From the Guide to Collections volume 2: This unique collection consists of correspondence and other documents of Fraser, Trenholm & Co., of 10 Rumford Place, Liverpool (1860-1866), and of Prioleau & Co., of London (1867-1877). During the American Civil War (1861-1865) Fraser, Trenholm was a prominent commercial house in Liverpool. The firm’s senior partner, Charles Kuhn Prioleau, was a naturalised Englishman, who had been brought up in Charleston, South Carolina, where most of his family still lived. It was the English branch of Fraser, Trenholm & Co., based in Charleston whose senior partner, George A. Trenholm, became Secretary to the Confederate States Treasury in 1864. The Liverpool firm made an enormous contribution to the war effort of the South, acting as banker to the Confederate Government and financing the supply of armaments in return for cotton.
Fraser, Trenholm & Co. also participated in blockade running, organising the building on the Mersey of ships such as the commerce-destroyer, Alabama, assisted in the floating of Confederate loans, and generally 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 are mentioned in the letter books 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 fourteen letter books in the collection c.1860-1877, the first, produced in Liverpool between 1862 and 1865, is by far the most important. It contains the correspondence of C.K. Prioleau with leading Confederates, references to blockade running and to other aspects of the war and business. Equally important are more than one hundred loose autograph letters which were sent to Prioleau between 1860-1869. These contain crucial correspondence with G.A. Trenholm, J.D. Bulloch (agent for the Confederate Navy), Major Caleb Huse (principal Confederate Army purchasing officer in Europe) and General C.J. McRae (C.S.A. Treasury agent in Europe). Personal correspondence of C.K. Prioleau includes letters from his wife, Mary, and many from civilians living in the South whose lives were being affected by the course of the war, including eye-witness accounts of the shelling of Charleston. See attached list for full details.