Winfield Scott

Winfield Scott, one of America's most distinguished soldiers, was born on his father's farm Laurel Branch near Petersburg, Virginia, on June 13, 1786. To include him in a compendium of Civil War generals emphasizes only the smallest facet of his brilliant career. Standing six feet five inches, he was a natural leader even as an undergraduate at William and Mary and as a law student in Petersburg. In the War of 1812, Scott, who had been appointed to the army by President Jefferson in 1808, was greatly distinguished on the Canadian frontier. At Lundy's Lane where he was badly wounded, he became an international hero. Already a brigadier of Regulars, he was brevetted major general as well. By the time of the Civil War in 1861 General Scott had been involved in not only a score of successful military campaigns but also an equal number of political skirmishes in which he had not fared so well. He became commander-in-chief of the army in 1841 and was the acknowledged genius of the Mexican War; nevertheless, the animosity of President Polk toward him prevented to some degree the honors which he had fairly won. In 1852 he was the Whig nominee for President, but was overwhelmingly defeated by Franklin Pierce. In 1857 he opposed the Mormon aggression in Utah, which was perpetrated nevertheless by troops of the U. S. Army under Albert Sidney Johnston. General Scott was particularly distinguished as a moderator between warring factions, including the settlement in South Carolina of the nullification question during Jackson's administration, the settlement of the Canadian frontier problems in 1838, and the translation of the Cherokees of South Carolina and Tennessee to Oklahoma. Upon the outbreak of the Civil War Scott found himself in command of a small professional army scattered over the continental United States. He alone envisaged a four-year war and the number of men which would be required to subdue the South. When solicited by a lifelong friend to defect to the Confederacy, he resoundingly declared his loyalty to the Union: "I have served my country, under the flag of the Union, for more than fifty years, and so long as God permits me to live, I will defend that flag with my sword, even if my native State assails it." He conceived the "Anaconda Plan," which in essence became overall Federal strategy in 1864-65. However, at the outbreak of war "Old Fuss and Feathers," a brevet lieutenant general since 1847, was nearly seventy-five years of age, afflicted with dropsy, unable to sit a horse, proud and irascible. He was blamed for the errors of his subordinate General Robert Patterson, which enabled Joseph E. Johnston to effect a junction with P. G. T. Beauregard and resulted in the Union rout at First Manassas. After George B. McClellan had been made commander of the Army of the Potomac, Scott requested retirement on October 31, 1861. He went abroad for a time but soon returned to America. He died at West Point on May 29, 1866, and was buried there in the Post Cemetery.

Previous Page

Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.