P.G.T. Beauregard: Early Life and Military Service
Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard—more commonly known as P.G.T or G.T. Beauregard—was born on May 28, 1818, into a prominent Creole family in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. He was raised on a sugarcane plantation outside of New Orleans and in his youth attended school in New York City. In 1834 Beauregard was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point. He was a popular cadet, earning several nicknames including “Little Napoleon” and “Little Creole” before finishing second in his class upon graduation in 1838. In 1841 he married Marie Antoinette Laure Villeré, the daughter of a Louisiana sugarcane planter. The two would have three children before her death in 1850. Ten years later Beauregard married his second wife, Caroline Deslonde, but she would die in New Orleans in 1864 following a long illness.
Beauregard served as an engineer during the Mexican-American War (1846-48) and was wounded during the Battle of Chapultepec in 1847. After the war he worked as a military engineer and assisted in improving the defenses of several forts in the Deep South. During this time Beauregard also mounted a failed bid to be mayor of New Orleans in 1858. In January 1861 Beauregard secured an appointment as superintendent of West Point but was dismissed from the job after only a few days, most likely because of his perceived sympathy for the Southern cause. Beauregard then resigned from the U.S. military in February 1861 after his home state of Louisiana seceded from the Union.
P.G.T. Beauregard: Civil War Service
Beauregard entered the Civil War as the Confederacy’s first brigadier general and was placed in command of the defenses of Charleston, South Carolina. In this role he ordered the first shots of the Civil War during the bombardment of Fort Sumter (April 12-14, 1861). After his success in taking Fort Sumter, Beauregard served as second-in-command to General Joseph E. Johnston during the Confederate victory at the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861. He was then promoted to full general—a rank achieved by only seven other Confederate officers during the Civil War. During this time Beauregard began the first of many quarrels with the Confederate administration over field tactics, particularly over what he saw as Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ failure to adequately pursue the routed Union Army after the First Battle of Bull Run.
Beauregard next served in the war’s Western Theater under General Albert Sidney Johnston. At the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862, Beauregard assumed command of Confederate forces after Johnston was killed. Early Confederate attacks had placed Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s forces on their heels, but Beauregard made the controversial decision to delay a second offensive until the following day. This allowed the Union Army to gain reinforcements and then launch a counterattack that drove the Confederates from the field. The battle resulted in over 23,000 total casualties, and Beauregard’s army was pursued to Corinth, Mississippi, where a month-long siege ensued. Faced with a Union force twice the size of his own, Beauregard elected to withdraw to Tupelo, Mississippi, in May 1862.
Beauregard’s decision to abandon Corinth—a vital rail center—further contributed to his poor relationship with Jefferson Davis, and he was subsequently relieved from duty while on sick leave and replaced by General Braxton Bragg. Beauregard was then placed in command of the coastal defenses of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, and supervised the defense of Charleston throughout 1863 and early 1864. During this time Beauregard implemented many innovative defensive strategies—including the use of mines and submarines—and managed to hold Charleston against repeated attacks by Union navy vessels and ironclads.
In April 1864 Beauregard was transferred again and tasked with leading the Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia. In this capacity he was successful in withstanding an offensive by a much larger Union force during the Second Battle of Petersburg in June 1864. His actions forced the Union Army into what would become a 10-month siege of the city and halted an offensive that would have likely resulted in the capture of the Confederate capital of Richmond.
In October 1864 Beauregard was given a departmental command that encompassed several states in the Deep South and included jurisdiction over General John Bell Hood’s Army of the Tennessee. Beauregard was limited to an advisory role and was ultimately unsuccessful in halting Union General William T. Sherman’s famous “March to the Sea” during the Savannah Campaign in November and December 1864. Beauregard was eventually replaced in his command by General Joseph E. Johnston, and the two later surrendered to Sherman in North Carolina in April 1865.
P.G.T. Beauregard: Later Life
After the Civil War Beauregard went on to a number of civilian jobs, serving as superintendent of the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad and as president of the New Orleans and Carrollton Street Railway. Beginning in 1877 he worked as a supervisor of the Louisiana Lottery along with fellow former Confederate General Jubal Early. Beauregard would later serve as the adjutant general of the Louisiana state militia starting in 1879. In his later years Beauregard continued to engage in a long-running feud with Jefferson Davis through his published writings, which included a personal account of the First Battle of Bull Run. He died in 1893 at the age of 74.