Surviving the Confederacy: Rebellion, Ruin, and Recovery — Roger and Sara Pryor during the Civil War

By John C. Waugh

Harcourt, 2002
447 pages

This story of one Confederate couple, Roger and Sara Pryor, vividly and dramatically paints the agony of the South in the Civil War. It is a fascinating and poignant portrait of one of the South’s best known and admired high society couples and how they fought and survived the devastation of those four long years. It is not only their story, but the story of an entire section under crunching stress in an unbelievable war.

He was an ardent and fiery newspaper editor, a leader in the secessionist movement, who when the war came went into it first as a colonel of a Virginia regiment, then a brigadier, and finally as a private and a scout for Robert E. Lee. She was his graceful and compassionate companion, desperately fighting to survive and protect their six children through all the fighting and dying around them. Together and often apart they were at the center of many of the crucial events both before and during the war, from the first shot at Fort Sumter to the siege of Petersburg to the fall of Richmond.While they are the principal actors in this dramatic story, the people they knew — many of them famous names in and out of the Confederacy — form a resonant chorus throughout. Together they tell a poignant story of rebellion, war and final recovery in the most dramatic four years in American history.

What Historians Think

“Magnificent — a greater work of history than Gone with the Wind is a novel. By far the fullest account I have ever read of a  man and his wife and their family during the Civil War.
— Grady McWhiney, author of Cracker Culture and Assault and Die

“The story of Roger and Sara Pryor is a fascinating one … well-written, impressively researched, and reads like a fine novel. The next time I walk into my classroom to talk about the war’s effects upon real people, I shall bring Roger and Sara with me. And my students will be all the richer for it.” 
— Jason H. Silverman in Civil War Book Review

“This is a book for all seasons and all readers. It is a graphic account of the Confederacy overlooked in the never-ending flood of battles-and-leaders rehashes. What the Pryors endured, and ultimately achieved, dramatically reflects how America became one nation. And Waugh has told the story fully.”
— James I. Robertson, Jr., author of Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend“Waugh’s research is impressive, his writing sparkles, and his vision captures the whole sweep of the Confederate experience. The result is the finest book yet written on the southern people during the war.” — Steven E. Woodworth, author of Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee

What Reviewers Say

Surviving the Confederacy is [a] fine book with cinematic scope and feel, somewhere between Gone with the Wind and Ken Burns’s Civil War series.” 
— Tom Schouweiler in Ruminator Review

“A readable as well as an insightful volume, one well worth having for those who want to know what it was really like ‘Surviving the Confederacy.’” 
— The Washington Times

“Waugh has provided yet another solid contribution (his fifth) to any Civil War library — a history that historians and the general reading public alike will appreciate.” 
— The Journal of Southern History

“John C Waugh serves the reader a feast with this book.  For students of social, political, and military history, he provides solid meat in every paragraph. For seekers of excitement and pure entertainment, the narrative is prepared to perfection.” 
— The Texas Review

“Some historical narratives are so compelling that they blur the line between storytelling and simple reportage. John C. Waugh’s latest book, Surviving the Confederacy, is one of these. Though intriguingly real, it reads almost like a work of fiction.” 
— American History

“[Waugh’s] vivid portrayals of private lives at war match anything in print…. Not since Robert Manson Myers’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Children of Pride has a white Southern family come so fully and fiercely to life.”
— Library Journal

“Waugh’s ability to tell their [Roger and Sara’s] story is … remarkable. This is simply one of the best Civil War books that will be published this, or any other, year.” 
— Savannah Morning News