Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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PRYOR, Roger Atkinson, lawyer, born near Petersburg, Virginia, 19 July, 1828. He was graduated at Hampden Sidney college in 1845, and at the University of Virginia, three years later, studied law, and was admitted to the bar, but entered journalism. He joined the staff of the Washington " Union," and was afterward editor of the Richmond " Enquirer." He was sent, at twenty-seven on a special mission to Greece by President Pierce. In 1856 he opposed William L. Yancey's proposition to reopen the slave-trade. He was an ardent advocate of state-rights, and established a daily paper, the "South," at Richmond, in which he represented the extreme views of the Virginia Democracy. His aggressive course and the intense utterance of his convictions led to several duels. He was elected to congress in 1859 to fill a vacancy, and was re-elected in 1860, but did not take his seat. While in that body he made various fiery speeches, and in the excited condition of the public mind preceding the civil war was often involved in passionate discussions with his northern opponents. One of these, John F. Potter (q. v.), replied to him with similar acrimony, and was challenged, Mr. Potter named bowie-knives as the weapons, and the Virginian's seconds refused to allow their principal to fight with arms which they pronounced barbarous. This challenge created an uproar throughout the country, and was accompanied with severe and characteristic comments on the principals from the northern and southern press. Mr. Pryor was eager for war, and visited Charleston to witness the firing on Sumter, and its surrender. He was sent to the provisional Confederate congress at Richmond, and elected to the first regular congress. Soon afterward he entered the Confederate army as a colonel, and was made a brigadier-general after the battle of Williamsburg. He resigned, 26 August, 1863, was taken prisoner in 1864, and confined for some time in Fort Lafavette. After the surrender of the Confederate armies, he urged on the south the adoption of a policy of acquiescence and loyalty to the government. He went to New York in 1865, settled there as a lawyer, and is still practising. He has taken no part in politics since the war, confining himself exclusively to his profession. He is the author of many speeches and literary addresses, and has been given the degree of LL.D. by Hampden Sidney college.
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