Davis Looks For a Way to Fire Beauregard (And Probably Finds It)

June 17, 1862 (Tuesday)

Confederate President Jefferson Davis had not been very happy with the fall of Corinth, Mississippi. Neither was the loss of Fort Pillow, nor the surrender of Memphis the stuff his dreams were made of. In his mind, General P.G.T. Beauregard, commander of the Army of Mississippi, was to blame. It was Beauregard who abandoned Corinth without bothering to notify Richmond. It was Corinth’s fall that necessitated the retreat from Fort Pillow, on the Mississippi River. With Pillow no longer an obstacle for Union gunboats, the city of Memphis shortly surrendered.

Though he left Corinth on May 30, by June 12, now headquartered at Tupelo, he had still not reported to Richmond. The next day, Beauregard wrote out his report and sent it to the President. In it, he described in fine detail his reasons for the retreat and the retreat itself. Unconvinced that Corinth had to be abandoned at all, Davis moved swiftly.1

He had been looking to oust the General from his Western Army and turned to South Carolina’s Governor Francis Pickens for help. Pickens was unhappy with the current military commander, General John Pemberton, and wished for a replacement. Practically jumping at the chance, Davis offered him Beauregard, who had defended the city during the bombardment of Fort Sumter. Beauregard had been sick and Davis used the illness as an excuse, suggesting that the salt air would do him some good. Pickens concurred and the ball was set in motion.2

Before the day was out, Pickens wrote to Beauregard, inviting him to “fight our batteries again.” Union troops had landed on James Island, near Charleston and, with another mention of the salt-air, Pickens insisted that Beauregard was needed. Beauregard, however, declined. “Would be happy to do so,” replied the General, “but my presence absolutely required here at present. My health still bad. No doubt sea-air would restore it, but have no time to restore it.”3

General B.R.B. Beauregard

Meanwhile, President Davis also sent Col. W.P. Johnston, son of late-General Albert Sidney Johnston, with a series of accusatory questions for Beauregard. Davis wished to know why he had retreated from Corinth; what were the future plans?; why had so many troops fallen ill?; why hadn’t he tried to reoccupy Nashville?; what had he done to defend the Mississippi River and Memphis after Island No. 10 fell?; and lastly, how many troops and supplies were lost in the retreat from Corinth?4

But General Beauregard’s health had declined sharply. His entire body seemed to be shutting down. For a third time, his doctors suggested that he take advantage of the lull and retire for a week or so to take a rest. Finally, on June 14, the same day that Davis dispatched Col. Johnston, Beauregard agreed. His doctors gave him the proper papers to leave his command.5

Also on that day, President Davis side-stepped military etiquette by directly wiring General Braxton Bragg, a commander under Beauregard. Davis informed Bragg that he (Bragg) was to take command of the troops in Jackson, Mississippi, under General Mansfield Lovell, recently of New Orleans.

General Bragg

Unsure of how to handle such a breach, General Bragg passed the order to Beauregard, who replied the same day. Bragg’s “presence here I consider indispensable at this moment,” wrote Beauregard to Davis, “especially as I am leaving for a while on surgeon’s certificate.” While promising to return soon to head up an offensive, he reiterated “I must have a short rest.”

The following day, Beauregard again wrote to Richmond, detailing that he would be at Bladon Springs, near Mobile, Alabama, for a week or ten days. In his absence, General Bragg was the temporary commander of the Army of Mississippi.6

Two days later, on this date, he left Tupelo for Mobile, believing that he had done everything possible to notify his authorities that he would be absent from his post. Though he did not seek permission to leave, Richmond knew where he would be and when he would return. After Col. Johnston caught up with him, they would also learn his future plans.7

Beauregard’s authorities knew that he was about to leave. The telegrams of June 14 and 15 should have arrived in the days preceding his departure. President Davis made no effort to stop it, not even acknowledging it for another two days.8

  1. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 10, Part 1, p762-765. []
  2. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 53, p246-247. []
  3. Exchange found in The Military Operations of General Beauregard, Vol. 1 by Alfred Roman, Harper & brothers, 1884. []
  4. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 10, Part 1, p786. []
  5. The Military Operations of General Beauregard, Vol. 1 by Alfred Roman, Harper & brothers, 1884. []
  6. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 17, Part 2, p599, 601. []
  7. The Military Operations of General Beauregard, Vol. 1 by Alfred Roman, Harper & brothers, 1884. []
  8. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 17, Part 2, p612. []
Creative Commons License
Davis Looks For a Way to Fire Beauregard (And Probably Finds It) by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


View all posts by

One thought on “Davis Looks For a Way to Fire Beauregard (And Probably Finds It)

  1. Today is also the grim anniversary of what was probably the most lethal single shot fired during the war. The USS Mound City was dueling Confederate shore batteries on the White River in Arkansas when a shell hit her steam drum. The resulting explosion killed or scalded most of her crew, and a number of the survivors jumped in the water only to be shot by Southern sharpshooters. Approximately 125 men out of 175 lost their lives.

Comments are closed.