A fascinating look at the experiences of a "company of gentlemen" in America's bloodiest war. "Sons of Privilege" traces the wartime experiences of a unique Confederate cavalry company drawn together from South Carolina's most prestigious families of planters, merchants, and politicos. Founded in 1792 as a city militia unit, the Charleston Light Dragoons drew from such locally recognizable clans as the Hugers, Izards, Manigaults, Middletons, and Pringles. W Eric Emerson examines the military exploits of this "company of gentlemen" to find that the elite status of its membership dictated the terms of their service. For much of the war, the dragoons were stationed close to home and faced little immediate danger. As the South's resources waned, however, such deference faded. Organized much like a gentleman's social club, the dragoons differed markedly from most units in the Confederate and Union armies, which brought together men of varying social and economic backgrounds. Emerson vividly depicts the dragoons' two assignments - a relatively undemanding stint along the South Carolina coast and a subsequent few weeks of intense combat in Virginia. Recounting the unit's 1864 baptism by fire at the Battle of Haw's Shop, he suggests that the dragoons' unrealistic expectations about their military prowess led the men to fight with more bravery than discretion. Thus the unit suffered heavy losses, and by 1865 only a handful survived. Emerson tracks the return of the survivors to ruined homes and businesses, the struggle to rebuild lost fortunes, and the resurrection of exclusive social organizations that would separate them from Charleston's more prosperous newcomers. He chronicles efforts of veterans to reestablish the unit and evaluates the influence of writings by survivors on the postwar veneration of the dragoons.