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 family, and we assume he and his brothers helped his widowed mother, Elvira Whitney Suder, raise the family throughout the 1850s.
Peter J. Suder, Elvira’s husband, died on July 27, 1850 of dropsy at the age of 49. He had worked in Charleston as a carpenter all of his life, and he left Elvira with nine children to care for at a time when antangonism over the issue of slavery was coming to a head.
William was the oldest boy of the nine chilren; three sons and six daughters. The oldest daughter Mary was married by 1850, and William was married by 1859. The rest of the family was living with Elvira. His brother George was a druggist in Charleston, and brother Whitney was a clerk. Based on directory listings, Elvira and her family constantly moved around the city. In 1861 Elvira lived at No. 7 John Street which ran west of Elizabeth Street from Chapel Street where the Wilmington Depot was located.
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 worn on. William Hugh Suder wrote, “The shrieking, moaning, and at times manicial 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.”
Brother George is a mystery, but Whitney enlisted into Company B of the 15th Battallion of South Carolina Volunteers and defended Charleston before being one of the last units out during the evacvation.
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,” remembered William Hugh Suder, “was absent a goodly part of the time transporting volunteers to join the ranks and fight for their beloved section. So I can speak but little of him.”
William Henry was not present in Charleston the morning his wife was killed in the Wilmington Depot explosion. Because the evacuation required all available engines, it is probable William was transporting troops and supplies to assigned destinations at Monk’s Corner and north toward, and possibly into, North Carolina.
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 no longer exists. William Henry probably never saw his sons again. All that is known is that 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. And sister Alice Suder, 23, was living in Charleston’s Ward 4 with the family of Real Estate Broker Thad A. Whitney. Elvira died in 1892 at the age of 80, and was buried with her husband. It is not known if the sons of William and Elizabeth Suder ever knew their grandmother. William Hugh never wrote aboout 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. The Whitney family plot is located in the cemetery of the Circular Congragational Church on Meeting Street. Archibald and Mary Drennes Whitney, Elvira’s parents had a large family, and many are buried in this plot.There was one Suder buried there. She died at eight years of age in 1858, and was listed as a Child of EM and PJ Suder. She had to have been the youngest daughter, Eliza - William Henry’s sister.