Born into a prosperous Louisiana Creole family, Pierre G.T. Beauregard graduated second in his class from West Point in 1838. He was commissioned into the engineer corps of the Old Army, where he worked on various fortifications in New Orleans. During the Mexican War, he served as an engineer on General Winfield Scott's staff, after which he returned to New Orleans.
After a brief five-day period as a superintendant at West Point, Beauregard was recalled due to his outspoken secessionist sympathies. On Febuary 20, 1861, he resigned his U.S. commision and accepted a senior command as brigadier general in the Confederate army. He assumed command of the defenses at Charleston, South Carolina.
Beauregard directed Confderate forces in the bombardment of Fort Sumter, the incident that touched off the Civil War, on April 12, 1861. His success at Fort Sumter made him the Confederacy's first hero, and he became Joseph E. Johnston's second-in-command in northern Virginia. On June 1, Beauregard assumed command of the army at Manassas. He was credited with the South's first significant victory, at Bull Run (Manassas) on July 21, 1861, and was soon promoted to full general.
Never a favortie of Presiednt Davis, Beauregard was bounced from one command to another. Second-in-command to A.S. Johnston at Shiloh in Tennessee, he took charge when Johnston was mortally wounded and wired a victory mesage to Richmond at the close of the first day's fighting. The wire proved a great embarrassment, for Grant reversed the Union's fortunes on the second day, driving Beauregard into retreat.
Beauregard's skillful fefense of the communications center of Petersburg in June 1864 allowed Lee time to send reinforcements to check the Union offensive. The city held out for another ten months, until April 1865.
Toward the war's end, Beauregard served as second-in-command to Joseph E. Johnston in the Carolinas. He surrendered with Johnston's army in April 1865.
Offered positions of senior command in the Rumanian and Egyptian armies after the war, Beauregard chose instead to head the New Orleans, Jackson, and Mississippi Railway, after which he managed the Lousiana lottery. In 1888 he was named commisioner of public works in New Orleans. Beauregard's extensive writings on the Civil War include Report on the Defesne of Charleston (1864).