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The Business Records of Fraser, Trenholm & Company of Liverpool and Charleston, South Carolina, 1860-1877, from the Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool

This project makes available the business records of Fraser, Trenholm & Company of Liverpool and Charleston, South Carolina, 1860-1866, and Prioleau and Company of London, 1860-1877.

During the Civil War, Fraser, Trenholm and Company was a prominent commercial house in Liverpool with close ties to the Confederate States. George A Trenholm, the senior partner of the Charleston office, became Secretary to the Confederate States Treasury in 1864. Charles Kuhn Prioleau, the senior partner of the Liverpool office, had been brought up in South Carolina and most of his family still lived there.

Fraser, Trenholm and Company made an enormous contribution to the war effort of the South, acting as banker of the Confederate Government and financing the supply of armaments and other essential goods in return for cotton. The company also participated in blockade running, built vessels for the Confederate navy in Liverpool such as the Alabama, a commerce-destroyer, assisted in the floating of Confederate loans, and encouraged support in Europe for the South.

The collection provides a unique insight into these activities. Many of the major protagonists in the Civil War feature in the letterbooks and correspondence. The firm’s role in the reconstruction of the South and involvement in world trade, especially in armaments, is also revealed.

Of the eight boxes of material in the collection, c1860-1877, the first, featuring over 200 original letters to C K Prioleau for the period 1860-1869, is by far the most important. There is correspondence from figures such as J D Bulloch, Agent for the Confederate Navy, Major Caleb Huse, principal Confederate Army purchasing officer in Europe, General C J McRae, Confederate Treasury Agent in Europe, and G A Trenholm. Subjects include blockade running, battles, armament supply, the financing of the Southern war effort and other aspects of the war and business.

Personal correspondence of C K Prioleau includes letters from his wife, Mary, and many from civilians in the South whose life was being affected by the course of the war, with eye-witness reports of the shelling of Charleston.

A further 600 letters and telegrams to and from Prioleau for the period 1870-1876 deal with the aftermath of the Civil War, the various attempts made by the US Government to recover funds formerly belonging to the Southern states, and Prioleau’s continuing business interests.

There are also 10 letterbooks of Prioleau, 1862-1877; 3 letterbooks of J R Hamilton (Prioleau & Company), 1868-1874; Account Books and Sales Records, 1869-1876; Records concerning the construction of vessels for the Confederate Navy, 1862-1864; Correspondence regarding small arms and torpedoes, 1862-1875; Legal Documents regarding cases held in the New York Supreme Court, and in the Admiralty and Chancery Courts; Correspondence with Customs Commisssioners; items relating to work done by the Merseyside firms of Jones, Quiggin and Company (Shipbuilders) and Fawcett, Preston and Company (Engineers); Records of purchases of cotton; and a list of members of the Southern Independence Association, Manchester, 1862.

This is a little known and under exploited source for US History, Science and Technology and Economic History that will help scholars to understand the financing of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.

Digital Guide
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