Pierre Beauregard was a senior Confederate officer during the American Civil War. Beauregard did not overly care for his Christian names and he tended to sign himself as G T Beauregard (Gustave Toutant) and ignored the ‘Pierre’ or ‘P’.
Beauregard was born on May 28th 1818 in Louisiana. His family had a French-Spanish Creole background and French was his primary language in his early years. Beauregard only learned to speak English at the age of twelve when he started a new school in New York.
Beauregard joined the US Military Academy in 1834. It was while he was at West Point that he changed his surname from Toutant-Beauregard and used Toutant as a middle name with Beauregard used solely as his surname. He excelled in military engineering and artillery and passed out second in his class in 1838.
Beauregard fought in the Mexican-American War. He held the rank of temporary major by the time the war ended.
From 1848 to 1860, Beauregard worked on a variety of engineering projects; defences against a flooding Mississippi River, building forts in Florida and maintaining ones already built, improving shipping channels at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Just before the outbreak of the American Civil War, Beauregard was charged with saving the New Orleans Federal Customs House from sinking into the soft mud it was built on. He successfully achieved this.
Beauregard was appointed a Superintendent at West Point in January 1861 but the appointment came to nothing when Louisiana seceded from the Union and the appointment was withdrawn. Technically, Beauregard held the post for five days. He claimed that the position had been withdrawn purely because he was a Southern officer and Washington could not accept a man from a state that had seceded from the Union. Beauregard also claimed that his removal from the position badly reflected on himself. For his part, it was a serious cause of anger against the government in Washington.
As war approached, Beauregard returned to Louisiana and brought with him an expert knowledge of federal fortifications built there and in the South in general. He also knew a great deal about how the Mississippi River could be of use to the Confederacy and how it could hinder the North.
Beauregard used his family’s political connections to get advanced promotion in the newly formed Confederate Army. He did little to disguise what he was doing – contacting Jefferson Davis, for instance – and it caused anger among other newly appointed senior military figures in the new army. To appease everyone, Davis appointed Beauregard to take command of the defence of Charleston – an important potential target for the North. The status of commanding the defences of Charleston appealed to Beauregard’s vanity. He was promoted to Brigadier General on March 1st 1861. He set about assessing the city’s defences with energy and zeal. He found that they were in a poor condition and would need a considerable revamp if the city was to withstand a Union attack.
Beauregard was in a curious position in Charleston as Fort Sumter was the most obvious sign of federal/Union authority near the city. His former teacher at West Point was Robert Anderson, who now commanded Fort Sumter. Beauregard had a high regard for Anderson and sent him cigars and brandy as gifts – which in view of the difficult political position of the time were politely returned by Anderson.
Beauregard knew that Fort Sumter was shortly to receive new supplies, which would make it a far more difficult target to defeat. He therefore called on Anderson to surrender to him. Anderson refused and on April 12th, Fort Sumter was fired on by Confederate artillery based at Fort Johnson. It was the start of the American Civil War.
Fort Sumter’s surrender made Beauregard an immediate hero in the Confederacy. He was summoned to Richmond to meet Jefferson Davis. He was given the command of what was called the ‘Alexandria Line’ – a line of defences to stop a Union invasion of the South.
Beauregard’s bravery at First Battle of Bull Run (July 1861) cannot be denied. Fearing that his men might be overrun by Union troops, he rode among his men flying his regimental colours and shouting out encouragement. His line held and the Confederate media applauded his leadership in the field. For the part he played in the First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas), Davis promoted Beauregard to full General as of July 21st.
Beauregard was not an easy man to work with and his promotion to full General further bloated his opinion about his own ability. He publicly criticised Jefferson Davis for interfering with his plans for the First Bull Run and claimed that if Davis had not interfered, the South would not only have won the battle but could have advanced at some speed to Washington. Davis was infuriated. Beauregard also made public his belief that politicians had no military authority over senior commanders in the Confederate Army. However, Davis was in a difficult position. He had promoted Beauregard to full General and in the eyes of the public in the Confederacy, Beauregard was still a hero after his exploits at Fort Sumter. To keep everyone happy, Davis made Beauregard second-in-command of the Army of Mississippi. This senior position appealed to Beauregard’s ego and it also got him away from Richmond where it was felt he could do some harm to the political hierarchy there.
Facing Beauregard in Tennessee was Major General Ulysses Grant and Major General Don Carlos Buell. The armies of both sides fought at Shiloh, which began on April 6th 1862. The commanding officer for the Army of Mississippi was General Albert Johnson. He was killed during the battle and Beauregard assumed full command of the army once he learned of Johnson’s death. After a full day of Confederate assaults on Union lines, Beauregard decided to call off any further attacks as night fell. By the next day, however, Buell’s army had arrived at Shiloh to support Grant. On April 7th, Grant launched an overwhelming counter-attack and Beauregard was forced to withdraw to the important railway center at Corinth. He remained in Corinth until May 29th when he withdrew his men to Tupelo.
Beauregard was subsequently criticised by those he had already fallen out with in Richmond. They wanted to know why Beauregard had not continued his attack on Grant during the night as Confederate junior officers who had survived at Shiloh had made it known that there was a general belief among the men that Grant’s force was so weakened by the constant Confederate attacks during the day, that success was all but guaranteed. When Beauregard took medical leave without permission, Jefferson Davis used it as an opportunity to dismiss Beauregard and replace him with Braxton Bragg.
Beauregard then called on his supporters in Richmond to pressurise Davis so that he would reinstate Beauregard. This did not work. Instead, Davis ordered Beauregard to Charleston where he was given command of Confederate coastal defences along the Atlantic coastline. Though Beauregard did not want the post, he did a good job once he was in Charleston.
However, he could not forgive Davis. Beauregard made public his plan that state governors from both sides should meet to thrash out a peace settlement. It had its supporters in the Confederate Congress (where Beauregard still had supporters) and it took a great deal of skill by Davis to have the idea rejected. But the move by Beauregard did show that Davis was to some degree vulnerable.
In April 1864, Beauregard was given command of the Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia. His primary mission was the defence of Virginia and he is best known in this capacity for his successful defence of Petersburg. With an army of 5,400 men, he stopped an attack by 16,000 Union troops on the vital rail city in June 1864. Beauregard hoped to be rewarded by being given an appointment of some worth. However, both Davis and Robert E Lee selected others for any senior appointments that came up. Clearly, Beauregard had made too many enemies as a result of his past behaviour and these were not vanquished by his heroics at Petersburg. He was eventually made commander of the newly created Department of the West. But it was a command in name only as the real authority in the field lay with generals Hood and Taylor. Beauregard’s brief as head of the department was to give advice. Hood effectively ignored any advice given to him and only told Beauregard what he was doing with great reluctance. It was only after the damage had been done that Beauregard found out that Hood’s army had been severely defeated at the Battle of Nashville in December 1864.
Both Davis and Robert E Lee believed that Beauregard exaggerated his reports about the speed of William Sherman’s movements in his drive to the sea and his march north to link up with Grant. Lee persuaded Davis to dismiss Beauregard in February 1865 because of his “feeble health”. Joseph Johnston replaced Beauregard.
After the war he worked as a chief engineer on railroads and in 1866 he was made President of the New Orleans and Carrollton Street Railway – a post he held for ten years. Beauregard made his wealth with the introduction of the Louisiana Lottery in 1877 of which he was the supervisor. Along with Jubal Early, Beauregard presided over lottery drawings. He held this position until 1892.
G T Beauregard died on February 20th 1893.
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