The Civil War News & Views Open Discussion Forum

Superintendent of West Point

General P.G.T Beauregard was appointed Superintendent of West Point, New York on November 20, 1860 and several days after his taking command (Jan. 23, 1860) was dismissed on January 28, 1860. At that time there was appointed by Congress a commission on West Point Reforms, formed on in July of 1860 and headed by Jefferson Davis, and in body was formed by Solomon Foot, Senator; H. Winter Davis, Congressman; John Cochrane, Congressman; A. A. Humphreys, Captain of Top. Eng's, U.S.A., and Major Robert Anderson, 1st Art, U.S.A. Since Major Anderson was summoned from his duties on the commission on November 12, and ordered to Fort Moultrie on November 15, 1860 his name is not on the final commissions report, signed December 13, 1860.

Their reform stated that "The Superintendent shall be an officer of the Army, a graduate of the United States Military Academy, and distinguished fro his scientific attainments. He shall have the local rank, pay and allowances of a colonel of engineers, and be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate."

Beauregard's dismissal was said to be directly from President Buchanan as a rebuke for the Secession speech of his brother-in-law, Senator Slidell. Southern Generals, Snow, 1866.


This comes to light in the following communications are read....


Washinqton, January 27, 1861. My Dear Sir:—

I have seen in the Star, and heard from other parties, that Major Beauregard, who had been ordered to West Point as Superintendent of the Military Academy, and had entered on the discharge of his duties there, had been relieved from his command. May I take the liberty of asking you If this has been done with your approbation? Very respectfully, yours,



Washington, January 29,1861. Mr Dear Sir:—

With every sentiment of personal friendship and regard, I am obliged to say, In answer to your note of Sunday, that I have full confidence in the Secretary of War; and his acts, in the line of his duty, or my own acts, for which I am responsible.

Yours, very respectfully, James Buchanan.

"Life of James Buchanan" Curtis, 1883.

Wheatland, September 18, 1861.

My Dear Sir,—I am collecting materials for history, and I cannot find a note from Mr. Slidell to myself and my answer relative to the very proper removal of Beauregard from West Point. I think I must have given them to Mr. Holt. He was much pleased with my answer at the time. If they are in his possession I should be glad if you would procure me copies. They are very brief. The ladies of Mr. S.'s family never after looked near the White House. . . . From your friend,

Very respectfully,

James Buchanan.

Hon. Horatio King.

[Turning on the light: A dispassionate survey of President Buchanan's Administration From 1860 to Its Close. Horatio King, 1895]


Secretary of War Holt had went to the War Department, and found from the records that Slidell had appointed one brother-in-law to Annapolis; and one to command West Point (Beauregard) over the head of five or six Captains deserving the promotion. The outrage was so flagrant that Holt immediately and without even consulting the President revoked the orders and appointed Captain Delafield. [An Oral History of Abraham Lincoln, Nicolay, 1996.]


Beauregard was so vain in his own biography (really an autobiography) he promotes the idea that his leaving West Point was his own and was expected if his state should seceed. I find this hard to believe, since he had just moved from Louisiana to New York at the height of the secession movement. He fully expected to stay in New York.

P.G.T. Beauregard was punished because of his in-laws and being Southern, not because of anything he did or for poor performance.

David Upton