P. G. T. Beauregard

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P. G. T. Beauregard : biography

May 28, 1818 – February 20, 1893

Beauregard’s residence in New Orleans is now called the Beauregard-Keyes House, and is operated as a historic house museum.

An undergraduate dormitory at Louisiana State University is named in honor of Beauregard.

Career in U.S. Army

During the Mexican-American War, Beauregard served as an engineer under General Winfield Scott. He was appointed brevet captain for the battles of Contreras and Churubusco and major for Chapultepec, where he was wounded in the shoulder and thigh. He was noted for his eloquent performance in a meeting with Scott in which he swayed the opinions of the general officers assembled to change their planned tactics for attacking the fortress of Chapultepec. He was one of the first officers to enter Mexico City. Beauregard considered his contributions in dangerous reconnaissance missions and devising strategy for his superiors to be more significant than those of his engineer colleague, Captain Robert E. Lee, so he was disappointed when Lee and other officers received more brevets than he did.Williams, pp. 13–33; Woodworth, p. 73.

Beauregard returned from Mexico in 1848. For the next 12 years, he was in charge of what the Engineer Department called "the Mississippi and Lake defenses in Louisiana." Much of his engineering work was done elsewhere, repairing old forts and building new ones on the Florida coast and in Mobile, Alabama. He also improved the defenses of Forts St. Philip and Jackson on the Mississippi River below New Orleans. He worked on a board of Army and Navy engineers to improve the navigation of the shipping channels at the mouth of the Mississippi. He created and patented an invention he called a "self-acting bar excavator" to be used by ships in crossing bars of sand and clay. While still in the Army, he actively campaigned for the election of Franklin Pierce, the Democratic presidential candidate in 1852, and a former general in the Mexican War who had been impressed by Beauregard’s performance at Mexico City. Pierce appointed Beauregard as superintending engineer of the New Orleans Federal customs house, a huge granite building that had been built in 1848. As it was sinking unevenly in the moist soil of Louisiana, Beauregard had to develop a renovation program. He served in this position from 1853 to 1860 and was able to stabilize the structure successfully.Williams, pp. 34–41.

During his service in New Orleans, Beauregard became dissatisfied as a peacetime officer. He informed the U.S. Army Engineer Department late in 1856 that he was going to join the filibuster with William Walker, who had seized control of Nicaragua; he had offered Beauregard the rank of second-in-command of his army. Senior officers, including general-in-chief Winfield Scott, convinced Beauregard to stay in the US. He briefly entered politics as a reform candidate for mayor of New Orleans in 1858, where he was promoted by both the Whig and Democratic parties to challenge the Know Nothing party candidate. Beauregard was narrowly defeated.Williams, pp. 42–44; Hattaway & Taylor, p. 21.

Employing the political influence of his brother-in-law, John Slidell, Beauregard obtained an appointment as superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy on January 23, 1861. His orders were revoked and he relinquished the office after only five days when Louisiana seceded from the Union. He protested to the War Department that they had cast "improper reflection upon [his] reputation or position in the Corps of Engineers" by forcing him out as a Southern officer before any hostilities began.Williams, pp. 45–47; Hattaway & Taylor, p. 21; Woodworth, pp. 74–75.

Postbellum life

After the war, Beauregard was reluctant to seek amnesty as a former Confederate officer by publicly swearing an oath of loyalty, but both Lee and Johnston counseled him to do so, which he did before the mayor of New Orleans on September 16, 1865. He was one of many Confederate officers issued a mass pardon by Pres. Andrew Johnson on July 4, 1868. His final privilege as an American citizen, the right to run for public office, was restored when he petitioned the Congress for relief and the bill on his behalf was signed by Pres. Grant on July 24, 1876.Williams, pp. 257–61.