What happened in the days leading up to the surrender of Charleston, and the death of Lizzie Skipper

When the capital of South Carolina fell to Sherman, southern fears were realized

William Henry Suder was transporting soldiers to safety when his engine exploded days before the end of the Civil War

When Willie and John were left without parents in the devastated southern city at the end of the war, they became inmates of the famous institution

Charleston was photographed by the Union Navy in April 1865, creating an awesome record of a city in ruins.

The Suder Family History,
Tradesmen of Charleston

William Henry Suder, at 24, was already an engineer on the South Carolina Rail Road when he married Elizabeth Skipper in 1859. He was the oldest son in a large Charleston family.  He died shortly after the destruction of Northeastern’s depot and the death of his wife when the locomotive he piloted exploded while hauling soldiers to safety.

Peter John Suder, Sr., William Henry’s grandfather, was born  around 1770, and married Ann Brown Chalmers in Charleston on 21 October 1799, according to the Charleston Observer.  Peter was listed in an 1803 directory of Charleston tradespeople as a shoemaker living at Number 10 Federal Street.

The father of Peter, Sr., may have also been a Peter Suder, known to have come from France.  The 1790 census lists Peter Suder, probably a widower, with two boys under 16 and two over 16.  He owned six slaves.  Peter John Suder, Sr., would fit as one of the sons over 16.  The older Peter is listed in The 1794 Charleston Directory as a “segar” maker at 27 Union Street.

Nothing is known about the three daughters of Peter and Ann Suder, but their second son is believed to have been Daniel Suder, born in Charleston in 1809.  He died of a spasm on 4 August.1821 at the age of 12 and was buried in the country.  Peter’s death is unknown, but Ann died in Charleston in June of 1840.

Peter John Suder, Jr., was born in Charleston on 1 May 1804, and worked in Charleston as a carpenter.  He joined the 2nd Presbyterian Church in 1830, and married Elvira Martha Whitney there on 10 November 1832.  Together they raised three sons and five daughters.  He died on 27 July 1856 of dropsy at the age of 49, and left Elvira with eight children at a time when antagonism over the issue of slavery was coming to a head.

1. Martha Ann Suder, born 28 Aug 1833, died 6 Mar 1916
2. William Henry Suder, born 1834, died February 1865
3. George  Young Suder, born 1837, died 2 July 1860
4. Archibald Whitney Suder, born  4 November 1838, died
        22 November 1923
5. Elvira Armstrong Suder, born 9 June 1840, died 18 April
6. Mary Ann Whitney Suder, born 1842
7. Alice Elizabeth Suder, born 1845
8. Everleen Eliza L. Suder, born November 1850, died 10
        May 1859

Martha Ann married Charles E. Kirk on 23 May 1855, and William Henry, who appears to have been the oldest son; married Elizabeth Kirk Skipper in 1858.  Two children died before the start of the Civil War in 1861.  Everleen Eliza, the youngest, died in 1858 at the age of eight, while George Young Suder died of Brain Congestion in 1860 at the age of 23.  He worked in Charleston as a druggist.

When war broke out, the remaining son, Whitney, and three daughters, Elvira Armstrong, Mary Ann and Alice, were living with Elvira at No. 7 John Street, the original home of Peter Suder.  It ran west of Elizabeth Street near Chapel Street where the Wilmington Depot was located.  Whitney was a clerk. Based on directory listings, Elvira and her family constantly moved around the city.

Almost nothing is known about the Suders in Charleston during the war, except that they continued to live in the city that grew worse as time wore on. William Henry’s son, William Hugh Suder wrote, “The shrieking, moaning, and at times maniacal cries of humanity - the roaming, trying to find some place of refuge - seemed simply diabolical and inhuman, and the enormity of the suffering can only be fully understood by those who witnessed and endured it.”

Whitney enlisted into Company B of the 15th Battalion of South Carolina Volunteers and defended Charleston before being one of the last units out during the evacuation.  His part and recollections of the evacuation of Charleston are not known. 

William’s role in the war was to continue as an engineer since the rail road was so important to re-suppy and troop movement. “Our father was absent a goodly part of the time,” remembered William Hugh Suder, “transporting volunteers to join the ranks and fight for their beloved section. So I can speak but little of him.”

William wrote a letter to his sons, telling them why Elizabeth’s sister Caroline Ann Skipper Meyers would raise them until he returned home, but the letter was lost long ago. William Henry never saw his sons again. Sometime between February and May of 1865 (just weeks after Elizabeth died in Charleston) while transporting a regiment of the Southern army to safety, the boiler of William’s engine exploded and took his life.

Two months after the evacuation of Charleston, the war was over. CSA Commander-in-Chief General Robert E. Lee surrendered the main Confederate Army of Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox courthouse in Virginia.

In 1870, five years after the war ended, William Henry’s brother, Archibald Whitney Suder, was living in Sumter with his family. He married Sophia Rosalie Haynsworth in 1865.  In the same year, sister Alice Suder was living in Charleston’s Ward 4 with the family of Real Estate Broker Thad A. Whitney, Alice’s uncle. Nothing more is known of Alice or sister Mary Ann.

Elvira died in 1892 at the age of 80, and was buried with her husband, but her marker does not remain. It is not known if the sons of William Henry and Elizabeth Skipper Suder ever knew their grandmother after the death of their parents. William Hugh never wrote about her.

Elvira and Peter J. Suder were both buried in the cemetery of Charleston’s Second Presbyterian Church, which Peter joined in January 1830 and where he married Elvira in 1832. Elvira’s parents, Archibald and Mary Drennes Whitney, are buried in  the Whitney family plot located in the cemetery of the Circular Congregational Church on Meeting Street. Archibald and Mary Drennes Whitney had a very large family, sixteen children in all, and many who died young are memorialized in this plot.


William Henry Suder, my great great grandfather, was a train engineer on the South Carolina Rail Road until all trains were routed to the Northeastern line during the evacuation.  His was one of the last trains out.



At the rear of the 2nd Presbyterian Church cemetery, the Suder plot contains four graves, but only two have markers: Peter (broken marker in foreground) and his wife, Elvira, son George Y. Suder and daughter Everleen Eliza Suder, in background.


The 2nd Presbyterian Church of Charleston opened in 1811 on Meeting Street at Charlotte Street across from the Citadel.  William Henry Suder’s parents, Peter and Elvira Whitney Suder, were married and are buried here.


The broken marker of Peter John Suder, Jr., lies atop one of the graves in the Suder plot.  Next to it, Elvira’s grave is partially excavated, but has no marker.  The section has not yet been reclaimed.  The graves are covered in an additional foot of sediment.


The family plot of Elvira’s father, Archibald Whitney, is in the Circular Church cemetery on Meeting Street. One double stone marks two unmarried sisters, Placidia and Margaret, and a single stone marks an older sister, Eugenia.  The fourth stone marks Leah Tillinghast, the wife of a descendent, William B.  Whitney.


Each side of the monument is a tribute to someone in the family.  On the west face, it lists Archibald Whitney, husband and father, who died on 19 June 1842 at the age of 62 years and 21 days.




1865: The cemetery behind the Circular Church survived the fire of 1861, but the church did not.


The six children inscribed on the south face of the monument include Claudius (1809), Adalena (1816), Cornelius D. (1818), Caroline (1832), Lebbens (1830), and William D. Whitney (1833).


TOP:  On the east face, Archibald Whitney’s wife, Mary Drennes Whitney, was the last to join the monument, having died on 13
January 1881.  The inscription is hardest of the four to read.  Click on the image to enlarge.
RIGHT:  On the north face, Martha Drennes, Archibald’s mother-in-law, died 6 January 1844 at the age of 82 years, 2 months and 17 days.


2009: The Circular Church was rebuilt and the cemetery continues to operate.



© 2014, Bill Draper. All Rights Reserved.