Saturday, July 18, 2015

Roger Pryor's Duels

Feeling a little touch of cabin fever, and knowing it was going to be blazing hot later in the day, I ran down to the southern end of Dinwiddie County this morning to find Roger Pryor's birthplace. I located the place, but did not take any pictures since it is privately owned and the highway marker (above) was back on the closest major road.

Researching into Pryor's history a little I kept finding him engaged in duels. His many affairs of honor probably shouldn't be surprising considering he worked in occupations that easily offended (newspaper editor and politician) others.

Pryor was a hotspur, no doubt. He provoked challenges, challenged, and fought duels against a number of men. He never killed an opponent, and wounded but few. Pryor's first duel was with Charles Irving. Apparently some understanding was developed between the men before shots were fired. His next duel was with fellow newspaper editor Robert Ridgeway, but Pryor chose to shoot into the ground instead of at his opponent. In his duel against Dr. Oswald Finney, fought across the James River from Richmond, Pryor shot Finney in the ribs, but the good doctor recovered. Ad hominem attacks were Pryor's stock in trade. Perhaps he channeled his minister father's religious zeal in a much different direction. Pryor fought a duel with a son of noted Virginia Unionist John Minor Botts, but declined to shoot the man due to an infirmity. He also challenged his congressional opponent Thomas F. Goode.  

As a congressman, in 1860, Pryor took offense during an antislavery speech delivered by Owen Lovejoy of Illinois in the House of Representatives. In the speech Pryor warned Lovejoy not to bring his rants to the Democratic side of the House. John Potter, a Wisconsin Republican, defended Lovejoy. William Barksdale of Mississippi and Martin Crawford jumped in on Pryor's side. Somehow a dust up was averted. However, about a week later, Potter and Pryor got into an argument about what was printed in the Congressional Globe. This led to Pryor sending Potter a card of challenge. Since Pryor had challenged, Potter had the choice of weapons. The Wisconsinite chose bowie knives. Pryor's seconds considered the weapon choice uncivilized and refused the weapons as unworthy of a Southern gentleman. The duel was cancelled.

During the Civil War Pryor took his fights to the battlefields. Apparently he desired a commission more than a politician's desk. He was made commander of the 3rd Virginia, but was soon assigned a brigade. He fought rather well in the Peninsula Campaign. He also saw service at Second Manassas and Antietam. Pryor was replaced in command in the spring of 1863, and without a brigade, he resigned in August. He was captured, apparently spying, on November 27, 1864, near Petersburg and was held until April 1865 in Fort Lafayette in New York.

Pryor transferred his residence to New York after the war and used his gift of gab as an attorney and judge. He died on March 14, 1919 and was buried at Princeton, New Jersey.      

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