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descriptions of battles and civil convulsions do not exhibit the full condition of the South in the crisis. To complete the picture, social characteristics and incidents of private life are indispensable lineaments. It occurs to the author that a plain and unambitious narrative of her recollections of Virginia under the afflictions and sorrows of the fratricidal strife, will not be without interest in the retrospect of that memorable era… Sara Agnes Rice Pryor

This is really the story of Sara Agnes Rice Pryor, the daughter of Samuel Blair Rice, who was born in Halifax County, Virginia in 1830. In 1848 she married Roger Atkinson Pryor, a lawyer. In 1859, Roger was elected to the Congress as a representative from Virginia but resigned his seat to join the Confederacy and was commissioned colonel of the Third Virginia Infantry. He was taken prisoner in 1864 and released the following year.

Sara’s life was affected largely by the positions her husband held. With the onset of the Civil War Sara traveled with his company and assisted as a nurse. Later, when her husband became a courier for General Fitzhugh Lee, she returned to Petersburg, Virginia, where she stayed until the end of the war. She and her husband struggled to regain their financial stability immediately after the war, but succeeded only when they moved to New York City and Roger set up practice as a lawyer and eventually earned a position on the state supreme court in 1894.

After the war Sara was active in New York’s social life. At the turn of the century, she began writing seriously and published several books, including romantic novels set in the antebellum South, two histories about colonial America, and two memoirs. Sara enjoyed socializing and even dined with Mark Twain and Grover Cleveland but she also was active in charity work and founded the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

While by no means a typical picture of Southerners who survived the privations of the War or the expropriations of Reconstruction it is an interesting read about people whose principles were finally mobile – if only in an upward direction

Surviving the Confederacy : rebellion, ruin, and recovery : Roger and Sara Pryor during the Civil War    New York : Harcourt, c 2002  John C. Waugh Virginia History Civil War, 1861-1865 Social aspects Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. 447 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., map ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 395-430) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

War is hell – and not only on the battlefield, as John Waugh eloquently demonstrates in this fascinating and poignant portrait of one of the South’s most well-known and admired couples, Roger and Sara Pryor, their friends, and their society.

Pryor was an ardent and fiery newspaper editor, secessionist leader, and soldier she a graceful and compassionate companion, mother, and survivor. They were present at many of the crucial moments before and during the Civil War, from the first shot at Sumter to the fall of Richmond. Living examples of the South’s pride and success before the war, they were also victims of the ensuing privation and destruction.

If the Pryors are the principal actors in the drama of Surviving the Confederacy, the people they knew and the people who suffered along with them form a resonant chorus that describes the life of the South during the war and the devastation that followed it. Surviving the Confederacy dramatizes that transformation with a story that is uniquely compelling and alive.


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