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Mme Beauregard and the Beast

Discussion in 'The Ladies Tea' started by John Hartwell, Apr 23, 2017.

  1. John Hartwell

    John Hartwell Captain Forum Host

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    mmebeauregard1.jpg
    Caroline Deslonde Beauregard
    Marguerite Caroline Deslonde had been born in St. John the Baptist Parish in 1831, the daughter of a wealthy sugar planter. In 1860, she met and married Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, who had been a widower for ten years. Theirs was by all accounts a whirlwind courtship, and the two were very much dedicated to one another. They were, however, destined to have little time together. Caroline, as she was known, was of delicate constitution, and often ill. In January, 1861, when Beauregard became Superintendent of West Point, it was decided that rather than risk the rigors of a northern winter, his wife should remain behind in Louisiana. But, due to his well known secessionist sympathies, his tenure in that position lasted only five days, when he was dismissed. The couple enjoyed a brief, blissful reunion. But at the beginning of March, the General was called away again, this time as commander of Confederate forces around Charleston. They had another brief reunion in January, 1862, before Beauregard took up his new post as second-in-command in the Army of Mississippi. They would never meet again.

    In October, 1861, just before leaving for his momentous voyage to Europe, Confederate diplomat John Slidell offered the use of his New Orleans mansion to Caroline and her mother should they ever need it. Slidell was married to Caroline’s sister, Mathilde Deslonde. When Beauregard left for his new command, the two ladies moved into the Slidell mansion. Thus, Mme Beauregard and her mother were living there when the city fell to the Federal navy and army at the beginning of May.

    As part of his duty to secure any property in New Orleans, whose owner was away in rebel service, Gen. Benjamin F. Butler sent his Aide-de-Camp, Lt. J. B. Kinsman, and a dozen men to take possession of the Slidell mansion. Arriving at the address, Kinsman was graciously greeted by the two ladies, who behaved, we are told, “with great refinement and dignity.” Informed of their presence, Gen. Butler immediately ordered the guard removed, and commanded that the ladies privacy be respected. “And woe be to be the man -- whether rebel or Union -- who dares to offer her the slightest insult or molestation,” comments one newspaper.

    But, Mme Beauregard’s health, never strong, was noticeably failing. Apprised of this, Beauregard sent on more than one occasion, friends and relatives to inquire about her. They all received permission and cooperation from Butler’s office. On one occasion, Caroline’s first cousin, Surgeon Andrew Chartant, came on a flag-of-truce from Vicksburg, and was permitted to examine her and prescribe medicines. But by December, she was very seriously ill. Among the Benjamin F. Butler Papers in the Library of Congress is found a copy of the following:

    Headquarters, Dept. of the Gulf, New Orleans, December 5th 1862
    General G. Beauregard

    General: this note will be handed you by your relatives, Mr. and Mts. Proctor, who go to meet you under a pass from me. They will inform you of the dangerous and, it is feared, soon to be fatal illness of your wife. You have every sympathy with your affliction.

    If you wish to visit Mrs. Beauregard, this will be a safeguard, pass, and protection to come to New Orleans and return. All officers and soldiers of the United States will respect this pass. I have the honor to be

    Your obt. Servant
    Benj. F. Butler, Maj Gen Commdg

    But, the Proctors also brought a personal message from Caroline, urging him not to come if duty called: "The country comes before," she is said to have proclaimed.
    mmebeuregard.jpg
    Mme Beauregard lingered for over a year longer, until March 2, 1864, when she passed away. Maj.Gen. Nathaniel Banks, then commanding the Department of the Gulf, provided a steamer and an escort to conduct to her her native Saint John the Baptist Parish, where she was buried in St. John Catholic Cemetery in Edgard, La.
    rsz_mmebeauregard2.jpg
    [all pictures from Her Find-a-Grave page.]​
    There is also an entry about her in the Civil War Women blog, but, while it tells us a great deal about the general, has almost nothing to say about her.
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2017

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  3. donna

    donna Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host

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    Thanks so much for posting. What a fine and dedicated lady. So sad she was ill so long and not able to see her husband.
     
  4. AndyHall

    AndyHall Colonel Forum Host

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    That's a remarkable story. The UDC marker, that omits mention of Butler issuing General Beauregard a pass to visit his ailing wife, is a reminder that historical markers are not "history" itself, but a record of the past the way the sponsor wants it to be remembered.
     
  5. LoriAnn

    LoriAnn Captain

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    Wow.
    Heartbreaking.

    Impressive.

    Such kindness during the turmoil of it all.
     
  6. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    What a wonderful thread, thank you! I've read of her previously and have thought how awful a story, a wife at home fading away during the war. You wonder which of the myriad, now treatable conditions which killed so many afflicted her? I suppose it is what you just did, tell your husband not to come. How hard for both of them, what a tragedy. I've always liked Beauregard, too- but think he should have come, anyway.

    It would be unsurprising generals would go out of their way to call a halt to war, aiding each other. And Butler was indeed soft on ladies- he grew up with them and married one. In that era, unlike this one, it meant something, coming to the aid of females. It must have been one lovely aspect of life 150 years ago. Please no one spoil this thread by the usual Butler nonsense. He did this act of compassion for a dying woman and fellow soldier. It is their story.
     
  7. donna

    donna Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host

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  8. Carronade

    Carronade 2nd Lieutenant

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    Good point; apparently Butler doing the decent thing wasn't part of the chosen narrative. That would have been quite a scene, one of the most prominent generals of one side allowed passage by the other for humanitarian cause.
     
  9. John Hartwell

    John Hartwell Captain Forum Host

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    Particularly when that general is "Beast Butler" -- one of the most hated and reviled figures of the war. Such was the hyperbolic mythology of venom built up about him, that it was nearly unthinkable to say anything "good" about him. Even today many people are all too ready to swallow down every hateful rumor and propaganda tale ever spread about Ben Butler. Though himself far from flawless, he was made scapegoat for many evils for which he wasn't responsible -- and even his virtues were twisted into vices by Confederate propaganda and the scheming of his northern political opponents.
     
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  10. Jackson'sArm

    Jackson'sArm Corporal

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    Touching story and glad to hear of Butler's chivalry. Even the little-liked men of that era were so admirably gallant!
     
  11. diane

    diane Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host

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    Butler wrote some surprisingly romantic notes to his own wife - who knew! - and I'm sure he considered how he would feel in a reversed situation. This was about the time gentlemanly behavior was ceasing - Rooney Lee was captured and his wife and children died but he was not allowed to see them. He was only a short distance away and his brother Custis had offered to stand in for him while he saw his family, but no was the answer.
     
  12. WJC

    WJC 1st Lieutenant

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    A touching story on several levels. Thanks for sharing....
     
  13. Eleanor Rose

    Eleanor Rose Sergeant Major

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    @John Hartwell - I can't get enough of stories displaying chivalry, gallantry, compassion, etc. Thanks for sharing this one!!
     
  14. MaryDee

    MaryDee Sergeant Major Trivia Game Winner

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    Nobody was particularly fond of "Beast" Butler or of "Commissary" Banks. Both were political generals who were pretty much incompetent militarily, and both seemed to prioritize finding and seizing cotton bales. However, they weren't all that bad. Here's an example of courtesy and empathy that wasn't always practised in time of war, particularly a war as nasty as the CW.
     
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