P. G. T. Beauregard : biography
Return to Charleston
At Beauregard’s request, his allies in the Confederate Congress petitioned Davis to restore his command in the West. Davis remained angry at Beauregard’s absence and told him he should have stayed at his post even if he had to be carried around in a litter. He wrote, "If the whole world were to ask me to restore General Beauregard to the command which I have already given to General Bragg, I would refuse it."Williams, p. 165. Beauregard was ordered to Charleston and took command of coastal defenses in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida,Eicher, 124. He commanded the Department of South Carolina and Georgia from August 29 to October 7, 1862, and the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida from October 7, 1862, to April 18, 1864. replacing Maj. Gen. John C. Pemberton. The latter was promoted to lieutenant general and transferred to command the defenses of Vicksburg, Mississippi.Williams, p. 166.
Beauregard was unhappy with his new assignment, believing that he deserved command of one of the great Confederate field armies. He performed successfully, however, preventing the capture of Charleston by Union naval and land attacks in 1863. On April 7, 1863, Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont, commander of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, led an ironclad attack against Fort Sumter that was repulsed by highly accurate artillery fire from Beauregard’s forces. In July through September 1863, land forces under Brig. Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore launched a series of attacks on Fort Wagner on Morris Island and other fortifications at the mouth of the harbor, while Rear Adm. John A. Dahlgren attempted to destroy Fort Sumter. Because the latter operation failed, the successful seizure of Morris Island was not effective in threatening Charleston.Reed, pp. 263–320; Williams, pp. 177–96; Wise, pp. 1–204; Kennedy, pp. 191–94.
During this period, Beauregard promoted innovative naval defense strategies, such as early experimentation with submarines, naval mines (called "torpedoes" in the Civil War), and with a small vessel called a torpedo-ram. A swift boat fitted with a torpedo on a pole projecting from its bow under water, it could be used to surprise an enemy vessel and impale it underneath the water line. He was also busy devising strategies for other generals in the Confederacy. He proposed that some of the state governors meet with Union governors of the Western states (what are called the Midwest states today) for a peace conference. The Davis administration rejected the idea, but it caused considerable political maneuvering by Davis’s enemies in the Congress. Beauregard also proposed a grand strategy—submitted anonymously through his political allies so that it was not tainted by his reputation—to reinforce the Western armies at the expense of Robert E. Lee’s army in Virginia, destroy the Federal army in Tennessee, which would induce Ulysses S. Grant to relieve pressure on Vicksburg and maneuver his army into a place where it could be destroyed. The Confederate Army would continue to Ohio, and induce the Western states to ally with the Confederacy. Meanwhile, a fleet of torpedo-rams built in England could be used to recapture New Orleans, ending the war. There is no record that his plan was ever officially presented to the government.Williams, pp. 167–68, 181–83, 203–204; Hattaway & Taylor, p. 25.
While visiting his forces in Florida, which had just repelled a Union advance at Jacksonville, Beauregard received a telegram that his wife had died on March 2, 1864. Living in Union-occupied New Orleans, she had been seriously ill for two years. A Northern-leaning local newspaper printed an opinion that her condition had been exacerbated by the actions of her husband. This so fanned negative popular opinion that 6,000 people attended her funeral. Union Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks provided a steamer to carry her body upriver for burial in her native parish. Beauregard wrote that he would like to rescue "her hallowed grave" at the head of an army.Williams, pp. 204–205.