My Brief Encounter With Elizabeth Brown Pryor

Today my review copy of Elizabeth Brown Pryor’s book, Six Encounters With Lincoln: A President Confronts Democracy and its Demons, arrived. The book will be officially released next week. I’ve been anticipating the release of this book for some time, but its publication is accompanied by a good deal of sadness. As many of you know, the author was tragically killed in a car accident close to two years ago.

I knew Elizabeth fairly well. I was first introduced to her while conducting research at the Virginia Historical Society for my Crater book. By that point I had already read her book on Robert E. Lee, which I still consider to be the single best study of the man. We always managed to find time to talk whenever our paths crossed at the VHS. On occasion, we grabbed lunch together, which gave me the opportunity to pick her brain about how she approached research and writing.

Elizabeth took time to visit with my Civil War class in Charlottesville to talk about Lee and his connection to slavery, which is one of the most intriguing parts of her book. She was a natural with students. On another occasion Elizabeth accompanied me and my students on a tour of Richmond’s Civil War monuments.

I was aware that a book about Lincoln was in the works before her death. Fortunately, Elizabeth completed the manuscript before the accident. I have absolutely no doubt that Elizabeth has left us with what promises to be an important and engaging book about Lincoln. I only wish that she was still with us to celebrate its release.

3 comments… add one
  • John Hennessy Jan 31, 2017

    I am glad to see this book come out–I had wondered of its fate. Twice Elizabeth came to Fredericksburg while working on the book. Sitting in my office at Chatham, we had some intense conversations about Lincoln, about civil-military relations (which she believed Lincoln messed up significantly), and the Army of the Potomac. I didn’t agree with every idea she floated, but she argued eloquently and listened closely. I found her to be a person of humility and deep thought–whose brain operated on a different, considerably more complex level than mine. Seeing her name on the cover provoked a good deal of sadness for me as well. She was one of the finest minds I have encountered in this business.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 31, 2017

      I agree. What I appreciated most is that she wasn’t saddled with the baggage that many Civil War historians bring to their subject. This made all the difference when it came to her Lee book. Elizabeth was able to approach the subject with fresh eyes.

  • James Harrigan Feb 1, 2017

    thanks for this touching memoriam, Kevin.

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