Thursday, March 8, 2007

Major-General Winfield Scott

Winfield Scott was born on the family estate near the Old Dinwiddie Courthouse, Dinwiddie County, Virginia, on 13 June 1786; attended William and Mary College briefly and studied law in the office of David Robinson.

He enlisted in Petersburg’s cavalry troop, 1807, and became a captain in the regular service, May 1808; received a one-year suspension for open criticism of General James Wilkinson, 1810; served in New Orleans on General Wade Hampton’s staff, 1811–1812; was promoted to lieutenant colonel, July 1812, and colonel, March 1813; served on the Niagara front in the War of 1812, was captured and paroled, then participated in the actions at Fort George, where he was wounded, and Uphold’s Creek; was promoted to brigadier general, March 1814; as a brigade commander, was largely instrumental in American successes in the battles of Chippewa and Lundy’s Lane (where he was seriously wounded); for his valor, was brevetted major general, July 1814; supervised the preparation of the Army’s first standard drill regulations and headed a postwar officer retention selection board, 1815; visited Europe to study French military methods, 1815–1816; held regional command in the Division of the North, 1816; married Maria D. Mayo, 1817; was president of the Board of Tactics, 1815, 1821, 1824, and 1826; commanded the Eastern Department, 1825 In 1832 President Andrew Jackson appointed Scott military guardian of federal authority during the nullification controversy in South Carolina. Scott also oversaw the forced removal of the Cherokee from Georgia to the Indian Territory of the West along the "Trail of Tears."

In 1841 Scott was appointed general-in-chief of the U.S. Army, and in 1847, after the beginning of the Mexican War, he was appointed commander of the U.S. forces in Mexico. He led his troops in a series of victories, at Veracruz, Cerro Gordo, and Chapultepec. On September 14, 1847, he occupied the national palace in Mexico City. Scott returned to the United States in 1848, and in 1852 Congress raised his rank to lieutenant general, the first since George Washington. At the start of the American Civil War (1861-1865), Scott was still general-in-chief of the U.S. Army. Scott conceived a long-range strategy to achieve Northern victory. Except for underestimating, by about half, the length of time and number of men it would take to succeed, Scott had sketched the broad strategy the North would use to defeat the South. When Scott retired in November 1861, George B. McClellan took over as general-in-chief. Winfield Scott is appropriately buried at West Point, and the museum there has many wonderful items that were his.

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