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P. G. T. Beauregard
Civil War Encyclopedia >> People - Confederate Military
P. G. T. Beauregard
St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana was a land of corn and sugar cane surrounded by cypress swamps and live oak trees. Beauregard (or Toutant-Beauregard) was born here on his family's sugar cane plantation home, Contreras, near the site of the Battle of New Orleans. He considered himself a Creole, which meant (at least at that time) that he was a Frenchman from Louisiana who guarded their society from Yankee invaders. Little is known about his early life.
When he turned 12, his father sent him to a French boarding school in New York City, where Beauregard learned of the heroic Napolean, then returned home to hear the stories of his brothers who fought with the Corsican general. Against his father's wishes, he wanted to attend West Point, 90 miles north of New York City. His father finally used his political influence to gain Pierre an appointment to the prestigious academy at the age of 16. It was at this point that Tourant-Beauregard simplified his name to Pierre Gustave Tourant Beauregard.
During his tenure as a cadet, Beauregard fell in love with Virginia Scott, daughter of General-in-Chief Winfield Scott. Her father, however, felt Virginia was too young for marriage and Scott's wife and daughter went on an extended tour of Europe where Virginia joined a convent. Robert Anderson, whom Beauregard would later meet at Fort Sumter, taught the cadet artillery. The bond between the two was strong - Beauregard would later serve as his assistant.
Graduating from West Point in 1838 Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard served as a engineer at Fort Adams (Newport, Rhode Island), Pensacola, Florida, and Barataria Bay on the Louisiana coast. During the Mexican American War, he served under Scott as an engineer. During the siege of Vera Cruz, Beauregard examined the ground surrounding the town and spotted a ridge that gave engineers an excellent location to place artillery batteries, helping to end the siege of the town. Moving inland, Beauregard discovered the road that permitted Scott to outflank the Mexican Army at Cerro Gordo. After showing the road to Robert E. Lee, Beauregard became bedridden with a fever. Lee completed the recommendation to Scott and the General-in-Chief credited Lee for the success at Cerro Gordo.
Before moving on Mexico City Beauregard, as an engineer, was invited to a council of war. Winfield Scott wanted to attack the western approaches of the city, but others felt the southern approaches were the best. Beauregard rose in defense of the western approach, swaying the group to Scott's side. After the war Beauregard felt "Old Fuss" slighted him in his report.
Back in the United States, P. G. T. Beauregard's wife died during childbirth. He remarried in 1850, but the new marriage bore no children. It did however bring him into the family of John Slidell, powerful Senator from Louisiana. He worked on correcting the navigation problems challenging the Mississippi River boats, creating a single channel that was constantly dredged. Although this made it easier for boats to enter the Gulf of Mexico from New Orleans, it would be 20 years before the navigation problems of the Mississippi River were solved.
In 1858 the city of New Orleans was controlled by the Know-Nothings and was replete with dishonest politicians and policemen. Running on a unification ticket as a state-rights Democrat, Beauregard drew former Whigs to his camp but by election day New Orleans was an armed camp. He lost the election, mostly because the Know-Nothings were better organized. He worked on a number of engineering projects including updating the levee system and stabilizing the federal Customs House that was near collapse because of settling. Beauregard accepted an appointed as Superintendent of West Point in January, 1861, only to resign his commission later in the month after Louisiana seceded from the Union.
Beauregard was in command of the provisional Confederate forces in Charleston Harbor from March, 1861, reorganizing the artillery to be more effective in the event of an attack on Fort Sumter. On April 10, orders came to demand a surrender on April 12 or sooner because a federal boat intended to resupply the fort soon after. Beauregard replied that he would make the demand on the 12th. Secretary of War Leroy Pope Walker directed him to make it earlier unless special reasons applied. Cryptographically, Beauregard replied there were special reasons. The diminutive Creole did not want to put on the wire that the Rebels did not have enough powder at Charleston. More arrived on April 11th from the armory at Augusta, Georgia.
On the morning of the April 12 Beauregard asked Major Robert Anderson to surrender and when Anderson refused, "Old Bory" ordered the cannon ringing the harbor to open fire. 36 hours later Anderson surrendered not to Beauregard but to Texas Senator Louis Wigfall. The Creole general skyrocketed to fame after the triumph at Fort Sumter.
The diminutive Creole was five foot seven at most and weighed less than 150 pounds, but men and women came to railroad depots to see the "Hero of Fort Sumter" at every stop. He was in tactical command of the Confederate forces during the victory at First Manassas. General Joseph E. Johnston, who outranked Beauregard, retained strategic command.
Although there are many differences between Johnston's and Beauregard's descriptions of the Virginia battle, according to Beauregard, he and Johnston were near the right center (east) of the Rebel line and advanced to the left together as the sound of battle grew louder. After both Beauregard and Johnston firmed the Confederate line on Henry Hill, he turned to Johnston and asked him to leave. Johnston did, and established a headquarters about half-a-mile behind the Confederate left flank, where the Confederate commander direct troops towards the battle while Beauregard maintained tactical command. After turning the Yankee right and routing them across the Stone Bridge, Beauregard refused to return to field headquarters in spite of Jefferson Davis arriving and requesting his presence. Beauregard said he would meet with Davis when his wounded had been attended to. Beauregard ordered some units to pursuit the Yankees, an order that Davis reiterated the following day.
Following Manassas, Johnston assumed command of the Army of the Potomac, the original name for the Army of Northern Virginia, and Beauregard was his second-in-command. Since the command structure was never actually announced everybody, from Union cartoonists to Confederate journalists were confused about Beauregard's role. However, the Creole general got in a war of words with Attorney General Judah P. Benjamin over law and lost. He was sent west as second-in-command to Albert Sidney Johnston, assuming command of the left wing of Johnston's army. After General Ulysses S. Grant took Fort Henry, Beauregard urged Sidney Johnston to concentrate his forces at Fort Donelson. Johnston refused to do this because it would leave Nashville open to Don Carlos Buell. Both Donelson and Nashville fell to Union troops anyway.
During the Battle of Pittsburgh Landing (Shiloh), it is generally accepted that Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard developed the initial plan of attack. In later years some writers endeavored to take the credit away from Beauregard for the strategic plan. During an attempt to envelop the Union forces in the Hornet's Nest, Sidney Johnston was mortally wounded at 2:30pm. Beauregard assumed overall command of Confederate forces at 3:00pm. Continuing to advance to within sight of Pittsburg Landing, he assumed that the Union Army was retreating and began regrouping the Confederate Army shortly after 6:00pm. Beauregard prematurely informed President Davis of the outcome of the battle - a "complete victory." In Richmond, Virginia that evening, Jefferson Davis announced the near destruction of the Union Army in the West. That night Nathan Bedford Forrest tried to warn the Confederates that Union troops were arriving and not retreating, but failed to find Beauregard's tent; his own general, William Hardee, did not believe him. Major General Grant, reinforced and resupplied, resumed the attack the following day, driving Confederate forces back to their starting point. Old Bory withdrew to Corinth, having lost the battle.
With the combined federal army under the command of Henry Halleck approaching Corinth slowly, Beauregard struggled to keep his men fed while debating a course of action amongst his generals. His only option was to retreat, but even in retreat, Beauregard shined. He had campfires burning, drummers beating, even a train running back and forth in Corinth, blowing its whistle, to cover his troops' retreat to Tupelo. Still, Beauregard's days were numbered as commander of the Army of Mississippi. President Davis's chance came when Beauregard informed Adjutant-General Samuel Cooper he was leaving for a week to ten days. Davis, claiming Beauregard was absent without leave, wired Bragg to take command of the Army of Mississippi. At the end of the summer, 1862, "Peter" Beauregard was on his way back to the site of his first victory, Charleston.
Charleston was a thorn in the side of the federals. Home to the secessionists and fire-eaters that started the war, it was also a major center of blockade runners. By the time Beauregard arrived, everyone knew Charleston would be an object of federal interest...the Yankees had already tried to land on James Island but were repulsed. Defenses were prepared, including two lines of torpedoes (they were only near the surface at low tide, allowing the blockade runners a window to escape), a rope between Moultrie and Sumter, and a ramming boat that Beauregard helped design and enthusiastically backed.
On January 30, 1863 Beauregard seized the Isaac Smith near the mouth of the Stono River, rename the federal gunboat the Stono and adding it to his fleet. Early the following morning Confederate vessels attacked the federal fleet near Charleston. One ship surrendered and the others were forced to flee. The federal navy, though, was preparing a fleet of nine ironclads at Port Royal. Steaming into Charleston Harbor shortly after 1:00 pm on April 7 led by the Weehawken. At 3:00 pm they opened fire on Sumter, but Confederate volleys from Sumter and Moultrie eventually chased them out of the harbor.
Robert E. Lee wanted to move into the North during the summer of 1863 and in May recommended that Beauregard take command of troops remaining in Virginia. "His presence would give magnitude to even a small demonstration," wrote Lee, but Beauregard preferred an independent command in the West. Now Beauregard struck up a conversation with Johnston over the common enemy, Jefferson Davis, lamenting the lack of troops in Charleston. It was a problem soon to come to the forefront.
The failure in April seemed to increase the Union desire to attack Charleston. While federal forces controlled islands near the harbor, the South Carolinians and Beauregard had been successful in turning back each of the forays into the harbor itself. The Yankees turned to Brigadier General Quincy A. Gillmore, who had used rifled cannon to breach Fort Pulaski at the mouth of the Savannah River. Because of its layout and proximity to a populated area, Charleston Harbor would be more difficult.
On July 10, 1863 federal forces captured Morris Island. Although Beauregard had been caught unaware, he did not seem concerned. A federal assault on Fort Wagner did concern him, and he tried to shore up defenses long enough to rework the position of his artillery to make the loss less meaningful. Gillmore ordered Wagner shelled every day as the Union troops finalized their preparations. On August 17, Gillmore began shelling Sumter and within a week he delivered more than 4,300 on-target firings. The walls of the fort began to crumble. Gillmore then introduced the 200 pounder "Swamp Angel" and in September began an assault on Fort Wagner. Beauregard withdrew his garrison on the night of September 6, 1863. The following day Admiral Dahlgreen demanded the surrender of Sumter, but a Yankee attack was repulsed by Beauregard. This marked the end of naval assaults on Charleston Harbor, although the bombardment would continue off and on until Charleston was in Union hands.
The successful defense of Charleston brought Beauregard to Richmond to defend it early in 1864. With Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia facing Grant and the Army of the Potomac to the north, Beauregard was chosen to manage the defenses of the city. Beauregard's first challenge appeared from the Bermuda Hundred on May 5, 1864, when 39,000 Yankees under the command of Benjamin Butler landed with his Army of the James at Bermuda Hundred, intending to head for Richmond, Virginia. Butler, along with corps commanders W. F. "Baldy" Smith and Quincy Gillmore also seized City Point.
Beauregard was sick in Weldon, North Carolina when news came of Butler's landing. General George Pickett was in command of the forces defending Richmond and Petersburg. Butler's first move came at Port Walthall Junction on May 6 and May 7. Although initially repulsed by a Confederate force of two small brigades, the federals returned the following day to capture the junction. Confederate forces retired to a position behind Swift Creek between Richmond and Petersburg. On May 9, 1864, Butler's men crossed Swift Creek but were repulsed by a significantly smaller Confederate force. Early in the morning of May 10 Beauregard finally arrived at Petersburg to assume command (some sources say May 9). That day General Robert Ransom [CS]advanced from Richmond and attacked a corps with two brigades and drove them back.
Beauregard immediately began planning an offensive against the Army of the James. A "grand plan to save the Confederacy" was rejected, but a second offensive was approved. Union troops were moving slowly towards Procter Creek (Drewrey's Bluff). On May 16 Beauregard had Ransom advance across the creek to begin the battle. Ransom broke through the first breastworks in an hour but did little else. To the south, General Robert Hoke [CS] also advanced, but an attempt to flank Butler's army failed. Intending to renew the attack the following day, the Confederates found empty trenches. Butler had withdrawn to Bermuda Hundred. Beauregard advanced to the peninsula and trapped the Army of the James on a small neck of land between the James River and the Appomattox River, building a strong earthworks, the Howlett Line, to keep Butler where he was.
Now that Butler was contained, Robert E. Lee kept pressing for Beauregard to join his forces. Old Bory made it clear to Braxton Bragg that he would obey any order given him by Richmond but he did not feel it wise to withdraw too many forces from Bermuda Hundred. Grant had been moving south rapidly and reached the James River on June 13, 1864. Now Butler's force swelled to 50,000 men with the Army of the Potomac to the north with another 75,000.
On June 15 "Baldy" Smith [US] attacked Petersburg. Beauregard withdrew the men from the Howlett Line and moved them to Petersburg, raising the total Confederate force to 5,400 effectives. They faced 18,000 federal troops. In the evening of June 15th, Bushrod Johnson arrived, raising Beauregard's manpower to 14,000. Meanwhile, Grant crossed the James from Harrison's Landing to Bermuda Hundred. Once across the James River Grant ordered the Second Corps forward, giving Smith close to 40,000 men, eventually increasing that number to 60,000. In spite of the overwhelming nature of the Union forces, they only succeeded in breaking the Confederate line in a few places and could not exploit any of the breaks.
On June 17, with Lee refusing repeated requests from Beauregard for support, Smith began a nearly constant attack on the Petersburg line. From 3 am until nightfall, the Union Army expended thousands against Beauregard's relatively weak line. Finally, late that evening Beauregard convinced Lee that he was facing a significant portion of Grant's army. Lee's men began arriving in Petersburg shortly after 7:00am on June 18.
Grant, stymied by Beauregard's stubborn defense of the Petersburg Line and the late arrival of Robert E. Lee, decided to lay a siege against the railroad center south of Richmond, Virginia. Now as Lee's subordinate, Beauregard assumed command of the section of the line from the Appomattox River to Petersburg. An attack from this area late in June failed to turn the Union left flank. Early in the morning on July 30, 1864, federal sappers blew a hole in the Confederate trenches. Old Bory awoke and rode to his lines. Robert E. Lee almost immediately arrived and took command of the situation. On August 18, Beauregard was in command of Petersburg when federals seized the Weldon Railroad. Aware of the importance of this line to the defense of Petersburg, Beauregard launched an attack comprised of four brigades. While the attack netted 2,700 prisoners, it did not regain the railroad. A second attack two days later under Lee's command also failed.
Although Lee blamed nobody, others blamed Beauregard for the failure at the Weldon Railroad. He had wanted command of the Army of Tennessee, but Davis gave it to John Bell Hood in July, 1864. Now he wanted any command outside Virginia. On October 2, 1864, President Davis granted his wish, giving him command of the Military Division of the West including two armies, one in Alabama under General Richard Taylor and one in Georgia under Hood. As Hood marched north on the Nashville Campaign, Beauregard received word that Sherman was marching on Macon, Georgia, where he proceeded and took command of the defenses. His efforts there were futile because he did not realize Sherman's intent - to bypass Macon and "March to the Sea."
The final months of the war saw Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard move west to join the Army of Georgia after its retreat from the Nashville disaster. Of Hood's 35,000 men less than a corps were fit for duty. There would be no troops to send east to fight Sherman. Taylor, now in command, would need them all to defend the west. Returning east, Beauregard found the situation a disaster. Sherman was advancing quickly and South Carolina was about to fall. The Confederate commander wired Lee that he was going to withdraw to Greensboro, North Carolina. Lee could not understand how this could happen and thinking the general was out of touch with reality, he ordered Joe Johnston to take command. Johnston relegated Old Bory to the rear, managing supplies and rear guard actions, but nothing could change the grim reality of Sherman's advance.
As Sherman's forward troops reached the North Carolina-Virginia border, Lee informed Davis that Richmond could not be held. Davis fled to Danville, Virginia, where he summoned Beauregard to give him protection. The two met in Greensboro, North Carolina on April 11, where Davis stunned his Creole general by not accepting Beauregard's evaluation that "the war was over." Davis said he would move West and build an army out of conscripts and deserters. When Johnston appeared the following day with the same opinion, Davis gave them permission to surrender, which they did on April 26, 1865.
After the War
Following the surrender, the general made his way back to Louisiana where he debated his future. Should he try to secure a command with a foreign army or for amnesty from the United States. After five months he decided to take the "prescribed oath," administered by the mayor of New Orleans. Although he quickly applied for a pardon, it would take three years before President Andrew Johnson granted it. The bill lifting all restrictions on Beauregard would not pass in Congress until July 24, 1876.
Rumors abounded following the war that Beauregard was going into service in some foreign country. Apparently, two were true. Romania offered him the position of general-in-chief as did Egypt, but in the end he took neither (Egypt probably withdrew its offer before a deal was reached).
When the Radical Republicans passed the final Reconstruction Act in March, 1867, which enfranchised black male voters, Beauregard defended the decision claiming that "The Negro is southern-born; and with a little education and some property qualification he can be made to take sufficient interest...to insure an intelligent vote."
For many years, Beauregard laid low, only occasionally coming into the public eye. He worked for the Jackson Railroad doing various high-level jobs (including raising money through bond offerings) and helping local and state political candidates, but always in a background role. In 1873 he chaired a committee on government reform (unification of black and white voters), but that met a disastrous end when blacks demanded full equality and not the second-class citizenship New Orleans had in mind.
Beauregard's railroad career had serious ups and downs, including one ugly period where the Republican government of Louisiana and New Orleans usurped the power of the Board of Directors for a while. He became involved in a New Orleans streetcar company that seriously hurt his standing - his partners were signing his name to fraudulent checks.
As autobiographies and biographies appeared on Confederate generals, Beauregard took a lot of criticism. One scathing treatment was in a biography of Albert Sidney Johnston by his son. Charging that the elder Johnston should be given credit for the strategic planning of the battle and that Beauregard lost the battle by not ordering a charge on April 6, 1862 against Grant's Last Line. Jefferson Davis also heavily criticized Beauregard. To counter the slander, Beauregard sought to speed up his own autobiography, hiring a writer who would get credit for the book. This way the writer could praise Beauregard's actions.
Although he returned to politics, elected to a minor position in New Orleans in 1888, Beauregard kept his life centered on his growing family. A few years later, following a week of delusions that had him concentrating his forces and attacking an imaginary enemy, the Hero of Fort Sumter died on February 20, 1893.
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Albert Sidney Johnston
P. G. T. Beauregard was last changed on - April 26, 2007
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