P. G. T. Beauregard

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P. G. T. Beauregard : biography

May 28, 1818 – February 20, 1893

As the Army went into winter quarters, Beauregard caused considerable friction with the Confederate high command. He strongly advocated an invasion of Maryland to threaten the flank and rear of Washington. With his plan rebuffed as impractical, he requested reassignment to New Orleans, which he assumed would be under Union attack in the near future, but his request was denied. He quarreled with Commissary General Lucius B. Northrop (a personal friend of Davis) about the inadequate supplies available to his army. He issued public statements challenging the ability of the Confederate Secretary of War to give commands to a full general. And he enraged President Davis when his report about Bull Run was printed in the newspaper, which suggested that Davis’s interference with Beauregard’s plans prevented the pursuit and full destruction of McDowell’s army and the capture of Washington.Williams, pp. 96–112; Woodworth, pp. 76–77; Hattaway & Taylor, p. 23.

Shiloh and Corinth

Having become a political liability in Virginia, Beauregard was transferred to Tennessee to become second-in-command to General Albert Sidney Johnston (no relation to Joseph E. Johnston) in his Army of Mississippi, effective March 14, 1862. The two generals planned the concentration of Confederate forces to oppose the advance of Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant before he could combine his army with that of Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell in a thrust up the Tennessee River toward Corinth, Mississippi. In the Battle of Shiloh, which began April 6, 1862, the Confederates launched a surprise attack against Grant’s Army of the Tennessee and nearly defeated it. Once again a more senior general named Johnston deferred to the junior Beauregard in planning the attack. The massive frontal assault was marred by Beauregard’s improper organization of forces—successive attacks by corps in lines long, rather than assigning each corps a discrete portion of the line for a side-by-side assault. This arrangement caused intermingling of units and confusion of command; it failed to concentrate mass at the appropriate place on the line to affect the overall objectives of the attack. In midafternoon, Johnston, who was near the front of the battle action, was mortally wounded. Beauregard, positioned in the rear of the army to send reinforcements forward, assumed command of the army and Johnston’s overall Western department (officially designated "Department Number Two"). As darkness fell, he chose to call off the attack against Grant’s final defensive line, which had contracted into a tight semicircle backed up to the Tennessee River at Pittsburg Landing.Williams, pp. 113–32; Hattaway & Taylor, pp. 23–24; Woodworth, pp. 99–102; Cunningham, pp. 99, 138–40, 277–80; Eicher, p. 124.

Beauregard’s decision was one of the most controversial of the Civil War. Numerous veterans and historians have wondered what might have happened if the assault had gone forward into the night. Beauregard believed that the battle was essentially won and his men could finish off Grant in the morning. He knew the terrain to be crossed (a steep ravine containing a creek named Dill Branch) was extremely difficult and Grant’s defensive line was heavy with massed artillery. Unbeknownst to Beauregard, Buell’s Army of the Ohio began arriving that afternoon, and he and Grant launched a massive counterattack on April 7. Overwhelmed, the Confederates retreated to Corinth.Williams, pp. 148–49; Woodworth, pp. 102–103; Cunningham, pp. 323–27.

Grant was temporarily disgraced by the surprise attack and near defeat, causing his superior, Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, to assume field command of the combined armies. Halleck cautiously and slowly approached Beauregard’s fortifications at Corinth; his action became derisively called the Siege of Corinth. Beauregard withdrew from Corinth on May 29 to Tupelo, Mississippi. He was able to deceive Halleck into thinking the Confederates were about to attack; he ran empty trains back and forth through the town while whistles blew and troops cheered as if massive reinforcements were arriving. Beauregard retreated because of the overwhelming Union force and because of contaminated water supplies in Corinth. In April and May, the Confederates lost almost as many men to death by disease in Corinth as had been killed in battle at Shiloh. Nevertheless, his leaving the critical rail junction at Corinth without a fight was another controversial decision. When Beauregard went on medical leave without requesting permission in advance, President Davis relieved him of command and replaced him with Gen. Braxton Bragg.Williams, pp. 150–59; Woodworth, pp. 103–106; Cunningham, pp. 387–96; Kennedy, pp. 52–55.