3rd National Flag of the Confederate States of America

General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
(1818 — 1893)


 

 

Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard was born at his family's plantation home of Contreras, near New Orleans, Louisiana, on May 28, 1818.  At the age of 12, he was sent to a French boarding school in New York City.  He would later gain an appointment to the military academy at West Point at the age of 16 and eventually graduate second in his class in 1838.  While at the academy, his artillery instructor was Robert Anderson, whom he would later face  during the Civil War at Fort Sumter.  His great admiration of Napoleon Bonaparte would earn him the nickname "The Little Napoleon" from his classmates.

 

Beauregard was initially assigned to the artillery but was quickly reassigned to the engineering corps.  From 1838 to 1839, he assisted in the construction of Fort Adams on Brenton's Point at Newport, Rhode Island.  From 1840 to 1844, he returned home to his native Louisiana where he was involved in two major engineering projects at the passes of the Mississippi River and in the construction of Fort Livingston on Grand Terre Island at Barataria Bay.  He was also posted to Pensacola, Florida, and later in 1844-45, at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland.

 

During the Mexican War (1846~1848), Beauregard served under the command of General Winfield Scott.  He was involved in the construction of defenses at Tampico, Mexico.  During the siege of Vera Cruz, he was instrumental in the placement of artillery batteries which helped to bring the operation to a successful conclusion.  He continued to see action at Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Chapultepec, and finally Mexico City where he was twice wounded.  Shortly afterward, Beauregard received the brevetted rank of Major.

 

General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard

Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard

served in  the U.S. Army during the

Mexican War (1846-48) but resigned

to join the Confederate Army in 1861.

 Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

 

With war's end, Beauregard returned to peacetime duties back home in the United States.  Sadly, his wife, Marie Laure Villère, died during childbirth in 1850.  Later that year, he remarried to Caroline Deslonde, sister-in-law of Senator John Slidell of Louisiana.  After fourteen years of continuous service at the rank of Lieutenant, he attained the rank of Captain on March 03, 1853.  He once again saw duty in Louisiana, correcting navigational problems on the Mississippi River and overseeing construction of Fort Proctor, located east of New Orleans on the banks of Lake Borgne.  Beauregard also supervised the repair of the fortifications in Mobile Bay and along the lower Mississippi River, updated the levee system, and stabilized the Federal Customs House which was near collapse due to settlement of the soft Louisiana soil.

 

On January 23, 1861, P.G.T. Beauregard was appointed Superintendent of the military academy at West Point.  The secessionist debate had reached critical mass by this point and Beauregard's pro-Southern leanings are the probable cause for his prompt removal from this posting on January 28, 1861, giving him the shortest tenure as Superintendent in West Point history.  On January 26, Louisiana withdrew from the Union, prompting Beauregard to resign his commission on February 20, 1861, thus ending his career as a United States military officer.

 

Beauregard returned home to Louisiana and joined the Orleans Guards, a volunteer unit composed of elite Creole gentlemen of New Orleans, with the rank of Private.  Shortly thereafter, he was offered command of all artillery and engineering units in the Louisiana State forces with the rank of Colonel. Braxton Bragg had been given command of all state forces with the rank of Brigadier General.  Insulted, Beauregard promptly refused.  At the request of Governor Thomas Overton Moore, however, he made recommendations for strengthening the lower Mississippi River defenses at Forts Jackson and St. Philip and drew up designs for wooden booms to block the river in the forts' vicinity.

 

Offering his services to the fledgling Confederacy, Beauregard found himself placed in command of the defenses of Charleston, South Carolina, with the rank of Brigadier General.  The Federal garrison at Fort Sumter, located in Charleston Harbor, was soon to be provisioned.  Beauregard found himself facing his old artillery instructor, Major Robert Anderson, who now commanded the garrison at Fort Sumter.  Anderson refused the demand to surrender, causing his former student to begin a 36-hour bombardment.  Fort Sumter was surrendered to Confederate forces on April 14, 1861, and "the Little Napoleon" became a household name throughout the South.

 

Beauregard was immediately ordered to Virginia and placed in command of the Army of the Potomac opposite of Washington, D.C.  Though placed under the command of General Joseph E. Johnston, CSA, at the eleventh hour, he was instrumental in the Confederate victory at the 1st Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) on July 21, 1861.  Afterward, he was promoted in rank to General in spite of criticism—along with Johnston—of Confederate President Jefferson Davis for lack of supplies that hindered a push onward to Washington.  This was the first of several future conflicts with Davis, who considered his own chief talents more military than political.

 

Beauregard remained as second-in-command of the Army of Northern Virginia under J. E. Johnston through January 29, 1862, before being sent west to serve as second-in-command of the Army of the Mississippi under General Albert Sidney Johnston, CSA.  When A. S. Johnston was mortally wounded in the Battle of Shiloh (Pittsburgh Landing) in Tennessee on April 06, 1862, Beauregard took command and very nearly won the day against Ulysses S. Grant, USA, before having to withdraw to Corinth, Mississippi.  Shortly after his withdrawal from Corinth, he went on sick leave without gaining permission from President Davis who relieved him of command on June 27, 1862.

 

In August of 1862, Beauregard was placed in command of the Department of South Carolina-Georgia-Florida and defended against the formidable siege of Charleston by Union naval and ground forces.  He held this post through April of 1864 until he was ordered northward to take command of the Department of North Carolina-Southern Virginia.  On May 05, 1864, Union troops under General Benjamin Butler, USA, threatened the Confederate capital of Richmond.  Beauregard's forces defeated Butler's troops on May 16 at the Battle of Drewery's Bluff (Procter Creek) and bottled them up on a narrow neck of land between the James and Appomattox Rivers at the Bermuda Hundred lines.

 

With the arrival of General Ulysses S. Grant, USA, to reinforce Butler, Beauregard was forced to withdraw in the face of superior numbers and focus on the protection of Petersburg, Virginia.  The arrival of General Robert E. Lee, CSA, and the Army of Northern Virginia relegated him to secondary status for the remainder of the siege of Petersburg.  He served under Lee until September of 1864 when he took command of the Military Division of the West which included two armies under Generals Richard Taylor and John B. Hood in Alabama and Georgia respectively.

 

General William T. Sherman, USA, and his famous "March to the Sea" in late 1864 played havoc with Beauregard's command.  As his forces retreated northward into the Carolinas, he was made second-in-command of the Army of Tennessee on March 16, 1865, under General Joseph E. Johnston, CSA.  In spite of President Davis' orders to disperse and begin a "new phase" of warfare (i.e. a partisan war, or guerilla war) following Lee's surrender to Grant on April 09, Johnston and Beauregard refused and surrendered their forces to Sherman on April 26, 1865.

 

After the surrender and collapse of the Confederacy, Beauregard returned to Louisiana and New Orleans and took the oath of allegiance to the United States.  Though he applied for a Presidential pardon, it would be three years before one was granted and legislation lifting all restrictions on former Confederate officers did not pass until 1876.  He was offered the position of General-in-Chief in the Romanian and Egyptian armies, but he refused both positions.  He was appointed Adjutant General of the Louisiana militia in 1878 and served in this posting until 1888.

 

Beauregard's reputation became somewhat tarnished through his involvement with the New Orleans-Jackson-Mississippi Railroad and the Louisiana State Lottery Corporation.  He dabbled occasionally in politics but almost always in a background role.  His historical writings include Principles and Maxims of the Art of War, Report on the Defense of Charleston, and A Commentary on the Campaign and Battle of Manassas.  "The Little Napoleon" and the "Hero of Fort Sumter" died in New Orleans on February 20, 1893, at the age of 74 and was buried at Metairie Cemetery.  Camp Beauregard, a U.S. Army training camp during World War I and World War II, was named in his honor and serves today as headquarters for the Louisiana National Guard.  Beauregard Parish, in the western part of the State of Louisiana, was also named in his honor.

 

 

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Sources used in the compilation of this article:

BlueandGrayTrail.com website.

The Civil War in Louisiana, by John D. Winters.  Louisiana State University Press (1963).

CivilWarHome.com website.

The Confederate Nation, by Emory M. Thomas.  Harper & Row (1979).

The State of LouisianaDepartment of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism.

Virtualology.com website.


**Copyright 1997-2007 by Louisiana Naval War Memorial Commission**