Take Care of the Living assesses the short- and long-term impact of the war on Confederate veteran families of all classes in Pittsylvania County and Danville, Virginia. Using letters, diaries, church minutes, and military and state records, as well as close analysis of the entire 1860 and 1870 Pittsylvania County manuscript population census, McClurken explores the consequences of the war for over three thousand Confederate soldiers and their families. The author reveals an array of strategies employed by those families to come to terms with their postwar reality, including reorganizing and reconstructing the household, turning to local churches for emotional and economic support, pleading with local elites for financial assistance or positions, sending psychologically damaged family members to a state-run asylum, and looking to the state for direct assistance in the form of replacement limbs for amputees, pensions, and even state-supported homes for old soldiers and widows.

Although these strategies or institutions for reconstructing the family had their roots in existing practices, the extreme need brought on by the scope and impact of the Civil War required an expansion beyond anything previously seen. McClurken argues that this change serves as a starting point for the study of the evolution of southern welfare.

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