George Alfred Trenholm was born to William Trenholm (April 1772-03 November 1824) and Irene de Greffin (ca. 1785-19 June 1824) in Charleston, Charleston District, South Carolina on 25 February 1807. At the age of 16, he left school to work for John Fraser & Company, the city's leading cotton shippers, and later married Anna Helen Holmes (1811-02 July 1885) on 03 April 1828. By 1853, Trenholm was head of the firm and senior partner. He held material interests in banks, cotton presses, hotels, plantations, railroads, steamships, wharves, and was also frequently involved in political matters.

     During the war, Fraser, Trenholm & Company made enormous contributions to the Confederate war effort. The agency acted as the exclusive overseas banker of the Confederate Government, financing the supply of armaments and other essential goods in return for cotton, tobacco, and turpentine. The company also participated in blockade running, had vessels built for the Confederate Navy, such as the C.S.S. Alabama, assisted in the floating of Confederate loans, and encouraged support in Europe for the South. By war's end, the organization controlled over sixty large steamers and numerous sailing ships. These ships operated out of Charleston, Savannah, Wilmington, and surprisingly New York City as well. Trenholm's successful blockade running ventures had earned him the modern equivalent of well over one billion dollars in gold, making him both wealthy and powerful.

     On July 18, 1864, he replaced Christopher Gustavus Memminger (09 January 1803-07 March 1888) as Secretary of the Treasury. Even as rich as he had become, or as skilled as he was with money, he could not rescue the economy from the state of ruin it was in. After the fall of Richmond, he took flight southward with the rest of the Cabinet. In quite ill health, he was unable to continue running. He resigned with the approval of President Jefferson Davis (03 June 1808-06 December 1889) on 27 April 1865, and was later imprisoned with John Archibald Campbell (24 June 1811-12 March 1889), Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter (21 April 1809-18 July 1887), and James Alexander Seddon (13 July 1815-19 August 1880) at Fort Pulaski, near Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia.

     After being pardoned and having most all of his earnings and property litigated or confiscated by the Federal Government, he returned to his native Charleston. He worked to help end Radical Republican rule in his home state and continued to be involved in finance. One of his banks still stands today, at the corner of East Bay and Broad Streets in Charleston. He contributed heavily to numerous charities, indiscriminately helping both blacks and whites. His charities included churches, hospitals, and orphanages. Margaret Mitchell's character of Rhett Butler, from Gone With The Wind, is believed (even by her descendents) to have been inspired by Trenholm and his life. Trenholm died at his home, "Ashley Hall", on 09 December 1876 and is buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, Charleston County, South Carolina. For a man so touched by wealth in life, his grave is simply marked.

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