General Winfield Scott

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General Winfield Scott

General Winfield Scott History and Biography
General Winfield Scott.jpg
General Winfield Scott, War of 1812, Mexican War, and Civil War

Winfield Scott
"Old Fuss and Feathers"
(June 13, 1786 - May 29, 1866)
Photo courtesy Library of Congress


General Winfield Scott was known as Old Fuss and Feathers, and his life, although of mystic proportion, reads more like a novel than nonfiction. This page discusses the history and biography of General Winfield Scott, and follows Gen. Scott in the War of 1812, Mexican American War, Cherokee Indian Removal and Trail of Tears, his Civil War Anaconda Plan, excerpts from his autobiography, and reviews and analysis of his accomplishments, achievements, nom de guerre, or nickname, and his final days. 


Winfield Scott was born on June 13, 1786, near Petersburg, Virginia. Scott was a large and imposing figure and stood six feet, five inches tall and weighed 230 pounds. His career was extraordinarily long, some fifty years, and he was the associate of every President from Thomas Jefferson to Abraham Lincoln. He was referred to as "Fuss and Feathers" because of his punctiliousness in dress and decorum. His reputation for patriotism and generosity generally won him the trust and loyalty of his troops. Over the course of his fifty-year career, he commanded forces in the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Black Hawk War, the Second Seminole War and, briefly, the American Civil War (conceiving the Union strategy known as the Anaconda Plan that would be used to defeat the Confederacy). Scott’s battlefield successes, however, did not translate into political successes. Two of his subordinates, Zachary Taylor and Franklin Pierce, rode their Mexican War reputations into the White House. (Even so, Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, also a war hero, promoted Scott to brevet Lieutenant General in 1857.) Scott retired to West Point, New York, and died there on May 29, 1866.

Excerpt from the Autobiography of General Scott

Civilization of the CherokeesNew York, 1864. Vol. 1, p. 318.

"The Cherokees were an interesting people - the greater number Christians, an [and] many as civilized as their neighbors of the white race. Between the two colors intermarriages had been frequent. They occupied a contiguous territory - healthy mountains, valleys, and plains lying in North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. Most of their leading men had received good educations, and possessed much ability. Some were quite wealthy in cultivated farms, good houses, cattle of every kind, and negro slaves. Gardens and orchards were seen everywhere and the women graceful, with, in many cases, added beauty. Of course the mixed races are here particularly alluded to. The mountaineers were still wild men, but little on this side of their primordial condition.

The North Carolinians and the Tennesseans were kindly disposed towards their red brethren. The Alabamians were much less so. The great difficulty was with the Georgians (more than Half the army), between whom and the Cherokees there had been feuds and wars for many generations. The reciprocal hatred of these two races was probably never surpassed. Almost every Georgian, on leaving home, as well as after their arrival at New Echota, - the centre [center] of the most populous district of the Indian territory - vowed never to return without having killed at least one Indian. This ferocious language was the more remarkable as the great body of these citizens - perhaps, seven in ten - were professors of religion. The Methodists, Baptist, and other ministers of the Gospel of Mercy, had been extensively abroad among them; but the hereditary animosity alluded to caused the Georgians to forget, or, at least, to deny that a Cherokee was a human being."

(Sources and related reading below.)

Recommended Reading: Winfield Scott and the Profession of Arms (Hardcover: 328 pages) (Kent State University Press). Description: Winfield Scott And The Profession Of Arms is the true story of Winfield Scott (1786-1866), who is perhaps best known for his role in bringing professionalism to the U.S. Army during his long military career (1807-61). He served as general in the War of 1812, major figure during the Indian Wars, key character in the "Trail of Tears", commanded U.S. forces in the final campaign of the Mexican American War, and was the general-in-chief at the beginning of the Civil War. Continued below...

Additionally, he was a presidential candidate and foe or friend to every president from Madison to Lincoln. History professor emeritus Allan Peskin draws upon research in the National Archives to unearth a comprehensive portrait of General Scott as a visionary managerial officer, who anticipated drastic changes in technology and business principles for the military and adapted in response. An in-depth, balanced biography of a remarkable figure and his lasting legacy.

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Related Reading:

Recommended Reading: Winfield Scott: The Quest for Military Glory (Hardcover). Description: One of the most important public figures in antebellum America, Winfield Scott is known today more for his swagger than his sword. "Old Fuss and Feathers" was a brilliant military commander whose tactics and strategy were innovative adaptations from European military theory; yet he was often underappreciated by his contemporaries and until recently overlooked by historians. Although John Eisenhower's recently published Agent of Destiny provides a solid summary of Scott's remarkable life, Timothy D. Johnson's much deeper critical exploration of this flawed genius will become the standard work. Thoroughly grounded in an essential understanding of nineteenth-century military professionalism, Johnson's work draws extensively on unpublished sources to reveal neglected aspects of Scott's life, present a complete view of his career, and accurately balance criticism and praise. Continued below…

Johnson dramatically relates the key features of Scott's career: how he led troops to victory in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, fought against the Seminoles and Creeks, and was instrumental in professionalizing the U.S. Army, which he commanded for two decades. He also tells how Scott tried to introduce French methods into army tactical manuals, and how he applied his study of the Napoleonic Wars during the Mexico City campaign but found European strategy of little use against Indians. Johnson further suggests that Scott's creation of an officer corps that boasted Grant, Lee, McClellan, and other veterans of the Mexican War raises important questions about his influence on Civil War generalship. More than a military history, this book explains how Scott's aristocratic pretensions were out of place with emerging notions of equality in Jacksonian America and made him an unappealing political candidate in his bid for the presidency. Johnson recounts the details of Scott's personality that alienated nearly everyone who knew him, as well as the unsavory methods Scott used to promote his career and the scandalous ways he attempted to alleviate his lifelong financial troubles. Although Scott's legendary vanity has tarnished his place among American military leaders, he also possessed great talent and courage. Johnson's biography offers the most balanced portrait available of Scott by never losing sight of the whole man.


Recommended Reading: Civil War High Commands (1040 pages) (Hardcover). Description: Based on nearly five decades of research, this magisterial work is a biographical register and analysis of the people who most directly influenced the course of the Civil War, its high commanders. Numbering 3,396, they include the presidents and their cabinet members, state governors, general officers of the Union and Confederate armies (regular, provisional, volunteers, and militia), and admirals and commodores of the two navies. Civil War High Commands will become a cornerstone reference work on these personalities and the meaning of their commands, and on the Civil War itself. Errors of fact and interpretation concerning the high commanders are legion in the Civil War literature, in reference works as well as in narrative accounts. Continued below...

The present work brings together for the first time in one volume the most reliable facts available, drawn from more than 1,000 sources and including the most recent research. The biographical entries include complete names, birthplaces, important relatives, education, vocations, publications, military grades, wartime assignments, wounds, captures, exchanges, paroles, honors, and place of death and interment. In addition to its main component, the biographies, the volume also includes a number of essays, tables, and synopses designed to clarify previously obscure matters such as the definition of grades and ranks; the difference between commissions in regular, provisional, volunteer, and militia services; the chronology of military laws and executive decisions before, during, and after the war; and the geographical breakdown of command structures. The book is illustrated with 84 new diagrams of all the insignias used throughout the war and with 129 portraits of the most important high commanders.

Recommended Reading: Agent Of Destiny: The Life And Times Of General Winfield Scott (Hardcover). Description: It's about time somebody wrote a biography of Winfield Scott, and reading this fascinating account by accomplished military historian John S. D. Eisenhower, you'll wonder why nobody did it sooner. Scott's career spanned an astonishing 54 years and he spent most of it as a general. He was one of the few American heroes to emerge from the War of 1812; he launched a daring and successful invasion of Mexico in 1847; and he defended a vulnerable Washington, D.C., during the first months of the Lincoln administration in 1861. Continued below...
Scott was a profoundly courageous man with a flair for the organizational side of military life. Yet an unseemly amount of ambition and vanity marred his character, even as these qualities help make him an interesting subject for Eisenhower (who is, you guessed it, the son of Ike). Agent of Destiny is a skilled portrait of a man who is often overshadowed by the generation of Civil War leaders following him. Eisenhower deserves our thanks for writing this magnificent book about a vital figure.


Recommended Reading: Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Volume 6 (Battles & Leaders of the Civil War) (632 pages) (University of Illinois Press) (May 30, 2007). Description: Sifting carefully through reports from newspapers, magazines, personal memoirs, and letters, Peter Cozzens' Volume 6 brings readers more of the best first-person accounts of marches, encampments, skirmishes, and full-blown battles, as seen by participants on both sides of the conflict. Continued below...

Alongside the experiences of lower-ranking officers and enlisted men are accounts from key personalities including General John Gibbon, General John C. Lee, and seven prominent generals from both sides offering views on "why the Confederacy failed." This volume includes one hundred and twenty illustrations, including sixteen previously uncollected maps of battlefields, troop movements, and fortifications.


Bibliography: Beringer, Richard E. Winfield Scott. American National Biography, vol 19. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999; Elliott, Charles W. Winfield Scott, the Soldier and the Man. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937. Reprint. New York: Arno Press, 1979; Beringer, Richard E. Winfield Scott. American National Biography, vol 19. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999; Detailed Description General Winfield Scott Collection. February 24, 1844; National Archives and Records Administration; Library of Congress; Museum of the Cherokee Indian.

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