George Trenholm

The Honorable
George Trenholm
Confederate States Secretary of the Treasury
In office
July 18, 1864  April 27, 1865
President Jefferson Davis
Preceded by Christopher Memminger
Succeeded by John Reagan (Acting)
Personal details
Born (1807-02-25)February 25, 1807
Charleston, South Carolina, US
Died December 9, 1876(1876-12-09) (aged 69)
Charleston, South Carolina, US
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Anna Helen Holmes

George Alfred Trenholm (February 25, 1807 December 9, 1876) was a prominent politician in the Confederate States of America and served as the Secretary of the Treasury during the final year of the American Civil War.


George Alfred Trenholm was born in Charleston, South Carolina. When his father, William Trenholm, died, George left school early. He went to work for a major cotton broker, John Fraser and Company in Charleston. By 1853 he was head of the company, and by 1860 he was one of the wealthiest men in the United States. He had financial interests in steamships, hotels, cotton, plantations, and slaves; he was also director of the Bank of Charleston and of a South Carolina railroad.

When the Civil War broke out, his company - now called Fraser, Trenholm and Company - became the Confederate government's overseas banker. With an office in Liverpool, it arranged cotton sales and financed its own fleet of blockade runners.[1] Trenholm worked with the American James Dunwoody Bulloch as a Confederate foreign agent in Britain to manage their arrangements. Britain depended on cotton exports, and maintenance of the trade helped with public opinion toward the Confederacy, as well as with financing.

Christopher Memminger used Trenholm as an unofficial adviser throughout his own term as Secretary of the Treasury. Trenholm was appointed to that post on July 18, 1864. He was a more charismatic figure than his predecessor, and this helped him with the press and with Congress.[2]

Trenholm fled Richmond with the rest of the government in April 1865 and reached Fort Mill, South Carolina. Due to illness he asked President Jefferson Davis to accept his resignation, which Davis accepted with his thanks on April 27, 1865.[3] Trenholm was later briefly imprisoned at Fort Pulaski near Savannah, Georgia.[4]

Gone with the Wind

Many believe that Trenholm was the inspiration for the character of Rhett Butler in Margaret Mitchell's novel, Gone with the Wind.[5][6]

Private life

George Alfred Trenholm married Anna Helen Holmes. The couple had a very large family; five of their children died in infancy.

Trenholm is the great-great-grandfather of Virginia politician Charles S. "Chuck" Robb.[7]


Trenholm, who was Treasurer of the Confederate States of America for the last year of the American Civil War, was arrested after the war and accused of making off with millions in Confederate assets.[8]

See also


  1. Patrick 1944, pp. 236–237.
  2. Patrick 1944, pp. 237–238.
  3. Patrick 1944, p. 242.
  4. Allen, Felicity (1999). Jefferson Davis, Unconquerable Heart (illustrated ed.). University of Missouri. p. 6. ISBN 0-8262-1219-0. Retrieved 2009-03-03
  5. Spence, Edward Lee (1995). Treasures of the Confederate Coast: the "real Rhett Butler" & other revelations. Narwhal Press. ISBN 1886391017.
  6. Foster, Mary Preston (Oct 28, 2013). Legendary Locals of Charleston. Arcadia Publishing. p. 59. ISBN 1467100552.
  7. "Interview with Chuck Robb by Brien Williams". George J. Mitchell Oral History Project. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  8. Nepveux, Ethel S. (1973). George Alfred Trenholm and the Company That Went to War. Charleston.


Political offices
Preceded by
Christopher Memminger
Confederate States Secretary of the Treasury
Succeeded by
John Reagan
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