The Paper Command
Supervisory Control of the Military Division of the West


     General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, in quick order, had gotten himself on the dark side of President Jefferson Davis, becoming one of his least trusted commanders early on in the war and the president's opinion of him would not change throughout the course of it. Still, by virtue of his rank and skill as an operational commander, he spent the remainder of his Civil War career being shifted about, perhaps more to stay out of his excellency's way, than anything else.

     While at Augusta, Georgia on October 2, 1864, Davis sent him a letter which placed him in command of the military departments, then under General John Bell Hood and Lieutenant General Richard Taylor, in the aftermath of the Atlanta Campaign. The Creole's new roll as department commander with the authority to assume command of either army, when expedient circumstances existed; caused him to assume the control of operations would fall upon his shoulders, when in fact; the chief executive was making a figure head of him, and the departmental roll would later appear as nothing more than a paper command.

     It was General Braxton Bragg's politics in commanding the armies of the Confederacy that provided more influence in the relief of General Joseph E. Johnston before Atlanta and placed Bell Hood in his place. Having already praised the Texan in his combat capabilities from the September 1863 engagement at Chickamauga, it was Bragg's determination to get even with those commanders of the Army of Tennessee, who, a year prior had called on his relief due to incompetence. Hood; had already been a favorite of the president's and placing him in command now served the Richmond government for more than just the one purpose.

     When General Beauregard filed his after action report the following April, the displeasure with his subordinate was evident. The new commander of the Army of Tennessee had forwarded his reports and correspondence directly to Richmond ignoring the formalities of submission through his department commander. In fact, the Richmond Enquirer who published the general's account of the past campaign on the 25th of March 1865 revealed details that had all along been kept from the eyes of his superior.

     In a personal interview between the two general officers shortly before Hood's relief, the Louisianan informed him that he desired and expected a report submitted to him for the Confederate War Department. The army commander expressed his intention of publishing a report since the moment he took command of the army before Atlanta. This idea was entirely unsatisfactory, in that, his superior only had command over his forces since the 2nd day of October and had no right to ask for one embracing a period prior to that. The strained relationship between department and the Confederate White House was public knowledge, using that, Hood continued to stroke the ego of Jefferson Davis and the War Department spontaneity and purpose, leaving Beauregard in the dark regarding vital operations and administration.

     Hood was brazen enough to pass along a copy of a letter from him to the Confederate War Department, giving a general synopsis of his campaign, to General Beauregard in January of 1865, yet although it had been repeatedly called for, no official detailed report had been received by him or any of his subordinate commanders at that moment. It wasn't until four days before General Hood personally requested of Secretary James Seddon to relieve him of the Army of Tennessee had an after action report crossed the desk of General Beauregard.

     The details documented revealed the deception that caused Hood's army three weeks delay in launching the offensive through Middle Tennessee. Although, he mentioned both to his department commander as well as the Confederate White House, his intent of crossing the Tennessee River at Gunterville, he changed his course and repaired to Tuscumbia and Florence where lack of supplies due to faulty railroad systems caused a three week delay in his forward movement. The time wasted during the retrograde was wisely used by the federal armies having repaired their supply lines for the great move east towards the Atlantic seaboard. It was clear to the Louisianan however, that the loss of life the Army of Tennessee sustained at the battle of Franklin left it in no condition to continue further and attack at Nashville.

     While perhaps a division commander to be reckoned with, General John Bell Hood rose to a level beyond his own competence. Certainly given his moment in the west for his fearlessness in battle, his rise to command an army did nothing more than to satisfy the disgusted betrayal of one who sought revenge against the general officers of the Army of Tennessee, as well as another who rewarded popularity rather than decisive results.

     President Davis' appointment of General Pierre G. T. Beauregard to command the Military Division of the West, possessed of the power to do nothing more than to fill a seat, was a high price to pay to have the Presidency surrounded by military sycophants. Placed in the dark, chasing a western army secretly fed on orders from Richmond, his leadership would have been crucial in directing his subordinate far more rigidly; had he realized in time the smooth politics that had been played upon him.

     Sadly, Davis continued to flourish on flattery, while his executive decision making continued to bleed the Confederacy of every ounce of blood it had. His army in the west now virtually destroyed by his desire to be loved; the Atlantic coast was opened up to another invading army with nothing of significance to really oppose it. The great Confederate military arm had been moved into check; the result of maneuver controlled and guided by careless political decisions.




Dan (Aldie) Daniel Moran
© 2005

Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at dmoran@us-civilwars.net