Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard
Born in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana in 1818, Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard is best known for serving as a general and major in the Confederate States Army. Despite his apparent love for the confederacy, Pierre had been close with many young Black boys as a child and had even been nursed and weaned as a baby by a Dominican woman forced to labor for his family.
Beauregard began his military career as a civil engineer, earning the distinction of ‘engineer officer’ in the United States Army for his first foray into battle during the Mexican-American War. When his home state, Louisiana, succeeded from the Union, Pierre stepped down from his position in the United States Army and instead joined the Confederate States Army, becoming the first brigadier general for the confederacy. An avid confederate from the beginning, Pierre Toutant-Beauregard led confederate troops at the very beginning of the Civil War at Form Sumter, then later led the troops to win the First Battle of Bull Run.
With the wealth he earned fighting for the confederacy, Pierre Toutant-Beauregard would go on to build the now-famous Beauregard-Keyes house located at 1113 Charles St. in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The home, which was likely built by slaves, is rumored to be haunted, and many believe that the spirits of Pierre and many of the enslaved Black men forced to build the building may still linger on, despite Pierre not having actually died in the home. In fact, after just a few years of ownership, Pierre sold the home, which has been restored and maintained as a piece of history.
Pierre Toutant-Beauregard remained an influential (though not particularly well-liked) member of the confederate army until 1965, at which point Pierre worked with his commander, General Joseph E. Johnson, to convince senior confederate generals that the war was coming to a close and that they should withdraw their efforts.
Following the confederacy’s surrender, Pierre returned to Louisana and received a full pardon along with other confederate leaders by President Andrew Jackson. This changed his life considerably, and Pierre would eventually become an advocate for civil rights and Black suffrage.
No longer able to work in the military, Pierre turned his attention to creating something of his own. Pierre became chief engineer of the New Orleans, Jackson, and Great Northern Railroad, becoming fascinated by the mode of transportation. Around 1869, Pierre developed the first design of a cable-powered streetcar, eventually receiving a patent for his invention. Despite significant contributions to the railroads, Pierre was eventually ousted from his position after having amassed a considerable amount of wealth.
Pierre lived out the remainder of his days in New Orleans, passing away peacefully in 1889. To honor the former confederate soldier turned civil rights advocate, Victor E. Rillieux, a poet and Creole of color wrote a poem entitled “Dernier Tribut” or “Last Tribute”.