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"Confederate Secretary of Treasury, 1864-65; S.C. legislator, cotton broker and financier. Summer home "Solitude" stands 1/2 mile east."      George A. Trenholm, former Confederate Secretary of the Treasury, purchased “Solitude,” a 200-acre farm from Alexander and Constance Baring on June 21, 1872, for $200. However, his mother and other family members had been living on the property for several years. In 1873, Trenholm sold the property to Henrietta Aiken, whose husband was governor of South Carolina. Trenholm’s decision to live in Flat Rock during the summers was likely encouraged by another former Confederate Secretary of the Treasury, C. G. Memminger, who possessed property in the town that was later owned by Carl Sandburg.
Trenholm was born in South Carolina in 1807, the son of William and Irene Trenholm. At a young age, he left school and joined the John Fraser & Company shipping business in Charleston. In 1853, he became a senior partner and owner. The business thrived, and Trenholm quickly became one of the richest men in the South, operating steamships, hotels, cotton presses, wharves, and owning hundreds of slaves. He became the director of the Bank of Charleston, president of the South Carolina Railroad, and served in the South Carolina General Assembly from 1852-1856.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, South Carolina appointed Treholm a member of the State Marine Battery Commission, where he oversaw construction of the Confederate ironclad Chicora. He personally financed a twelve-vessel flotilla for Charleston’s defense.
Fraser, Trenholm & Company opened a branch office in Liverpool, England, that became a depository of European funds for the Confederacy. The company owned a fleet of blockade runners which, in the first half of 1863, brought cotton worth an estimated $4,500,000 to England.
Jefferson Davis appointed Trenholm as the second Secretary of the Treasury in June 1864, despite Trenholm’s refusal to repudiate the policies of his predecessor, Christopher G. Memminger, a close friend and financial advisor. Trenholm resigned his post in April 1865, and fled south from Richmond but was captured and imprisoned with other Confederate politicians at Fort Pulaski near Savannah.
Pardoned in 1866, Trenholm returned to Charleston, where he faced bankruptcy and financial disaster. In 1870 he reorganized his companies under the title George A. Trenholm & Son and rebuilt a personal fortune of nearly $300,000. He died in 1876 at his plantation, “Ashley Hall,” leaving a wife and thirteen children, and is buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston.
Ethel Trenholm Seabrook Nepveux, George Alfred Trenholm: The Company that Went to War, 1861-1865 (1973)
Ethel Trenholm Seabrook Nepveux, George Alfred Trenholm: Financial Genius of the Confederacy (1999)
Dictionary of American Biography, XXI, 689-690
Ralph L. Andreano, “George A. Trenholm and the Financial Policies of the Confederate Government” (Ph.D. dissertation, Washington University, St. Louis, 1955)
George A. Trenholm Papers, University of South Carolina
Related Themes: C.S.A., Confederate States of America, Confederacy
North Carolina Civil War Historical Markers.