Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard was an American military leader. As a general in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War, Beauregard served in the eastern and western theaters and was the victorious field commander at the First Battle of Bull Run near Manassas, Virginia on July 21, 1861.
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 was admitted to 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 was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
U.S. Army Officer
Beauregard served in the United States Army from 1838-1861. He was wounded twice during the Mexican- American War (1846-1848). Beauregard was promoted 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 (January 26, 1861), he resigned the position. Beauregard resigned his commission from the United States Army on February 20, 1861.
Confederate Army Officer
Beauregard was commissioned 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, Beauregard was placed in charge of the Alexandria Line of defenses near Manassas, Virginia, from June 2-20, 1861. His principal task was to prepare for a possible invasion by Brigadier General Irvin McDowell’s army stationed at Washington, D.C. From June 20-July 20, Beauregard commanded the Confederate Army of the Potomac stationed near Manassas. From July 21-October 22, he served as a corps commander of the Army of the Potomac, yielding command of the entire army to his senior officer, Joseph E. Johnston. During the First Battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861), Johnston utilized Beauregard’s plans and allowed Beauregard to function as tactical commander in the field.
Feud with President Jefferson Davis
After the Confederate victory at Bull Run, Beauregard was promoted to the rank of full general, effective July 21. However, he also damaged his military career after the battle by publicly criticizing the Confederate administration in Richmond. His suggestion in the press that President Davis’ interference with his battle plans prevented the destruction of McDowell’s army and the capture of Washington initiated a feud between the two men that lasted the remainder 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 the plan had been revealed. 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. Caught off guard, the Federals were driven back and nearly pinned against the Tennessee River. During the afternoon, Johnston was mortally wounded and Beauregard assumed command. As darkness fell, Beauregard made the fateful decision to call of the Confederate assault for the day. That evening he sent a telegram to President Davis announcing “A COMPLETE VICTORY.” During the night, Grant reorganized his army and was reinforced by the arrival of over 20,000 soldiers. On April 7, Grant 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 the city in late May. Inside the city, Beauregard’s soldiers were wracked by 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 necessitated 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 Mississippi. On June 27, Jefferson Davis relieved Beauregard of his command for not obtaining Davis’ approval before going on sick leave.
Department of South Carolina Commander
On August 29, 1862, Beauregard was ordered to Charleston, South Carolina to command the Department of South Carolina and Georgia. For the next two years, he coordinated the defense the Carolina and Georgia coast.
Bermuda Hundred Campaign
In May 1864, Beauregard was sent 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 army of 30,000 soldiers 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 held off repeated assaults by 16,000 Federals from June 15 through 17, at the Second Battle of Petersburg, until Robert E. Lee’s army arrived to defend the city.
On October 7, 1864, President Davis appointed Beauregard to command the Military Division of the West. Greatly outnumbered, Beauregard was unable to stop William T. Sherman’s March to the Sea. In 1865, Beauregard was relegated to second-in-command of the defense of the Carolinas upon General Joseph Johnston’s return to active duty. When Johnston surrendered his army to Sherman on April 26, 1865, the war effectively 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. His citizenship was completely restored by an act of Congress signed by President Grant on July 24, 1876.
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 participated in the formation of the Reform Party in Louisiana, a coalition of moderate Democrat who supported civil rights for African Americans. Between 1877 and 1893, Beauregard served as commissioner of the Louisiana Lottery. In 1879, he was appointed as Adjutant General for the State of Louisiana, serving until 1888. That year, Beauregard was elected as the commissioner of public works for the city of New Orleans.
P.G.T. Beauregard died at New Orleans, Louisiana on February 20, 1893. He is buried in Metairie Cemetery, at New Orleans, Louisiana.