Davis Finds a Way to Fire Beauregard

June 20, 1862 (Friday)

General P.G.T. Beauregard

Confederate President Jefferson Davis had not been happy with General P.G.T. Beauregard. With the fall of Corinth, Mississippi, Memphis, Tennessee and Fort Pillow, the Executive’s patience was running short. He had done what he could to coax Beauregard to a less important role than commander of the western Confederacy’s largest army, the Army of the Mississippi, but the General was insistent upon staying at Tupelo, Mississippi. Davis had suggested the warm sea air of the Carolina’s, where Beauregard had triumphed over Fort Sumter, but still the General clung to his duty.

Richmond, following Davis’ lead, quickly found another way. General Beauregard’s health had waned in recent weeks. So much so that he took a leave of absence to recuperate at a spa near Mobile, Alabama. He had informed Richmond on the 14th and again on the 15th that he would be leaving General Braxton Bragg in charge. Beauregard, however, did not ask permission to leave. Neither did he await conformation from Davis.

In the midst of all this, Davis wanted General Bragg to take command at Jackson, Mississippi. Beauregard replied on the 15th that Bragg was needed in Tupelo and that he was taking a leave of absence for a week or ten days. When he returned, he planned on moving against the Union army.

Jefferson Davis

He left for Bladen Springs on the 17th. The President may or may not have learned of Beauregard’s leave until the next day, but his Adjutant General Samuel Cooper most definitely knew of it by the 15th, two days before Beauregard left. While permission was not granted, nothing was done to stop him. It was as if Richmond was standing by, waiting for Beauregard to leave his post.1

After learning that Beauregard had left his post and that Bragg was needed in Tupelo, he ordered General Earl Van Dorne to Jackson.2 On this date, after receiving Bragg’s side of the story (which was no different from Beauregard’s), Davis made it official.

“You are assigned permanently to the command of the department, as will be more formally notified to you by the Secretary of War,” wrote Davis. “You will correspond directly and receive orders and instructions from the Government in relation to your future operations.”3

Col. William Preston Johnston (from a Yale yearbook)

A few days before Beauregard left Tupelo, President Davis dispatched Col. W.P. Johnston, son of late-General Albert Sidney Johnston, with a series of pointed questions for the General. He was also supposed to examine the Army of the Mississippi. After stopping in Tupelo and finding the force in satisfactory shape, Johnston caught up with Beauregard in Mobile.

Beauregard answered all of the questions courteously and in great detail, but it doesn’t seem that Johnston, who may or may not have learned of Beauregard’s removal while at Tupelo, shared the news with the General. In his replies, Beauregard defended the reasons for the withdraw from Corinth and dispelled rumors that he had lost vast amounts of men and supplies in the retreat.4

Still believing himself in command of the Army of the Mississippi, Beauregard was ready for a much needed rest.

  1. Much of the summary is taken from my own post (and its sources) here. The rest is from Army of the Heartland by Thomas Lawrence Connelly, LSU Press, 1967. []
  2. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 17, Part 2, p613. []
  3. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 17, Part 2, p613. []
  4. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 10, Part 1, p774-779. []
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Davis Finds a Way to Fire Beauregard by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


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