There are numerous health problems in shanty towns. Firstly, because the sites are illegal the government does not provide piped water. As a result, drinking and bathing water are usually dirty and this causes diseases such as dysentery, typhoid and hepatitis, as well as skin and eye diseases. Secondly, houses are often overcrowded and have poor air circulation. This makes it easier to catch diseases like flu, TB and diphtheria where infection enters through the throat. Thirdly, there are no drains, sewers or rubbish collection services. The resulting pools of stagnant water and heaps of household waste attract rats and insects, which can pass on diseases.
By 1894, failing health compelled him to retire from active life, although he still lectured occasionally. He was co-pastor, with his brother-in-law B. M. Smith, of the Hampden-Sydney College Church 1858 to 1874, also serving Hampden-Sydney College in a professorial capacity on occasions of vacancies in its faculty. Dabney, whose wife was a third cousin to Stonewall Jackson's wife, participated in the Civil War : during the summer of 1861 he was chaplain of the 18th Virginia Infantry in the Confederate army, and in the following year was chief of staff to Jackson during the Valley Campaign and the Seven Days Battles .