En ce jour en 1818, Pierre Beauregard est né. And even as they cut the cord, he likely was all jabbering in French, undoubtedly praising the campaigns of Napoléon and combing those lovely whiskers of his. The future Confederate general is the only Pierre in the entire encyclopedia,* and to him belongs one of the great names in Virginia history. Temperance Flowerdew, who survived the Starving Time, certainly deserves consideration, as does the Indian called Don Luís de Velasco. But I’ve always been a fan of Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard.
Monsieur Toutant-Beauregard did not necessarily feel the same way. Upon enrolling at West Point in 1834, the Crescent City creole dropped the hyphen in a bold attempt at assimilation, thus transforming himself into Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard. As changes go, it was no Hiram to Ulysses, and it may have been undercut by his decision to marry a Marie Laure Villeré and name their sons René and Henri. Nevertheless, he was an extremely popular member of society. And rather than push his luck, he eventually decided to sign his name “G. T. Beauregard.”
The loss of “Pierre” did not mean the loss of his French pride, however, and by the end of the war Beauregard was engaged in a bitter dispute with Jefferson Davis. “Pooh! he stinks in my nostrils,” the general wrote to a friend about the Confederate president.
This may be an instance where the French might have sounded a bit more dignified:
Poo! Il pue dans mes narines!
* Okay, there’s one other Pierre: Pierre Étienne Du Ponceau, but he clearly was a figure of marginal intelligence, having pronounced Robert Bolling “one of the greatest poetical geniuses that ever existed.” (You may recall.)
A version of this post was originally published on May 28, 2011.
Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard G. T. Beauregard