Civil War Confederate General. Called the "Little Creole" and the "Little Napoleon", he was the fifth most senior Confederate officer, holding a variety of commands, though his opportunities were to be limited by ongoing public conflicts with President Jefferson Davis. Born Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard to a well-off French Creole family, he was educated in private schools and did not learn English until sent to New York City for further instruction at age 12. Appointed to West Point, he dropped the hyphen from his last name and thereafter styled himself "G.T. Beauregard". Graduating second in the class of 1838, he was assigned to the Corps of Engineers and found himself in the routine jobs of the time. During the Mexican War he was twice wounded and brevetted for gallantry and assisted, along with future Union commander George McClellan, then- Brevet Major Robert E. Lee on the final drive into Mexico City. After the conflict he was placed in charge of defense of the Mississippi River and lakes within Louisiana and soon found that the task in reality entailed fort building and river dredging along the entire Gulf Coast. Beauregard did an effective job, even patenting a self-acting bar excavator to aid ships in crossing sand bars, and also in 1853 openly campaigned in behalf of the presidential candidacy of Franklin Pierce with whom he had served in Mexico. (Such political activity by an active Army officer was not illegal at the time). Placed in charge of the New Orleans Customs House as a reward, he ran it from 1853 until 1860 making needed structural repairs while seeing the facility, and probably himself, turn a profit. Running for Mayor of New Orleans in 1858 as both the Democrat and Whig candidate, he narrowly lost, then was appointed Superintendent of West Point in January of 1861 where he lasted, owing to his open Southern sympathies, a week, though two years later, in the midst of the Civil War, he was still trying to collect a travel claim from the US government. Resigning his commission, he was appointed Brigadier General in the Confederate Army on March 1, 1861 and placed in command of Charleston Harbor where he supervised the April 12 shelling of Fort Sumter. In July of 1861 Beauregard commanded a corps at First Manassas under General Joe Johnston and was promoted to four star rank effective July 21st of that year; in the battle's aftermath he had his first open dust-up with Jefferson Davis as he and Johnston both stated that, provided with sufficient men and supplies, they could have taken Washington, DC and ended the war. Around that same time Beauregard designed the famous square Confederate Battle Flag as similarity of the Stars-and-Bars to the US Flag caused confusion on the field. He was given one of the four "prototypes" made by the Cary sisters from silk dresses and undergarments; today, Beauregard's flag is preserved in New Orleans along with the Washington Artillery's, while those presented to Joe Johnston and Earl van Dorn are in the collection of Richmond's Museum of the Confederacy. Running into problems with Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin, he was exiled to the West and took command of the Army of Tennessee when General Albert Sidney Johnston was killed on April 6, 1862, the first day of the Battle of Shiloh; criticized by some for not pressing the opening day's advantage, he withdrew to Corinth; blamed for the subsequent loss of Corinth, and drawing fire over unauthorized sick leave for a chronic throat infection, he was relieved by General Braxton Bragg and sent back to Charleston. There he was placed in charge of defending the southeastern coast, John Pemberton having proven incompetent as he later did at Vicksburg. Using innovative strategies such as submarines and underwater torpedoes (mines) he successfully defended Fort Sumter and prevented the Union from ever taking the city by sea. Sent north in April 1864 he was of major assistance to General Lee, stopping "Beast" Butler at Bermuda Hundred and several times preventing the capture of Petersburg. Despite his valuable service Beauregard again alienated his superiors with grandiose but impractical schemes for winning the war (or, alternatively, setting up a peace conference of state governors) and with the fall of Atlanta he was once more exiled to the West. Exercising overall authority during General Hood's Tennessee Campaign, he took no direct part in the operation. After the Battle of Nashville and the subsequent retreat to Alabama, he joined what little was left of the Army of Tennessee, serving the final months of the war under Joe Johnston. Taking part in the final conflicts he surrendered, along with Johnston, to General Sherman at Durham on April 26, 1865 and after receiving his parole on May 2nd at Greensboro returned home to rebuild his fortune. Briefly considering a command in the Brazilian Army, he also turned down similar offers from Romania and Egypt. Beauregard served as president of the New Orleans, Jackson, and Great Northern Railroad and later held the same position with the New Orleans and Carrolton Street Railway where he invented a cable car drive system similar to that now used in San Francisco. In 1877 he was recruited to be the figurehead in charge of the Louisiana Lottery, essentially a high paid shill. Asked to bring in another Confederate General, he was turned down by John Bell Hood and received an affirmative reply from Wade Hampton, who had to back out when he was elected Governor of South Carolina, before finally signing up Jubal Early. The Lottery was not "crooked" in the sense of being rigged for a given individual to win, and it did promptly pay all prizes and contribute generously to local charities, but it also made handsome profits for the behind the scenes operators who retained a portion of the tickets for themselves while using a large percentage of the generated revenues for "operating expenses". Beauregard and Early were required to participate in the periodic drawings which were run with a comic-opera formality, and though they drew some censure for their actions, they also made a great deal of money. When General Hood and his wife Anna died of Yellow Fever in August 1879 Beauregard paid for their burial and took steps to insure that their ten orphans would be provided for. Never losing interest in the military, Beauregard wrote on the need for a battlefield night vision system as early as 1866, and from 1879 until 1888 served as Adjutant General of Louisiana. In 1888 he was elected New Orleans' Commissioner of Public Works and in 1889 declined the opportunity to march at the head of Jefferson Davis' funeral procession, stating that to do so would make him a hypocrite. General P.G.T. Beauregard remains a controversial man, either a genius ahead of his time, an insufferably arrogant unrealistic dreamer, or even the Civil War's "comic relief"; never called "stupid" or "yellow" even by his worst enemies, he was probably a combination of all of those qualities. An aristocrat of the Old South, he broke ground into the new by supporting voting rights and education for blacks at a time when such ideas were unpopular; taking heat as one of the few Confederates to become rich after the war, he used his money to take care of his grandchildren, and if he was corrupt he was far from the first or last Louisiana political figure to be so. At his death from chronic heart disease he was buried in the Army of Tennessee section at Metairie Cemetery.
Bio by: Bob Hufford