Every biographer is certain to be asked one question: why did he pick his particular subject to write a book about? In the case of General Beauregard I might answer: because I wanted to; this paradoxical personality and his dramatic life interested me so much that I was drawn to study him and to try to analyze him. But more impelling than the human lure of his story was the fact that Beauregard was important enough a figure to deserve a biography. He was one of the eight full generals of the Confederacy. He held six independent commands, and for a period he commanded the Army of Tennessee, one of the two principal Confederate field armies. And his postwar career seems to me more fascinating than that of any other Southern general.
Civil War fans, being what they are, are bound to raise the question: was Beauregard a great general? Or, some may ask, was he even a good one? The answer to the first is no, with a caveat for Beauregard that there are few great generals. The answer to the second is yes, with several caveats against him. Beauregard, like other officers in the war, was elevated to army command before he was ready for it. He demonstrated some serious deficiencies and made some bad mistakes. In my opinion he would have developed into a very good field commander -- had he been given the chance. But his past errors and his personality quirks had aroused such a distrust of him among the men in the high command that the opportunity was denied. Had things happened a little differently, he might have gone on to become one of the fighting heroes of the Confederacy. As they did happen, he is probably remembered most, as a military man, for his defense of Charleston.
But with Beauregard one can never be sure what he would have become. He was not a consistent personality like Lee. He was a paradox, and his life was a paradox. He was an ardent Southerner, and yet, as a Creole, he was in many ways an alien in the AngloSaxon Confederacy. Before a battle he was often visionary and impractical, but once in a fight he was a grim and purposeful soldier.