Given the tumultuous times we are facing in our nation's history (and our offensive line) and the fact that we are on the eve of The Most Important Election Ever (or since 2004), we decided to take a break from tailgating this week and instead took in a history lesson at the home of P.G.T. Beauregard, a.k.a. General Beauregard.
Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard was born on January 1, 1832 in Watkinsville. The son of what was then called an "alesmith," he grew up learning the fine art of watering-down beer. After mixing his father's ale with waters from the sparkling Oconee River, he would sell his concoction to observers at local Native American lacrosse matches. Using a bizarre pricing strategy, the cost of a "kings-quart" of PGT's drink was based on the time left in the lacrosse match: one-pence for every period expired. Lacrosse fans delighted in the inexpensive refreshment, eventually calling PGT "The General" because of the way he dominated the Athens ale market. However, The General lamented that although his product was delicious at room temperature (no refrigeration was available at the time) it quickly became downright hot after exposure to the baking Northeast Georgia sun.
The General was hard at work designing an insulating wrap for his beverage when hostilities broke out at Fort Sumter. Thinking "The General" was an actual military-bestowed rank and not just a nickname, Jefferson Davis gave command of the Army of Northeast Georgia to PGT, now General Beuregard. After raising an army from students of the local university, Beauregard's first assignment was an attack on the army of Ohio State, camped near the Kentucky-Ohio border. Beauregard led his army northwards.
After reaching the Tennessee River on May 5th, Beauregard made a move considered highly controversial at the time, but now considered brilliant. He spotted the Army of Tennessee, clad in orange pantaloons, attempting to form a navy on the banks of the river. Beauregard ordered his troops to attack, and a quick rout of the Tennessee Volunteers ensued. Upon pinning General Davey Crockett against a bluff overlooking the river, Beauregard confronted the Tennesseean and told him, "formeth a hillbilly navy...you're doing it wrong." Beauregard imprisoned Crockett, and sent his coonskin cap back to Athens to be "hung storys above the University chapel." Crockett was disgraced, and newspapers opined that his prior military victories were due only to his recently-departed lieutenants.
Misguided observors from Ohio cheered, believing that the Georgians' victory would improve the Army of Ohio State's strength of schedule. However, Beauregard instead turned his army towards Nashville, vowing to surprise and destroy the self-proclaimed Commodores of the area "while they busieth themselves with trivialities at that Grand Old Opera."
Incensed at The General's attacks against supposed allies, Jefferson Davis ordered Beauregard back to Athens. Beauregard wrote in his journal, "that I should favor a hated neighbor for only his membership in the Confederate States of America is a folly, a gross misestimation of the true enemy... fight against the non-Southron armies should be pursued only once the bitter rivals of Tennessee, Florida, and Alabama are vanquished." Nevertheless, Beauregard returned home to Watkinsville. He married a seamstress who fashioned an "ale cozy" for him. The two moved to Clayton Street where they sold watered-down beer protected from the sun at seemingly give-away prices.
Letters found in 1929 in the basement of Beauregard's home reveal that he wrote to Tecumseh Sherman advising him to "sow the ground around Atlanta's North Avenue with salt, such that the land should never produce fruit." During the Spanish-American war, he offered Spain "an attack on Baton Rouge by an army of junkyard vikings, so that Roosevelt's forces may be distracted and you [Spain] may sieze New Orleans." Though thought treasonous in 1929, Beauregard's reputation shifted over the coming years to one of a great leader. In 1986, his home was added to the National Register of Historic Places, with President Reagan noting, "that Beauregard put aside the trivial differences between North and South, the United States and Spain, and instead worked to destory his neighboring states...is nothing less than inspirational."
The General's legacy lives on in Athens. UGA students call the ceremony of ringing the chapel bell after football victories "shaking the coonskin." In true PGT fashion, we enjoyed watching and napping to a lacrosse match between the Okalahoma and Texas tribes while drinking inexpensive beer. Only while leaving did we realize that the foundation that maintains the Beauregard home keeps the tradition of offering pitchers of Natural Lite priced to match whatever quarter is currently being shown on television. Refreshed, rested, and enlightened, we proceeded down to Sanford Stadium and watched "General Richt" recreate that historic moment, as he unleashed a fury on Phil "Coonskin Cap" Fulmer's Volunteer Hillbilly Navy. We left the game impressed with the Dawgs' 26-14 victory and filled with noble rage towards our neighbors of every direction. On the walk back to the car, we were reminded of Beauregard's famous deathbed words: "You know what? Florida sucks."
Labels: great leaders in non-truthful history