G. T. Beauregard (1818–1893)


G. T. Beauregard (also known as Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard) was a Confederate general during the American Civil War (1861–1865) and, after helping engineer victory at the First Battle of Manassas on July 21, 1861, one of the Confederacy’s first war heroes. Raised in an aristocratic French home in New Orleans, Louisiana, Beauregard graduated from West Point and served in the Mexican War (1846–1848) before becoming the Confederacy’s first brigadier general and later a full general. He commanded Confederate and South Carolina troops at Charleston Harbor in April 1861, forcing the surrender of Fort Sumter, and, with Joseph E. Johnston, routed Irvin McDowell at Manassas in July. Beauregard’s Napoleonic pretensions did not suit the temperament of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, however, and the two quarreled for much of the war and postwar. Beauregard fought well at the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862, but left his army without leave for the summer and was transferred east. He was critical in the defense of Petersburg in 1864, but ended the war largely out of favor. After the war, he engaged in politics that were sympathetic to the civil rights of African Americans, criticized Davis and Johnston in a two-volume, ghostwritten memoir, and accumulated wealth that was unusual for a former Confederate commander. Beauregard died in New Orleans in 1893.

Early Years

Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard was born on May 28, 1818, at Contreras, his family’s sugarcane plantation outside of New Orleans in the French Creole stronghold of St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. He was the third of seven children born to Jacques Toutant-Beauregard and Helene Judith de Reggio Toutant-Beauregard.

Raised in a French-speaking aristocracy that prized European manners and held American culture in contempt, Beauregard was educated in a New Orleans boarding school before enrolling, at age eleven, in the Frères Peugnet School in New York City. The school’s founders, brothers Louis and Hyacinthe Peugnet, had served as officers under Napoléon Bonaparte and helped to inspire Beauregard’s lifelong interest in the statesman-general. Against his family’s wishes—they worried he was overassimilating into American culture—Beauregard sought appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, enrolling in March 1834 as Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard. (His hyphenless last name suggested further Americanizing.) In 1838, he finished second of forty-five in a class that included future Confederate general Edward “Allegheny” Johnson and future Union general Irvin McDowell.

G. T. Beauregard's Revolver

Immediately after graduation, Beauregard served as an assistant to artillery instructor Robert Anderson and the two developed a close relationship. In September 1841 Beauregard married Marie Laure Villeré from Magnolia plantation in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. The couple had two sons, René and Henri. While posted to Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, Beauregard became a flamboyant—some thought arrogant—member of society and began signing his name “G. T. Beauregard,” dropping the “Pierre.”

During the Mexican War, he served as one of nine engineering staff officers, including George B. McClellan and Robert E. Lee, under Winfield Scott. After earning the brevet, or honorary rank, of captain, he participated in the La Piedad council of war in September 1847 that helped to plan the Battle of Chapultepec. He earned the rank of brevet major after the victory, despite feeling that Scott did not sufficiently credit him for his performance. After the war, Beauregard took charge of the Mississippi and Lake Defenses of Louisiana in 1848 and held that position until 1860. In 1858, he ran unsuccessfully as a states’-rights Democratic candidate for mayor of New Orleans.

Marie Laure had died in 1850 while giving birth to their third child, Laure Villeré, and in 1860 Beauregard married Caroline Deslonde, a Creole aristocrat and sister-in-law of U.S. senator John Slidell. They had no children, and Deslonde died in New Orleans in 1864.

Fort Sumter to First Manassas

Beauregard's March

Using his connection to Slidell, Beauregard was named superintendant of West Point, a position he assumed on January 23, 1861, and held for five days. On January 26 Louisiana seceded from the Union and Beauregard was forced to relinquish the post. After returning to New Orleans, he resigned from the U.S. Army, expecting to be named commander of the state army, an assignment that went to Braxton Bragg. Beauregard instead enlisted as a private in the Orleans Guards, a battalion of Creole aristocrats, but soon after was commissioned as the first Confederate brigadier general. He was given command of the Confederate and South Carolina forces in Charleston that were then confronting the Union garrison at Fort Sumter.

Beauregard arrived in Charleston on March 6, 1861, and his haughty, reserved demeanor was well received by Charleston society. He surrounded himself with high-ranking aides and volunteers, while a Spanish valet attended his person. Although Beauregard arrived with jet-black hair, within a year it had turned white. His friends attributed the change to worry, but others blamed the U.S. blockade, which prevented the importation of hair dye.

All points around Charleston Harbor were held by the Confederates except for Fort Sumter. Beauregard’s mission was to prevent relief to the fort from U.S. ships, and if necessary, to batter it into submission. U.S. general-in-chief Winfield Scott had given Beauregard’s old friend, Major Robert Anderson, command of Sumter in part because he was a Kentucky-born slave owner whose background might ameliorate the situation. On April 11, 1861, Beauregard issued a series of surrender terms to Anderson, whose last reply—that he would evacuate the garrison by April 15 and would not fire on the Confederates unless he were resupplied or otherwise instructed—was taken as a refusal. The first shot on the fort was ordered at four thirty on the morning of April 12. After 35 hours of bombardment, Anderson surrendered on the evening of April 13 and Beauregard was instantly declared a hero of the Confederacy.

Summoned to Richmond on May 30, 1861, Beauregard arrived to a large fanfare. Until this time he and the new Confederate president and former U.S. secretary of war Jefferson Davis had enjoyed a distant yet courteous relationship. Under the strain of a new war, however, they clashed. Davis was a renowned micromanager who hated to be contradicted. Beauregard fashioned himself Napoléon reborn, overlooking orders from above while designing grand strategies that defied the reality of Confederate resources.

Transporting Confederate Troops

Given command of the Alexandria Line, later called the Army of the Potomac, Beauregard joined his troops near Manassas Junction, Virginia, on June 2, 1861. There he began work on plans to drive back the Union forces behind Bull Run and then to attack Washington, D.C. Worried about a Union attack, he called for reinforcements from Joseph E. Johnston, whose Confederate army was in the Shenandoah Valley. On the morning of July 21, 1861, Beauregard was anticipating battle on his center right when he heard the unexpected roar of artillery on his left. Union general Irvin McDowell, Beauregard’s old West Point classmate, had crossed the Stone Bridge and attacked Matthews Hill. The Confederates were driven back to Henry House Hill, but by the afternoon had reformed their lines. After Johnston arrived by rail with reinforcements from the Valley, Confederates shattered the Union right and shoved it back across the Stone Bridge, pulling victory from disaster.

At the end of August both Beauregard and Johnston were promoted to full general, but Johnston took command of the now-combined armies. The two men had a good relationship but Beauregard again felt slighted. By the fall, Beauregard was engaged in verbal disputes with both Confederate cabinet member Judah P. Benjamin and President Davis. Partly as a result, he was sent west in January 1862 to serve in the Army of the Mississippi as second in command under Albert Sidney Johnston.

In the West

Grant's Counterattack at Pittsburg Landing

Beauregard was frustrated by the weakness of the Confederates in the Western Theater and supported Johnston’s plans to reinforce Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River. When Union general Ulysses S. Grant took both forts in February 1862, the Confederates withdrew to Corinth, Mississippi. At the Battle of Shiloh on April 6, 1862, Johnston attacked Grant at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, planning to push the Union army away from the Tennessee River. Johnston was killed during the afternoon, and although the Confederates drove Grant’s men to the river, Beauregard suspended the action at dusk and declared victory. Later critics bemoaned the lost opportunity, overlooking the problems of exhausted men fighting across broken ground in the dark. Grant, reinforced by riverboat that night, counterattacked at dawn on April 7 and forced Beauregard back to Corinth. There, an outbreak of typhoid fever and dysentery claimed almost as many lives as Shiloh had.

On May 29, Beauregard skillfully evacuated the army to Tupelo, but his failure to defend Corinth enraged Jefferson Davis. On June 14, Beauregard obtained a certificate of disability for a recurring throat problem. And then, without Davis’s approval, and leaving his army under the command of Braxton Bragg, he repaired to Alabama for the summer to recuperate. Davis gave the army to Bragg and, under political pressure from Beauregard’s allies not to cashier him from the army altogether, transferred Beauregard to the Department of South Carolina and Georgia. Arriving on September 15, 1862, he helped build up the harbor’s defenses and drove off Union attacks, including the famous storming of Fort Wagner by the 54th Massachusetts Infantry on July 18, 1863.

Petersburg to Surrender

General Beauregard Doll

On April 18, 1864, Beauregard was assigned command of the Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia, with the task of guarding Richmond’s southern approaches. As Grant, the new Union general-in-chief, prepared to attack Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia from the north, he sent Union general Benjamin F. Butler up the James River to approach Richmond from the opposite direction. On May 6, Butler seized City Point at the mouth of the Appomattox River and pushed toward Richmond and Petersburg. Shuffling his thin force, Beauregard blocked Butler, and by May 17 had the Union Army of the James hemmed in at Bermuda Hundred on the James River. On June 9, Beauregard oversaw a successful defense of Petersburg at the Battle of Old Men and Young Boys, also known as the First Battle of Petersburg.

By June 12, Grant and the Army of the Potomac, having battled Lee at the Wilderness, at Spotsylvania Court House, along the North Anna River, and at Cold Harbor, crossed the James and sent troops to Butler for a June 15 attack on Petersburg. The city held, however, as Beauregard staged one of the most remarkable defenses of the war. He virtually abandoned his outer lines and so heavily manned the city that Grant was forced to settle in for a long siege. Both sides dug in, but it was the rail lines—critical to Lee for supplying and quickly moving his troops—that mattered. On August 18, at the Battle of Weldon Railroad, Union troops cut the critical line. Beauregard’s counterattack captured 2,700 Union soldiers, but he was unable to restore the important artery.

Beauregard Relieved of Command

In September 1864 Lee transferred Beauregard to the port of Wilmington, North Carolina, and shortly thereafter, Union forces under William T. Sherman took Atlanta, Georgia. Retaining Confederate general John Bell Hood as his field commander, President Davis gave Beauregard command of the Division of the West—all of the Confederate armies in the Western Theater. Hood and Beauregard were unable to coordinate their actions, however, and on February 22, 1865, Davis replaced Beauregard with Joseph Johnston. After Grant finally broke through and Petersburg and Richmond fell, Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House on April 9. Beauregard and Johnston did the same near Durham, North Carolina, on April 26.

Later Years

After the war, Beauregard served as president of the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad Company, as well as of the Jackson Rail Line. He was offered the command of several foreign armies, including the armies of Romania and Egypt, but was unable to negotiate the terms to his satisfaction. In 1872 he 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. The party’s advisory committee included an equal number of white and Black members, the white contingent consisting of influential businessmen and lawyers, the Black contingent of Creole men who had been free before the war. Their platform included an end to employment discrimination and segregation, but the party lacked popular support and collapsed. Beauregard served as commissioner of the New Orleans Lottery (1877–1893) and in 1879 was appointed Louisiana’s adjutant general. In 1888 he was elected New Orleans’s commissioner of public works.

Army of Tennessee Memorial

In the meantime, Beauregard battled his old military comrades over their conduct of the war. Memoirs by Joseph Johnston; William Preston Johnston, the son of Albert Sidney Johnston; and Jefferson Davis attacked his performance, but Davis’s 1881 memoir particularly upset Beauregard. “What a fall from the honored Presidency of the late glorious Confederacy to being a defamer of his former co-associates!” Beauregard wrote a friend. “Pooh! he stinks in my nostrils.” To exact revenge, Beauregard hired a Creole friend named Alfred Roman to ghostwrite his own memoir, The Military Operations of General Beauregard, published in two volumes in 1884. Critics praised the historical value of the book but found Beauregard’s pugilistic tone distracting. In 1889, Beauregard was asked to ride in a carriage leading the procession at Davis’s funeral; he refused, suggesting it would be hypocritical to do otherwise.

Beauregard remained popular in New Orleans, and was unusually wealthy among former Confederate generals, a fact which sometimes uncomfortably set him apart. 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.

May 28, 1818
Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard is born at Contreras plantation, St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana.
March 1834
Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard is admitted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. He Americanizes his last name by removing the hyphen.
July 1, 1838
Pierre G. T. Beauregard graduates from West Point ranked second in a class of forty-five, and is commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. His first assignment is to serve as an assistant to his artillery instructor, Robert Anderson.
October 1839
Pierre G. T. Beauregard is posted to Pensacola, Florida, and then to Barataria Bay on the Louisiana Gulf Coast.
September 1841
Pierre G. T. Beauregard marries Marie Laure Villeré of Magnolia plantation, sister of Charles Villeré, later a Confederate congressman. They have two sons, René and Henri.
August 1844
Pierre G. T. Beauregard is posted to Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, as an engineering officer. His flamboyant personality makes a big splash in Baltimore society, and he establishes a reputation as a dashing, elegant, and popular officer. In a further attempt at assimilation, he drops the name "Pierre" and signs himself "G. T. Beauregard."
February 1845
G. T. Beauregard is posted to Louisiana. He patents a furnace to boil sugar. He is also arrested for dueling.
November 1846
At the start of the Mexican War, G. T. Beauregard is ordered to Tampico, Mexico, to assume charge of building supply-line fortifications.
August 1847
G. T. Beauregard is awarded a field brevet of captain for action at Pedregal, Contreras, and Churubusco during the Mexican War.
September 12, 1847
G. T. Beauregard distinguishes himself during the successful storming of Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City during the Mexican War. He will be awarded the field brevet of major.
G. T. Beauregard returns to Louisiana and is placed in charge of the Mississippi and Lake Defenses of Louisiana.
G. T. Beauregard's wife Marie Laure dies giving birth to their daughter, Laure Villeré Beauregard.
G. T. Beauregard accepts an appointment as superintending engineer of the New Orleans Custom House. He is promoted to captain.
G. T. Beauregard runs for mayor of New Orleans as a states'-rights Democrat but fails to win election.
G. T. Beauregard marries Caroline Deslonde, sister-in-law of U.S. senator John Slidell.
January 23, 1861
G. T. Beauregard is appointed superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.
January 28, 1861
Two days after his native Louisiana secedes from the Union, G. T. Beauregard is forced to resign as superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. He had held the position just five days.
February 1861
G. T. Beauregard is summoned to Montgomery, Alabama, to meet with Confederate president Jefferson Davis, who appoints him a brigadier general and assigns him command of Charleston, South Carolina.
February 20, 1861
G. T. Beauregard returns to New Orleans, and resigns his U.S. Army commission. He enlists as a private in the Orleans Guards.
April 12, 1861
G. T. Beauregard orders the bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, after his former West Point instructor Robert Anderson refuses to meet the conditions for a Union surrender. The Union garrison is evacuated the next day.
May 28, 1861
Overriding a previous order sending him to Corinth, Mississippi, G. T. Beauregard is ordered to Richmond.
June 2, 1861
G. T. Beauregard arrives near Manassas Junction, as commander of the Alexandria Line. He urges citizens there to fight against the "Yankee war cry of Beauty and Booty," and encourages them to expel abolitionists from Virginia.
July 21, 1861
At the First Battle of Manassas, G. T. Beauregard acts as second in command to Joseph E. Johnston as they rout Union forces under Irvin McDowell.
August 31, 1861
G. T. Beauregard is promoted to the rank of full general.
January 1862
After months of public dispute with Confederate cabinet member Judah P. Benjamin over strategy after the Union rout at the First Battle of Manassas, G. T. Beauregard is ordered to the Western Theater to act as second in command to Albert Sidney Johnston.
April 6, 1862
G. T. Beauregard assumes command of the Army of the Mississippi after Albert Sidney Johnston is killed at the Battle of Shiloh.
June 9, 1862
G. T. Beauregard and his Confederate Army of the Mississippi withdraw from Corinth, Mississippi, and arrive in Tupelo, a move that infuriates Confederate president Jefferson Davis.
June 14, 1862
G. T. Beauregard obtains a certificate of disability for a recurring throat problem and, without approval, leaves command of the Army of the Mississippi to Braxton Bragg and repairs to Alabama for the summer to recuperate.
August 29, 1862
G. T. Beauregard is relieved of command of the Army of the Mississippi and ordered to Charleston, South Carolina, to command the Department of South Carolina and Georgia.
September 15, 1862
G. T. Beauregard arrives in Charleston, South Carolina, and takes command of the city's defense.
G. T. Beauregard commands the defense of Charleston, South Carolina, against Union ironclad attacks, but after heavy bombardment late in the summer orders the evacuation of Battery Wagner and Morris Island.
March 2, 1864
G. T. Beauregard's wife Caroline Deslonde dies in Union-occupied New Orleans, Louisiana.
April 18, 1864
G. T. Beauregard takes command of the Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia.
June 15—18, 1864
In the opening battle for the city of Petersburg, G. T. Beauregard's greatly outnumbered Confederates hold off a Union attack, allowing Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia time to concentrate south of Richmond.
October 2, 1864
G. T. Beauregard is given the command of the Department of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.
April 26, 1865
Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston surrenders his army to William T. Sherman, receiving the same terms afforded Robert E. Lee at Appomattox.
June 1865
At the end of the Civil War, G. T. Beauregard returns to his native New Orleans, Louisiana, and helps restore the Jackson Rail Line.
April 1866
G. T. Beauregard reorganizes and is made president of the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad Company.
G. T. Beauregard serves as commissioner of the New Orleans Lottery.
G. T. Beauregard is appointed Louisiana's adjutant general.
G. T. Beauregard's memoirs, The Military Operations of General Beauregard, are published in two volumes under the name of ghostwriter Alfred Roman. Beauregard is said to have written the majority of the work.
G. T. Beauregard is elected commissioner of public works in New Orleans, Louisiana.
February 20, 1893
G. T. Beauregard suddenly dies in New Orleans, Louisiana, after a series of illnesses from which he had been expected to recover.
  • Basso, Hamilton. Beauregard: The Great Creole. New York and London: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1933.
  • Roman, Alfred. The Military Operations of General Beauregard in the War Between the States, 1861–1865, Volumes I and II. New York: Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square, 1884.
  • Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1999.
  • Williams, T. Harry. Beauregard: Napoleon in Gray. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1955.
  • Williams, T. Harry. With Beauregard in Mexico: The Mexican War Reminiscences of P. G. T. Beauregard. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1956.
APA Citation:
Wellford, Ann. G. T. Beauregard (1818–1893). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/beauregard-g-t-1818-1893.
MLA Citation:
Wellford, Ann. "G. T. Beauregard (1818–1893)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 17 May. 2024
Last updated: 2023, April 12
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