Winfield Scott — Quick Facts
Birth and Early Life
- Full Name: His full name was Winfield Scott.
- Nickname: His nickname was “Old Fuss and Feathers.”
- Parents: His father was William Scott. His mother was Ann Mason.
- Date of Birth: He was born on June 13, 1786.
- Birthplace: He was born at Laurel Branch, his family’s plantation in Dinwiddie County, Virginia.
- Spouse: His wife was Maria Mayo.
- Date of Death: Scott died on May 29, 1866.
- Place of Death: He died in West Point, New York.
- Burial: United States Military Academy Post Cemetery, West Point, New York.
- Scott graduated from the College of William and Mary.
- Scott worked as a lawyer and military officer.
Scott achieved the following ranks during his illustrious military career.
- Major General (USA)
- Brevet Lieutenant General (USA)
Winfield Scott — Timeline
This timeline presents key events in the life of General Winfield Scott in chronological order.
Early Life in Virginia
- Scott was the second son and youngest of six children born to William and Ann Mason Scott.
- His father, who served as a captain during the Revolutionary War, died in 1792 when Scott was five or six years old.
- His mother, who descended from a wealthy Virginia family, died in 1803 when Scott was seventeen.
- He studied law at the College of William and Mary and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1806.
Early Military Career
- Scott gained his first taste of military life when he volunteered for duty enforcing an embargo against British vessels in 1807.
- He was commissioned as a captain in the U.S. Army’s Light Artillery on May 3, 1808.
- In January 1810, after making disparaging remarks about his commanding officer, General James Wilkinson, a court-martial found Winfield Scott guilty of “ungentlemanly and unofficer-like conduct,” and sentenced him “to be suspended from all rank, pay, and emoluments, for the space of twelve months.”
War of 1812
- After Congress declared war against Great Britain on June 18, 1812, Winfield Scott was promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 2nd Artillery Regiment in July.
- He was captured by British troops on October 13, 1812.
- On March 12, 1813, he was promoted to colonel.
- On March 9, 1814, he was promoted to brigadier general.
- He was severely wounded in the left shoulder at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane.
- He was brevetted to major general for his valor at the Battle Lundy’s Lane.
- On October 16, 1814, he was named commander of the 10th Military District, headquartered in Washington, DC.
- On November 3, 1814, he received the Thanks of Congress in recognition of his service to his country during the War of 1812.
This painting by H. Charles McBarron, Jr. depicts Winfield Scott leading his men into the fight at the Battle of Chippewa. Image Source: Wikipedia.
Marriage to Maria Mayo
- On March 11, 1817, Winfield Scott married Virginia native Maria Mayo.
- Their marriage lasted 45 years.
- They had seven children, five of whom survived to adulthood.
Resignation and Command of the Eastern Division
- In 1828 Winfield Scott tendered his resignation from the army in protest of being passed over for promotion.
- Consultation with friends and supports convinced Scott to reconsider, and he resumed command of the Eastern Division.
Black Hawk War
- In 1832, the War Department ordered Winfield Scott to lead troops to Illinois to take part in the Black Hawk War. Before his arrival, however, the fighting ended.
Nullification Crisis in South Carolina
- In 1833, President Andrew Jackson dispatched Winfield Scott to South Carolina to defuse the growing Nullification Crisis.
- Scott was credited with brokering a temporary peace between South Carolina and the federal government until the issue was resolved with the adoption of the Compromise Tariff of 1833.
Second Seminole War and Indian Removal
- On January 20, 1836, Winfield Scott was placed in command of the Army of Florida and ordered to plan a campaign against the Seminole Tribe that eventually escalated into the Second Seminole War.
- In April 1838, President Martin Van Buren dispatched Winfield Scott to northern Georgia to oversee the forced removal of the Cherokee Nation to present-day Oklahoma. Over 4,000 Cherokees died from disease, starvation, and exposure to cold weather during the trip that became known as the Trail of Tears.
Command of the United States Army
- On July 5, 1841, President John Tyler issued an executive order confirming Scott’s promotion to major general and ordering him to take command of the United States Army.
- Scott’s affinity for proper military appearance, along with his emphasis on army decorum, earned him the nickname of “Old Fuss and Feathers.”
Mexican-American War — 1847
- On March 9, 1847, Scott landed a force of 12,000 soldiers near the Mexican port city of Veracruz during the Mexican-American War.
Mexican-American War — Battles Won
During the war, Scott was the victorious commanding general in the following American victories:
- April 17–18, 1847 — Battle of Cerro Gordo
- August 19, 1847 — Battle of Contreras
- August 20, 1847 — Battle of Churubusco
- September 8, 1847 — Battle of Molina del Rey
- September 13, 1847 — Assault on the Castle of Chapultepec
This illustration depicts Winfield Scott leading American forces into Mexico City on September 14, 1847, during the Mexican-American War. Image Source: Library of Congress.
Mexican-American War — Men Who Served Under Him
Over the course of the war, he commanded future Civil War notables, including:
- Ulysses S. Grant
- Robert E. Lee
- P. G. T. Beauregard
- James Longstreet
- Gideon Pillow
- George B. McClellan
- George Meade
- Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson
The Last Whig Party Candidate for President
- In 1852, Scott ran for President of the United States as the candidate for the Whig Party.
- His opponent was Democrat Franklin Pierce.
- Pierce won the election with 254 electoral votes, to 42 electoral votes for Scott.
- Scott was the last presidential candidate from the Whig Party.
Civil War — Prelude
- On March 7, 1855, Congress passed a joint resolution temporarily reviving the rank of lieutenant general and named Winfield Scott to fill the position by brevet.
The Anaconda Plan
- When the Civil War finally erupted, Winfield Scott devised a long-term Anaconda Plan to strangle the Confederacy by blockading Southern seaports.
This illustration of the Anaconda Plan depicts the “Great Snake” Scott devised to blockade Southern ports. Image Source: Library of Congress.
Resignation as Major General
- After Southern forces routed the Army of Northeastern Virginia at the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln urged Scott to resign as commanding general of the U.S. Army.
- On July 25, 1861, the War Department issued General Orders No. 47 merging the Department of Washington and the Department of Northeastern Virginia to form a new geographical division that would be known as the Division of the Potomac.
- The order named Major General George B. McClellan as commander of the new division.
- Scott was aware McClelland was Lincoln’s favorite, so Scott offered his resignation on November 1, 1861.
- On November 1, 1861, the War Department issued General Orders No. 94 announcing President Lincoln’s executive order reporting Winfield Scott’s retirement from the army.
- In 1864, Scott published his two-volume autobiography.
- He lived long enough to see the implementation of his Anaconda Plan help win the Civil War and restore the Union.
Death and Burial
- On May 29, 1866, Scott died at West Point, just short of his eightieth birthday.
- He was buried next to his wife at the United States Military Academy Post Cemetery.