Jump to content
Shiloh Discussion Group
Sign in to follow this  

Live by the brief, die by the brief

Recommended Posts

A disturbing trend is encountered when examining in detail PGT Beauregard's military preparations and operations that (along with untimely illness) may prove to have been that General's Achilles heel: over-reliance upon intelligence and third-party reports. Consider:

  • April 8, 1861   Word arrived at Charleston, South Carolina -- via Robert S. Chew, officer of U.S. State Department -- announcing intention of Lincoln Government to resupply Fort Sumter "peaceably, if possible; but forcibly, if need be." General Beauregard uses the information to his advantage, to prepare for and execute attack on Fort Sumter before expected arrival of Chew's resupply flotilla. Result: Stalemate in Charleston Harbor ends with decisive conquest of Fort Sumter by Southern forces; and PGT Beauregard gains recognition for his role in that success [Roman page 33.]
  • 16-17 July    Word arrives from Confederate agent, Rose Greenhow (via her handler, Thomas Jordan) warning of the intended cutting of the Winchester Railroad by Federal forces; and advising the impending advance of McDowell. Result: Confederate forces are not surprised by Federal move. Reinforcements avoid the questionable section of Winchester Railroad, and Confederates throw panicked Federal troops back to Washington. Confederate victory is seen as further enhancing Beauregard's reputation [Greenhow page 11; Roman page 90].
  • August 13   Following on Beauregard's promotion to Full General (effective July 21st), Southern newspapers report the public and leading politicians are advocating for their new Hero, suggesting "Beauregard for President in 1867." Result: a swelled head may have led to unnecessary conflict between Jefferson Davis and his most successful General [Roman page 132; Varina Davis page 165.]
  • October 1861   After intelligence from Washington warns of "a possible move by McClellan," new information indicates "no further Federal offensive operations are anticipated until Spring (in vicinity Richmond/Washington)." Result: Beauregard offers to go West and take advantage of the Eastern winter standdown to bolster defences of New Orleans. That offer is declined by Richmond. Beauregard opts for throat surgery during the lull in offensive actions [Roman pages 152- 5 (especially page 153)].
  • February 1862   After accepting the opportunity to transfer to the West -- Department No.2 under Albert Sidney Johnston -- General Beauregard's health suffers a setback, probably due complications from throat surgery. Beauregard increasingly relies upon others (trusted aides) to keep him informed of developments within the Department. Result: report of Thomas Jordan verifies and supports the General's bias against Fort Columbus; the garrison there is not just reduced, but ordered totally evacuated. Unknown to General Beauregard, Federal possession of Fort Columbus was the signal for Farragut to launch his attack on the Mississippi River forts below New Orleans [Roman page 233; and SDG "Taken by Surprise"].
  • Feb 17 - Mar 25   Holed up in his HQ at Jackson Tennessee -- and still recuperating from impaired health -- Beauregard relied on intelligence and reports from all corners of his Department to keep abreast of developments. Result: Lacking personal inspection of facilities within his department, aspects of defences at Island No.10 are flawed (New Madrid garrison and artillery placement.) And inadequate scouting and mapping in vicinity Pittsburg Landing accomplished [Roman pages 224, 234- 5 and 247].
  • April 2   Reliance on flawed intelligence leads to Advance on Pittsburg Landing [Roman page 270; and SDG "Telegram of April 2nd"].
  • April 6   Intelligence from Colonel Helm -- incorrectly indicating Buell is headed for Decatur -- may have persuaded Beauregard that he could "mop up a vanquished US Grant in the morning" [Roman page 306].
  • April 6   Trust in the Helm telegram may have persuaded Beauregard to discount Human Intelligence -- collected from General Prentiss, a prisoner in custody -- indicating "Buell would arrive before morning."
  • April 6/7   Trust in the Helm telegram may have persuaded subordinates of General Beauregard not to disturb the Confederate Commander with intelligence reports from Colonel NB Forrest... indicating Buell's Army of the Ohio was arriving [Roman page 307].

Trust, but verify.



References:  OR 5, 10 and 11

SDG posts (as sited above)

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/22/the-wild-rose-of-washington/?_r=0  NY Times: The Wild Rose Greenhow

http://archive.org/stream/militaryoperatio01roma#page/154/mode/2up  Roman's Military Ops of General Beauregard

http://archive.org/stream/myimprisonmentfi00gree#page/214/mode/2up  Rose Greenhow "My Imprisonment"

http://archive.org/stream/jeffersondavisex02davi#page/164/mode/2up  Varina Davis "Life of Jefferson Davis"




  • Like 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

  • Create New...