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  Name:  Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
  Born:  May 28, 1818
  Died:  February 20, 1893
 

 
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Beauregard, Pierre Gustave Toutant (May 28, 1818—February 20, 1893)

P. G. T. Beauregard was a talented and popular Confederate general who gave the order to fire on Fort Sumter and then played a leading role through the Civil War.  He also became a critic of President Jefferson Davis’s war strategy.

P. G. T. Beauregard was born to Creole parents Jacques Toutant–Beauregard, a planter, and Helene Judith de Reggio Beauregard on the family plantation, “Contreras,” in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana.  Beginning at age eight, Gustave (as he was called in his youth) attended three years at a private academy in New Orleans and then four years at The French School in New York City.  From 1834 until 1838, he was a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, graduating second in his class (which also included his future Bull Run opponent, Irvin McDowell).  Beauregard was commissioned a second lieutenant with the Army Corps of Engineers and sent to Fort Adams, Rhode Island.  In 1839, he was advanced to first lieutenant and assigned to build coastal defenses in Florida before being transferred to Louisiana the next year.  In 1841, he married Marie Antoinette Laure Villere, the daughter of a Louisiana sugar planter.  They later had two children.

When the War with Mexico began in 1846, Beauregard was assigned as an engineer on the staff of General Winfield Scott and participated in the siege of Vera Cruz and the battles of Cerro Godo, Contreras, Chapultepec, and Mexico City.  He was brevetted to captain (August 20, 1847) and wounded twice during the capture of Mexico City, after which he was brevetted to major (September 13, 1847).  At the end of the war in 1848, he resumed work as an army engineer in Louisiana, received the rank of captain on March 3, 1853, and served as chief engineer for the draining of New Orleans in 1858–1861.  His first wife having died in 1850, he and Caroline Deslonde married in 1860; they had no children and she died in 1864.

Beauregard became the shortest–serving superintendent of West Point on January 23–28, 1861, being removed because of his expressed sympathy for secession.  He resigned from the U.S. Army on February 20, 1861, and offered his services to the newly formed Confederate States of America.  Overlooked for the command of Louisiana state troops and rejecting the offered position of colonel of engineers, Beauregard joined a volunteer company at the rank of private.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis, however, named him a brigadier general on March 1, 1861.  Two days later, he assumed command of Confederate troops at Charleston, South Carolina, where he demanded the surrender of Fort Sumter by its Union commander, Robert Anderson, his respected artillery teacher at West Point.  When Anderson refused and ships arrived with non–military supplies for the fort, Beauregard ordered bombing to commence on April 12.  The Union surrendered the next day and evacuated Fort Sumter on April 14.  The incident provoked President Abraham Lincoln to declare war on the Confederacy.

As a result of his success at Fort Sumter, Beauregard was assigned to head one of two Confederate armies in Northern Virginia.   At the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) on July 21, 1861, although outranked by Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, Beauregard gave the preliminary orders and led the Rebel left wing.  For his leadership and bravery in battle, including having a horse shot dead under him, Beauregard was awarded the full rank of general on August 13. 

In the spring of 1862, Beauregard was reassigned to the Western Theater under General Albert Sidney Johnston and took command of Confederate troops at Corinth, Mississippi.  Beauregard planned the attack on General Ulysses S. Grant’s Union troops at Shiloh on April 6 and took command when Johnston was fatally wounded.  After initial Confederate success, Union reinforcements pushed the Rebels back to Corinth, which Beauregard was forced to evacuate in late May.  When he took sick leave in June without approval, President Davis relieved Beauregard of his command, which contributed to the general becoming one of the leading critics of Davis’s war strategy.

After recovering from illness, Beauregard was assigned on August 19, 1862, to protect the Confederate eastern shoreline as commander of the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.  In 1863, he successfully defended Charleston from repeated Union assaults by land and sea, and he published Principles and Maxims of the Art of War.  On April 23, 1864, he was given command of the Department of North Carolina to which he added the designation “and Southern Virginia.”  In mid–May at Bermuda Hundred, Virginia, Beauregard halted Union General Benjamin Butler’s advance up the James River toward Richmond (prompting another nickname for Butler, “Bottled Up”).  On June 15–18, the Union attack led by General Grant and General George Meade on Petersburg, Virginia, was repelled by Beauregard, allowing Confederate reinforcements under General Robert E. Lee to arrive and forcing the Union into a long siege of the city.

On October 17, 1864, Beauregard assumed overall administrative command in the Western Theatre, but without leadership of an army in the field he was not able to prevent Union General William T. Sherman’s capture of Atlanta and March to the Sea.    On February 16, 1865, he returned to South Carolina to serve under General Joseph E. Johnston.  When Johnston surrendered on April 18 at the end of the Civil War, Beauregard was paroled and returned to New Orleans.

After the Civil War, Beauregard was one of the few former Confederate leaders to voice support for the civil rights of the newly freed slaves.  From 1865 to 1870, he served as president of the New Orleans, Jackson & Mississippi Railroad, during which he declined offers to lead the armies of Romania (1866) and Egypt (1869, 1870).  He also served as Louisiana’s adjutant general (head of the state militia) for several years, was appointed a supervisor of the Louisiana State Lottery Company in 1877, and named the New Orleans commissioner of public works in 1888.  He published A Commentary on the Campaign and Battle of Manassas in 1891.  P. G. T. Beauregard died on February 20, 1893, in New Orleans.

Sources consulted:  Arthur W. Bergeron, “Beauregard, Pierre Gustave Toutant,” American National Biography Online, www.anb.org/articles/04/04–01171.html; T. M. S., “Beauregard, Pierre Gustave Toutant,” Dictionary of American Biography, pp. 111–112; Stewart Sifakis, “Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard,” Who Was Who in the Civil War, reprinted on “Home of the American Civil War,” www.civilwarhome.com/beaubio.htm; and Thomas F. Meehan, “Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard,” Catholic Encyclopedia, www.newadvent.org/cathen/02377b.htm

 
 

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