Maxey attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and graduated in 1846, second to last in a class of 59. He was sent immediately to fight in the Mexican War (1846-48). Although he did well there and fought at the Battle of Cerro Gordo, Maxey resigned his commission after the war to study law in Kentucky. In 1857, he moved to Texas and became active in politics. When the war began, he raised a regiment, the 9th Texas Infantry, and took his unit to fight in Mississippi. Maxey was promoted to brigadier general in March 1862 and his force participated in the Vicksburg campaign before aiding in the defense of Port Hudson, Louisiana. He avoided capture when those locations fell into Union hands, and wassent to assist in the Confederate siege of Chattanooga, Tennessee,in September 1863.
While there, Maxey received a promotion to commander of Indian Territory. In 1864, he worked to recruit and train members of the Cherokee, Creek, and Choctaw tribes. On April 18, 1864, troops under Maxey’s command attacked a Union wagon train at Poison Spring, Arkansas. They routed the federal force, which was led by the 1st Kansas Colored Regiment. Maxey’s men proceeded to kill all black soldiers who were wounded or captured.
After the war, Maxey continued to support his Native American friends when he served in the U.S. Senate and was an outspoken advocate of Indian rights. He died in 1895.