfectly still, cocked pistol in hand, but De Riviere lurched heavily forward and fell about midway of the fighting distance, and there, from the ground, fired at Maury. The latter, still unscathed, again fired and put a ball into De Riviere's head, which ended the fight. On examination by the surgeons, Maury's ball was found to have entered the left jaw and imbedded itself in the hard palate, whence it was subsequently cut. The first shot, that which caused him to fall, had struck a coin in a pocket directly over the heart, and had knocked him down by sheer concussion. It was reported, and for a long time currently believed in Mobile and New Orleans, that De Riviere wore a shirt of mail under his other clothing, but this is not true. The writer has been assured both by the surgeons and by Colonel Maury that De Riviere acted most honorably throughout the affair. It would, however, be hard to convince most old Mobilians of the fact.
De Riviere was removed to town, but when the cavalcade reached the front of the Blount mansion, it was halted by orders of Mrs. Blount, and De Riviere was taken into the house, to be nursed back to health by the fair Madame and Miss Blount. Some weeks passed, and Captain Riviere was reported as convalescing finely, when one morning all Mobile was thrown into the wildest excitement by the report that De Riviere, Mrs. Blount and Miss Blount were missing. Blount was beside himself, and as soon as he learned the facts, which were that the party had taken carriage and gone overland to a point on Mississippi sound, where they intercepted a sound steamer from Mobile to New Orleans, he went to New Orleans in search of the elopers, but arrived there just in time to learn that they had departed for Havana in an outgoing steamer. Blount followed, and arrived in Havana just in time to prevent the wedding of De Riviere and Miss Emily, but in some way they managed to elude him, and left for New York. Again he followed, and in New York, finding that the infatuation of his wife for Riviere frustrated all his attempts to get possession of his daughter, he resorted to the courts, where, after a long legal fight, he finally suceeded, and returned to Mobile with his family. Riviere returned to France shortly afterward, and the Blounts lived down the scandal."
The general accounts during this time were typical of this item from the Lowell, Mass., Daily Citizen and News, July 3, 1858, p.2: "The bogus French Count Riviere, who fought a duel with Capt. Maury at Mobile, Ala., has eloped with the wife and daughter of a Mr. Blount, a lawyer of that city, and sailed with them for Havana. The fellow pretended to belong to the Zouaves of Crimean celebrity, and made a tremendous sensation in the best society of Mobile. He left his landlord and tailor unpaid." And the New York Herald Tribune, July 17, 1858, p.8, entitled "The De Riviere Scandal. Return of Miss Emily J. Blount…." which described Riviere as a "coward as well as an unprincipled scoundrel. Mr. Maury, by whom he was challenged, was a teacher of music and French in Mobile, and in such capacity had been engaged in the family of Mr. Blount. He seized upon the character of De Riviere, and objected to his intimacy with the Blount family. This resulted in a difficulty, and a challenge on the part of Maury, which De Riviere accepted." When about to leave for the field, Mrs. Blount states that he took her aside and informed her that he had to impart to her a secret of great moment; that he was not what he had represented himself to be, a mere soldier, but that he was of a noble family in France, and heir to an immense estate. In case he should survive in the duel, he desired her to keep this a profound secret; if he died, he asked that she would act as his friend, and see that he was buried, and then communicate the facts of his death to his friends in France. In addition to this, he informed her of what Mrs. Blount says he had not until then announced, that he had formed an ardent and enduring attachment for her daughter Emily, and in conclusion, said that she must excuse his troubling her with his secrets, as he should not have done so had he not been in danger of death, and that she must accept his words as those of a dying man."
Some time passed and Captain DeRiviere, now Count DeRiviere, wrote to Col. Blount that he had come into his inheritance and still wanted to marry his daughter and make amends with the Blounts. This time Col. Blount accepted the marriage and the DeRivieres lived for the next thirty years in France until Mrs. de Riviere and two of her three children returned to Mobile.
Capt. Henry Maury never married. He enlisted immediately when the Civil War broke out in 1861. Entering as a private, he was soon elected colonel of the Second Alabama Infantry. Stationed at Fort Morgan, near Mobile, Maury trained his men both as infantry and gunners. The Second was eventually ordered to Fort Pillow, but the men did not re-enlist when their term of service expired after a year, so Maury stood for and won an election to Lieutenant Colonel of the Thirty-second Alabama Infantry. As such he led his regiment at Murfreesboro, where he was wounded. Rejoining them, he suffered an even worse wound at Jackson, Mississippi. In typical fashion he finished a story he was telling after being wounded.
Maury ended up in Mobile, where his cousin Major General Dabney Maury was in command, and assumed command of the newly formed Fifteenth Confederate Cavalry in the fall of 1863. Colonel Maury led the Fifteenth until the end of the war and seems to have done a good job of handling the regiment in both the small-unit skirmishing in which it was constantly engaged and in its larger engagements such as the one at Tunica Bend, where he captured a number of prisoners and wagons in a sudden attack.
Meanwhile, "while his soul was loyal in faith and honor to his fellows, he was only an enemy to himself." Put in command of three regiments by General (Dabney) Maury and ordered to advance on Pascagoula, Harry Maury did nothing, which led to his court martial. When the judge advocate brought forward three witnesses that he was drunk, Maury produced six of equal character who said he wasn't. He was acquitted.
When General Maury sent him to Mississippi to break up "dens of deserters and skulkers," however, Harry Maury "dealt with the traitors very roughly," hanging several and arresting many more. After the war the survivors pursued legal actions against him and attempted to have him arrested until General Maury persuaded the Union commander, General E. R. S. Canby, to stop them.
After the war Harry Maury returned to Mobile where, "his health much impaired by his wounds," he ran a retail store. He continued to be renowned in polite society for his wit and bonhomie. Maury died quite suddenly in February 1869 at age forty of a "hemorrhage of the lungs," the result of his Mufreesboro wound.
Soldier, sailor, cavalryman, filibuster, lawyer, mayor, marshal and racounteur, Harry Maury had done more in his forty years than most men do in a lifetime. "His faults," read his obituary, "were but the richness of native virtues running to weed in the rank garden of social temptation."
Harry Maury's home stood on Government Street in Mobile according to one reference identifying the residence as the Hallett-Maury house (1859), still standing at number 503 Government St. This residence was built by William Hallett, "cotton merchant, Bank of Mobile director, and owner of the Lafayette Hotel," and owned by descendants today (The Majesty of Mobile by Jim Fraiser, p. 40).
The 1861 and 1866 city directories show Harry Maury living with attorney George N. Stewart. In 1861 "Maury, Henry, Capt." and Stewart lived on "Bay Rd, 2 miles" and in 1866 "Maury, Harry Col." and Stewart lived at 68 S. Claiborne Street.
Maury's summer home in Montrose later became the summer home of Mobile mayor Harry Pillans.
Confederate General Dabney Herndon Maury headed Mobile's defenses during the Civil War. Palmer J. Pillans, Mobile city engineer, helped fortify the city during the war and was responsible for the construction of a number of the trenches and breastworks around the city. His wife Laura Roberts Pillans, the granddaughter of Mary Herndon Roberts, may have been a connection of Gen. Maury's mother, Elizabeth Herndon Maury, who married her first cousin John Minor Maury. In 1878*, their son, mayor Harry Pillans, purchased his summer home in Montrose on the eastern shore which had been the former home of Col. Henry ("Harry") Maury. Col. Maury was a second cousin of Gen. Dabney Herndon Maury, whose uncle was Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury, the "father of oceanography," and who married his second cousin's daughter, Ann Hull Herndon, who was also a 3rd cousin of Dr. Willis Roberts, father of Laura Roberts Pillans and grandfather of Harry Pillans. Harry's wife Daisy Pillans was quoted in the book MONTROSE by Florence & Richard Scott as stating that Capt. Harry Maury of Mobile and Montrose was the nephew of Commodore Maury, but he was the son of Commodore Maury's first cousin, so they were first cousins once removed. However, Gen. Dabney Herndon Maury of Mobile was Commodore Maury's nephew. Col. Maury was also a third cousin once removed to Dr. Willis Roberts' daughter-in-law, Mary Taylor Bolles Roberts, who lived at 910 Government Street.
Madame de Riviere returned to Mobile many years after Col. Maury's death. Contrary to some stories claiming she was a recluse, she was popular with the local society and attended many functions and parties. She attended a reception on Dec. 13, 1906, at 910 Government Street hosted by R.V. Taylor and Mrs. Helen Buck Taylor, next door to the Harry Pillans home. She is buried in the Hitchcock plot at Magnolia Cemetery not far from Harry Maury's grave.
See also: Gentlemen, swords and pistols by Harnett Thomas Kane (1951)
Noted American Duels and Hostile Encounters (1963) by Hamilton Cochran p.215
Alabama Historical Sketches (1960) by Thomas Chalmers McCorvey p.145
Alabama, Her History (1872) by Willis Brewer p.420
The American Civil War (2000) by Jon Roper, p.308
New Directions in Faulkner Studies (1984) by Doreen Fowler and Ann Abadie, p.192
A Reader's Guide to the Short Stories of William Faulkner (1994), p.90. The short story "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner was inspired by the story of the Maury-de Riviere duel.
Confederate Military History (1899) by Clement Anselm Evans, vol. 7 (1899) p. 299; vol. 7 (1962) p.159
Stones River (1983) by James Lee Mcdonough, p. 250
Crimson Confederates, Harvard Men Who Fought for the South (2009) by Helen P. Trimpi, p. 59
Papers of Jefferson Davis (1999) p. 210
Mobile Bay and the Mobile Campaign (1998) by Chester G. Hearn, p. 219
* Montrose by Florence & Richard Scott. Mobile Register Sept. 8, 1974, p.F2 states Pillans bought the Montrose summer home in 1886. An earlier article indicated he bought it in 1878 but may have been referring to another house.
Plot: Stewart Lot, Square 3
Created by: Ray
Record added: Feb 03, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 65135397
Added: May. 1, 2013