Pierre Gustave-Toutant Beauregard was born on May 28, 1818, at the Contreras sugar-cane plantation in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, about 20 miles (32 km) outside New Orleans. He was the third child of Jacques Toutant-Beauregard and Hélène Judith de Reggio Toutant-Beauregard, who were of French-Spanish Creole descent. Beauregard received his early education at private schools in New Orleans and New York City. He entered the United States Military Academy and Americanized his name by removing the hyphen in 1834. Beauregard graduated from the academy, second in his class, in 1838 and received a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
U.S. Army Officer
Beauregard served in the United States Army from 1838 to 1861. He was wounded twice during the Mexican-American War (1846–1848). The army promoted Beauregard to the rank of captain in 1853. Beauregard was superintendent of the United States Military Academy for five days, from January 23–28, 1861. After Louisiana seceded from the Union on January 26, 1861, he resigned from the Academy. Less than a month later, on February 20, 1861, Beauregard resigned from his commission in the United States Army.
Confederate Army Officer
Southern officials commissioned Beauregard as the first brigadier general in the Confederate Army on March 1, 1861. He became an instant celebrity in the South when troops under his command fired on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, igniting the American Civil War.
First Battle of Bull Run
After subduing the garrison at Fort Sumter, Confederate authorities placed Beauregard in charge of the Alexandria Line of defenses near Manassas, Virginia, from June 2-20, 1861. His principal task was to prepare for the possibility of an invasion by Brigadier General Irvin McDowell‘s Army of Northeastern Virginia stationed at Washington, D.C. From June 20-July 20, Beauregard commanded the Confederate Army of the Potomac stationed near Manassas. Subsequently, from July 21-October 22, he served as a corps commander of the Army of the Potomac, yielding command of the army to Joseph E. Johnston. During the First Battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861), Johnston used Beauregard’s plans and allowed Beauregard to function as the tactical commander in the field.
Feud with President Jefferson Davis
After the Confederate victory at Bull Run, Confederate officials promoted Beauregard to the rank of full general, effective July 21, 1861. Despite the promotion, Beauregard tarnished his military career after the battle by publicly criticizing the Confederate administration in Richmond. His suggestion in the press that President Jefferson Davis‘ interference with his battle plans prevented the destruction of McDowell’s army and the capture of Washington started a feud between the two men that lasted the rest of their lives.
Battle of Shiloh
In 1862, Davis used Ulysses S. Grant‘s invasion of western Tennessee as an opportunity to remove Beauregard from the public spotlight in the East. Davis sent Beauregard west to help General Albert S. Johnston halt Grant’s advance. As Grant was amassing a large Union force at Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River, Beauregard convinced Johnston to launch a surprise attack on the Federals. By April 5, Beauregard changed his mind, however, suspecting that Grant had learned of the plan. Despite Beauregard’s doubts, Johnston remained resolute and launched the assault.
The first day of the Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7) was a resounding Rebel victory. Their surprise attack drove the startled Federals back and nearly pinned them against the Tennessee River. During the afternoon, Federal troops mortally wounded Johnston, and Beauregard assumed command. As darkness fell, Beauregard made the fateful decision to call off the Confederate assault for the day. That evening he sent a telegram to President Davis announcing “A COMPLETE VICTORY.” During the night, Major General Don Carlos Buell‘s Army of the Ohio reinforced Grant with over 20,000 soldiers as he restored order to the Army of the Tennessee. On April 7, Grant and Buell launched a surprise counterattack, forcing Beauregard to retreat to fortified positions across the Tennessee border at Corinth, Mississippi.
Siege of Corinth
After the Battle of Shiloh, Henry Halleck took command of Grant’s forces, moved against the important rail center at Corinth, and settled into a Siege of Corinth in late May. Inside the city, Beauregard’s suffered from typhoid and dysentery caused by bad water. Facing the prospect of being enveloped by Halleck’s massive force of nearly 125,000 soldiers, Beauregard saved his army with a brilliantly executed evacuation on May 29, 1862. Despite the circumstances that prompted the withdrawal, Jefferson Davis was critical of Beauregard’s decision.
Relieved from Command
On June 14, 1862, Beauregard received a certificate of disability for a recurring throat problem and traveled to Alabama to recuperate, leaving Braxton Bragg in charge of the Army of the Mississippi. On June 27, Jefferson Davis relieved Beauregard of his command for not securing Davis’ approval before going on sick leave.
Department of South Carolina Commander
On August 29, 1862, Confederate officials ordered Beauregard to Charleston, South Carolina, to command the Department of South Carolina and Georgia. For the next two years, he coordinated the defense of the Carolina and Georgia coast.
Bermuda Hundred Campaign
In May 1864, Rebel authorities sent Beauregard north to help check Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign. He commanded a Confederate force of 18,000 men that defeated Major General Benjamin Butler‘s 30,000-man-strong Army of the James at the Battle of Proctor’s Creek (May 12-14, 1864), ending Butler’s Bermuda Hundred Campaign.
Second Battle of Petersburg
Commanding a small Confederate force of about 2,200 soldiers, Beauregard curbed repeated assaults by 16,000 Federals from June 15 through 17, at the Second Battle of Petersburg, until Robert E. Lee‘s Army of Northern Virginia arrived to defend the city.
On October 7, 1864, President Davis appointed Beauregard to command the Military Division of the West. Vastly outnumbered by William T. Sherman‘s forces, Beauregard could not stop the Union general’s March to the Sea.
During the Carolinas Campaign, Beauregard served as second-in-command of General Joseph Johnston’s Army of the South. When Johnston surrendered his army to Sherman on April 26, 1865, the war virtually ended and Beauregard returned to civilian life.
Beauregard returned to New Orleans and took the oath of allegiance to the United States. On July 4, 1868, President Andrew Johnson extended amnesty to a group of Confederate leaders, including Beauregard. An act of Congress signed by President Grant on July 24, 1876, restored Beauregard’s citizenship.
Following the war, Beauregard declined offers of high rank in the armies of Romania and Egypt. As a civilian, he served as president of the New Orleans, Jackson, and Mississippi Railroad (1865-1870) and of the New Orleans and Carrollton Street Railway (1866-1876).
State and City Politician
Beauregard took part in the formation of the Reform Party in Louisiana, a coalition of moderate Democrats who supported civil rights for African Americans. Between 1877 and 1893, Beauregard served as commissioner of the Louisiana Lottery. In 1879, state officials appointed him as Adjutant General of Louisiana, serving until 1888. That year, voters elected Beauregard as the commissioner of public works for the city of New Orleans.
P. G. T. Beauregard died in New Orleans, Louisiana on February 20, 1893. His remains rest in Metairie Cemetery, in New Orleans, Louisiana.