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G. T. Beauregard

the first Brigadier General in the Confederate Army

P. G. T. Beauregard

Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard was the third of seven children born into a prominent Creole family on a sugarcane plantation in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana (near New Orleans), on May 28, 1818. He was educated in a New Orleans boarding school before enrolling, at age eleven, in the Frères Peugnet School in New York City, New York. Against his family's wishes, he entered West Point in 1834, and graduated 2nd in a class of 45 on July 1, 1838. It was while at West Point that he dropped the hyphen from his surname.

Early Military Service

Commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Beauregard's first assignment was as an assistant to his artillery instructor, Robert Anderson. He was subsequently posted to Pensacola, Florida, and then to Barataria Bay on the Louisiana Gulf Coast.

In September 1841, Beauregard married Marie Laure Villeré, from Magnolia plantation in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. The couple had two sons, René and Henri, before she died in 1850, while giving birth to their third child, Laure Villeré.

In August 1844, Beauregard was posted to Fort McHenry, in Baltimore, Maryland, as an engineering officer. It was at this time that he began signing his name as "G. T. Beauregard." He was transferred to Louisiana in February 1845, and was still stationed there when the Mexican-American War broke out.

Mexican-American War

In November 1846, Beauregard was ordered to ordered to Tampico, Mexico, to assume charge of building supply-line fortifications. His actions at Pedregal, Contreras, and Churubusco earned him a brevet promotion to Captain in August 1847, and he also distinguished himself during the successful storming of Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City, during which he was wounded. The latter actions earned him a brevet promotion to Major.


After the war ended, Beauregard returned to Louisiana and was placed in charge of the Mississippi and Lake Defenses of Louisiana, a position he held until 1860. In 1852, he accepted an appointment as superintending engineer of the New Orleans Custom House, and was promoted to Captain.

In 1858, Beauregard ran unsuccessfully as a states' rights Democratic candidate for Mayor of Louisiana.

In 1860, Beauregard married Caroline Deslonde, sister-in-law of U. S. senator John Slidell. She died in New Orleans in 1864. The couple had no children.

Beauregard was appointed Commandant of West Point in 1860, and officially assumed the post on January 23, 1861. He had already, however, made it clear that he would resign from the U. S. Army if Louisiana seceded from the Union, and he did so on February 20.

Civil War

Beauregard returned to Louisiana expecting to be named commander of the state army, but when that assignment went to Braxton Bragg he instead enlisted as a Private in the Orleans Guards, a battalion of Creole aristocrats. In February, he was summoned to Montgomery, Alabama, to meet with Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who appointed him a Brigadier General (the first in the Confederate Army) and assigned him command of Charleston, South Carolina. He arrived at his post on March 6, 1861.

On April 12, 1861, General Beauregard ordered the bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, after his former artillery instructor, Major Robert Anderson, refused to meet the conditions for a Union surrender. The Union garrison was forced to evacuate on April 14, however, when it ran out of food and ammunition.

Beauregard was next given command of the Alexandria Line (later called the Army of the Potomac), and joined his troops near Manassas Junction, Virginia, on June 2, 1861, and began working on on plans to drive back the Union forces behind Bull Run and then to attack Washington, D. C. Concerned about a possible Union attack, he called for reinforcements from Brigadier General Joseph E. Johnston, whose army was in the Shenandoah Valley. On the morning of July 21, Beauregard was anticipating a Union assault on his center right when he heard artillery fire on his left, where Union General Irvin McDowell (a West Point classmate) had crossed the Stone Bridge and attacked Matthews Hill. Beauregard's troops were initially driven back, but by the afternoon they had reformed their lines. After Johnston arrived by rail with reinforcements, the Confederates drove the Federals back across the Stone Bridge.

On August 31, 1861, both Beauregard and Johnston were promoted to full General, but Johnston was given command of the now-combined armies. Although the two men were friends, Beauregard felt slighted, and by the fall he was engaged in verbal disputes with both Confederate Cabinet member Judah P. Benjamin and President Davis. Partly as a result, he was sent in Januaty 1862 to serve in the Army of the Mississippi as second in command under General Albert Sidney Johnston.

Beauregard supported Johnston's plans to reinforce Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River, but Union General Ulysses S. Grant was able to take both forts in February, forcing the Confederates to withdraw to Corinth, Mississippi. At the Battle of Shiloh on April 6, 1862, Johnston was killed while attacking Grant at Pittsburg Landing, Tennesee. Beauregard took full command of the army, which by dusk had driven Grant's men to the Tennesse River, at which time he suspended his attack and declared victory. His decision to allow his exhausted men to regroup rather than continue the battle across broken ground in the dark allowed Grant to get reinforcements by riverboat, and to launch a counterattack the next morning. Beauregard's army was forced to retreat back to Corinth, where an outbreak of typhoid fever and dysentery ultimately claimed almost as many lives as the battle had.

On May 29, 1862, Beauregard was able to evacuate his army from Corinth and get to Tupelo, Mississippi, a move that infuriated President Davis. On June 14, he obtained a certificate of disability for a recurring throat problem. And then, without Davis's approval, he left his army under the command of General Braxton Bragg and repaired to Alabama for the summer to recuperate. Davis took advantage of Beauregard's defiance to relieve him of command of the Army of the Mississippi and transfer him to command of the Department of South Carolina and Georgia, headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina. He arrived in Charleston on September 15, and spent the next year and a half implementing many innovative defensive strategies -- including the use of mines and submarines -- and successfully defending the city against repeated attacks by the Union Navy. His only failure during that period came in the summer of 1863, when heavy bombardment from Union ironclads forced him to evacuate Battery Wagner and Morris Island.

On April 18, 1864, Beauregard was assigned command of the Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia, with the task of guarding Richmond, Virginia's, southern approaches. On May 6, Union General Benjamin F. Butler seized City Point at the mouth of the Appomattox River and began pushing toward Richmond and Petersburg. Although his forces were thin, Beauregard was able to block Butler's advance, and by May 17 had the Union Army of the James hemmed in at Bermuda Hundred on the James River. By June 12, Grant's Army of the Potomac had reached Butler, and the Battle for Petersburg began on June 15. Despite being greatly outnumbered, Beauregard's men successfully defended the city, and by June 18 Grant had been forced into seige positions. On August 18, at the Battle of Weldon Railroad, Union troops were able to cut a critical rail line into the city. Beauregard's counterattack captured 2,700 Union soldiers, but he was unable to restore the important supply link. Petersburg continued to hold out against the Union siege, however.

On October 2, 1864, Beauregard was given the command of the Department of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, which included General John Bell Hood’s Army of the Tennessee. Hood and Beauregard were unable to coordinate their actions, however, and they were unsuccessful in halting Union General William T. Sherman’s “March to the Sea” during the Savannah Campaign in November and December. On February 22, 1865, Beauregard was replaced in his command by General Joseph E. Johnston, and the two were forced to surrender to Sherman Durham, North Carolina, on April 26.


At the end of the war, Beauregard returned to New Orleans, where he served as president of the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad Company, as well as of the Jackson Rail Line.

In 1872, Beauregard helped found the Reform Party in Louisiana, a coalition of moderate Democrats who supported civil rights, including suffrage, for African Americans. In 1873, he helped form the Unification Party, which sought to lower taxes with the support of the black vote. Neither party was able to garner sufficient public support, and both collapsed. He served as Commissioner of the New Orleans Lottery from 1877 to 1893, was appointed Louisiana's Adjutant General in 1879, and was elected New Orleans' Commissioner of Public Works in 1888.

Beauregard also continued his feud with Jefferson Davis, through published writings. One of those writings was his memoir, The Military Operations of General Beauregard, which was published in two volumes in 1884. In 1889, Beauregard was asked to ride in a carriage leading the procession at Davis's funeral; he refused.

Beauregard remained popular in New Orleans, and was unusually wealthy among former Confederate generals. He died on February 20, 1893, after a series of illnesses, and was given a state funeral. He was buried in the tomb of the Army of Tennessee at Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans.

Encyclopedia Virginia

New York City
Robert Anderson
Mexican-American War
Civil War
Jefferson Davis
Charleston, South Carolina
Ulysses S. Grant
William T. Sherman

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The Robinson Library >> American History >> United States: General History and Description >> Civil War Period, 1861-1865 >> Biography, A-Z

This page was last updated on February 22, 2018.