Commander of the West
G RANT'S PLAN to force a showdown decision at Petersburg had failed -- foiled by Beauregard's stubborn defense and the arrival of Lee's army. Reluctantly now the Federal commander realized that he would have to dislodge Lee by siege operations. From north of the James to below Petersburg the Federals constructed an elaborate line of trenches from which to conduct their operations. Opposite the Federal line the Confederates built equally elaborate works. In the course of the long siege Grant would jab at any point in the Confederate line that seemed weak, but he concentrated his efforts on his extreme left. Here he aimed to slide around Lee's flank and secure possession of all the railroads supplying Petersburg from the south and west.
Beauregard was not very happy with his position in Lee's army or with the kind of warfare in which that army now had to engage. He was a full general serving under the command of another full general. Before Lee crossed the James, Beauregard had commanded a department and an army. Now he became, in effect, a corps commander in a larger organization. Because of his rank and reputation Lee treated him with special deference, but the situation was uncomfortable for both generals. Beauregard had been an independent commander too long to be satisfied with a subordinate status.
In the siege operations Beauregard acted under Lee's direction. He executed plans devised by Lee; if he formed a plan he had to secure Lee's approval to carry it out. On the Confederate line Beauregard commanded a section running from the Appomattox River to a point east of Petersburg. Late in June Lee decided to hurl an attack at the extreme left of the Union line. As most of the troops to be used in the movement were Beauregard's, Lee instructed him to plan the offensive. The attack failed, partly because the Federals fought well and partly because the Confederate subordinate generals did not co-ordinate their advance. Although Lee blamed nobody,