Winfield Scott (June 13, 1786 – May 29, 1866) was a United States Army general and unsuccessful presidential candidate of the Whig Party in 1852.
Known as "Old Fuss and Feathers" and the "Grand Old Man of the Army", he served on active duty as a general longer than any other person in American history, is rated as one of the most senior commissioned officers of all time, and many historians rate him as the best American commander of his time. Over the course of his 53-year career, he commanded forces in the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War, the Mexican–American War, the Second Seminole War, and, briefly, the American Civil War, conceiving the Union strategy known as the Anaconda Plan that was used to defeat the Confederacy. He served as Commanding General of the United States Army for twenty years, longer than any other holder of the office.
A national hero after the Mexican–American War, he served as military governor of Mexico City. Such was his stature that, in 1852, the Whig Party passed over its own incumbent President of the United States, Millard Fillmore, to nominate Scott in that year's United States presidential election. At six feet five inches in height, he remains the tallest man ever nominated by a major party. Scott lost to Democrat Franklin Pierce in the general election, but remained a popular national figure, receiving a brevet promotion in 1855 to the rank of lieutenant general, becoming the first American since George Washington to hold that rank.
Winfield Scott was born to William Scott (1747–1791), a farmer and veteran of the American Revolution who served as an officer in the Dinwiddie County militia, and Ann Mason (1748–1803) on Laurel Branch, the family plantation in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, near Petersburg, Virginia, on June 13, 1786. He was educated by tutors and in the local schools, and briefly attended the College of William and Mary. He then studied law in the office of attorney David Robinson, where his contemporaries included Thomas Ruffin. Scott attained admission to the bar, and made a brief attempt to practice law. He also gained his initial military experience as a corporal of cavalry in the Virginia militia near Petersburg in 1807, during the response to the Chesapeake–Leopard Affair.
Scott's long career in the United States Army began when Senator William Branch Giles of Virginia arranged for Scott to be interviewed by Henry Dearborn, the Secretary of War, and President Thomas Jefferson. He was subsequently commissioned as a captain in the Light Artillery in May 1808, shortly before his 22nd birthday.
Scott's early career in the army was tumultuous. Scott openly criticized the then Commanding General of the Army, James Wilkinson over Wilkinson's refusal to follow orders and remove troops from an unhealthy bivouac site he owned near New Orleans, which caused several illnesses and deaths. Scott's commission was suspended for one year, and after returning to duty, he served in New Orleans on the staff of General Wade Hampton from 1811 to 1812.
Scott earned the nickname "Old Fuss and Feathers" for his insistence on military bearing, courtesy, appearance and discipline. In his own campaigns after reaching high rank, Scott preferred to use a core of Army regulars augmented by volunteers whenever possible. Scott perennially concerned himself with the welfare of his men, as demonstrated by his quarrel with Wilkinson over the New Orleans bivouac site. In another instance, when cholera broke out at a post under his command, Scott was the only officer who stayed to nurse the stricken enlisted men.
War of 1812
Lieutenant Colonel at Queenston Heights
The army promoted Scott to lieutenant colonel of the 2nd Artillery Regiment in July 1812. Scott served primarily on the Niagara Campaign front in the War of 1812. He took command of an American landing party during the Battle of Queenston Heights (Upper Canada) on October 13, 1812. Most New York militia members refused to cross into Canada in support of the invasion, and the British compelled New York militia commander Brigadier General William Wadsworth and Scott, the Regular Army commander, to surrender.
The British held Scott as a prisoner of war. The British considered Irish-American prisoners of war British subjects and traitors and executed 13 such Americans captured at Queenstown Heights. The British paroled and released Scott in a prisoner exchange. Upon release, Scott returned to Washington to pressure the Senate to take punitive action against British prisoners of war in retaliation for the British executions of Irish-American soldiers. The Senate wrote a bill after this urging, but President James Madison believed the summary execution of prisoners of war unworthy of civilized nations and so refused to enforce the act.
Colonel at Fort George
Scott was promoted to colonel in March 1813. Scott planned and led the capture of Fort George, Upper Canada, on the Niagara River. By crossing the Niagara and landing on the Lake Ontario shore, Scott forced the British to abandon Fort George. Colonel Scott was wounded in this battle, which is considered among the best-planned and best-executed U.S. operations of the war.
Brigadier General at Chippawa and Lundy's Lane
Scott was promoted to brigadier general on March 19, 1814. He was only 27 years old at the time, one of the youngest generals in the history of the U.S. Army.
Scott commanded the 1st Brigade, and was instrumental in the American success at the Battle of Chippawa on July 5, 1814. This battle was regarded as inconclusive from the strategic point of view, because the British army was intact and able to continue operations. It was decisive from the point of view of British morale; American soldiers had fought well against a professional European army, and ended the fight in control of the battlefield. The morale of British soldiers ebbed, and their Native American allies refused to cooperate with them.
Scott had a major role in the bloody Battle of Lundy's Lane on July 25, and suffered serious wounds. The American commander, Major General Jacob Brown, and the British-Canadian commander, Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond, were also wounded.
Brevet Major General
For his valor at Lundy's Lane, Scott received a brevet (i.e., an honorary promotion) to major general to date from July 25, 1814. The severity of his wounds prevented his return to active duty for the remainder of the war.
In 1815, Scott was admitted as an honorary member of the Pennsylvania Society of the Cincinnati in recognition of his service in the War of 1812.Scott's Society of the Cincinnati insignia was a one of a kind solid gold eagle measuring nearly three inches in height, making it one of the most impressive military society insignias ever produced. There are no known portraits or photographs of Scott wearing the insignia. Scott's insignia is in the collection of the West Point Museum.
After the War of 1812
From the War of 1812 until he became commanding general of the U.S. Army in 1841, Scott had a rivalry with Brevet Major General Edmund P. Gaines. The central issue was the question of which had seniority; should brevet ranks count, which would favor Scott, or were regular Army ranks what mattered, which would favor Gaines? Scott claimed he outranked Gaines because Scott's brevet rank of major general, dated July 25, 1814 made him senior to Gaines, whose brevet was dated August 15, 1814. Gaines argued that he should be senior; his and Scott's promotions to brigadier general, colonel, and lieutenant colonel were all issued on the same dates, but Gaines had been promoted to major first. The dispute was important to both because they realized that assignment as the Army's commanding general might be at stake. (Gaines became increasingly marginalized as Scott continued to gain influence, and died in 1849 while still on active duty.)
Scott supervised the modernized standard drill regulations for the Army and headed a postwar officer retention selection board in 1815. He also served as president of Board of Tactics in 1815. Scott visited Europe to study French military methods in 1815/1816. He translated several military manuals of Napoleon I of France into English.
Scott held regional command in the Division of the North in 1816. Scott served as president of the Board of Tactics in 1821, 1824 and 1826. He commanded the Eastern Department in 1825.
Scott and Gaines were passed over for the commanding general's post in 1828, following the death of Jacob Brown. Aware of the Scott/Gaines rivalry, President John Quincy Adams nominated Alexander Macomb, who had been a brigadier general, but had agreed to reduction in rank to colonel in order to serve as the Army's chief of engineers. After losing out to Macomb, Scott attempted to resign, but it was not accepted. Scott again visited Europe and then resumed command of the Eastern Department in 1829. Upon direction of the War Department, Scott in 1830 published Abstract of Infantry Tactics, Including Exercises and Manueuvres of Light-Infantry and Riflemen, for the Use of the Militia of the United States.
Cholera among his reinforcing troops prevented Scott from taking field command during the Black Hawk War. In late November and early December 1832, Scott organized U.S. Army troops for possible enforcement of President Andrew Jackson's authority during the Nullification Crisis. In late 1832 and early 1833 Scott served as an emissary from President Jackson to South Carolina. His tactful diplomacy and the use of his troops in suppressing a major fire in Charleston did much to defuse the crisis.
In 1832, Scott replaced John E. Wool as commander of Federal troops in the Cherokee Nation lands in Georgia.
Scott commanded the field forces in Second Seminole War and Creek War in 1836. Scott was recalled to Washington due to the highly politicized nature of the tactics he employed and the huge expenditures incurred in policing the frontier, compounded by controversies between regular army and local militia officers. Brigadier General Edmund Meredith Shackelford was appointed commander in the area by President Jackson until Brigadier General Thomas Jesup could arrive. A court of inquiry later cleared Scott of wrongdoing in the Seminole and Creek operations.
Scott felt that his recall was a political intrigue. In 1845, Shackelford wrote to Jackson for a clarifying statement that Shackelford had had no part in Scott's recall to Washington.
Scott assumed command of the Eastern Division in 1837. Scott was responsible for maintaining order on the Canada–US border, where the Patriot War threatened to entangle the U.S. in the Upper Canada Rebellion.
Presidents Jackson and Van Buren, ignoring the Supreme Court's ruling in Worcester v. Georgia, tacitly supported Georgia's expulsion of the Cherokees. In 1838, Scott was placed in charge of enforcing the Treaty of New Echota, including removal of the Cherokees to the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Van Buren put Scott in command of the "Army of the Cherokee Nation", headquartered at Fort Cass and Fort Butler.
Arriving at New Echota, Cherokee Nation, on April 6, 1838, Scott immediately divided the Cherokee Nation into three military districts. He designated May 26, 1838 as the beginning date for the first phase of the removal. The first phase involved the Cherokees in Georgia. Scott wanted Army regulars rather than Georgia militia for this operation, because the militia had personal gains at stake; some claimed Cherokee land. The promised regulars did not arrive in time, so Scott proceeded with 4,000 Georgia militia.
The moral implications of the Jackson-Van Buren policies did not make Scott's role easy. Representative (and ex-President) John Quincy Adams opposed the removal, imputing it to "Southern politicians and land grabbers"; many Americans agreed. Scott reassured the Cherokee people of proper treatment. In his instructions to the militia, Scott called any acts of harshness and cruelty "abhorrent to the generous sympathies of the whole American people." Scott also admonished his troops not to fire on any fugitives they might apprehend unless they should "make stand and resist". Scott detailed help to render the weak and infirm: "Horses or ponies should be used to carry Cherokees too sick or feeble to march." Also, "Infants, superannuated persons, lunatics, and women in a helpless condition with all, in the removal [deserve] peculiar attention, which the brave and humane will seek to adopt to the necessities of the several cases."
Scott's good intentions, however, did not adequately protect the Cherokees from terrible abuses, especially at the hands of "lawless rabble that followed on the heels of the soldiers to loot and pillage". At the end of the first phase of the removal in August 1838, 3,000 Cherokees left Georgia and Tennessee by water toward Oklahoma, but camps still retained another 13,000. By the intercession of Chief John Ross in Washington, these Cherokees traveled "under their own auspices, unarmed, and free of supervision by militiamen or regulars."
Though government contractors, steamboat owners, and others who stood to profit protested, Scott carried out this new policy. Ex-President Jackson demanded of the Attorney General the replacement of Scott and the arrest of Chief Ross.
Within months, Scott captured (or killed) every Cherokee in north Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama who could not escape. His troops reportedly rounded up the Cherokee and held them in rat-infested stockades with little food. Private John G. Burnett later wrote, "Future generations will read and condemn the act and I do hope posterity will remember that private soldiers like myself, and like the four Cherokees who were forced by General Scott to shoot an Indian Chief and his children, had to execute the orders of our superiors. We had no choice in the matter."
More than 4,000 Cherokee died in this confinement before ever beginning the trip west. As the first groups herded west died in huge numbers in the heat, the Cherokee pleaded with Scott to postpone the second phase of the removal until autumn, and he complied. Determined to accompany them as an observer, Scott left Athens, Georgia, on October 1, 1838, and traveled with the first "company" of a thousand people, including both Cherokees and black slaves, as far as Nashville. The Cherokee removal later became known as the Trail of Tears.
When Brigadier General Winfield Scott reached Nashville, superiors abruptly ordered him to return to Washington to deal with troubles on the Canada–US border. On this assignment, he helped defuse tensions between officials of the state of Maine and the British colony of New Brunswick in the undeclared and bloodless Aroostook War in March 1839.
Authorship of manual on tactics
In 1835, Scott wrote Infantry Tactics, Or, Rules for the Exercise and Maneuvre of the United States Infantry. This three-volume work served as the standard drill manual for the United States Army until William J. Hardee's Tactics, published in 1855.
On June 25, 1841, Macomb died, and Scott and Gaines were the two most obvious choices to succeed him. John Bell, the Secretary of War, had no interest in rekindling the Scott/Gaines seniority dispute; he quickly recommended Scott to President John Tyler. Tyler approved, and Scott assumed office as commanding general on July 5, 1841. He was promoted to major general, then the highest rank in the Army, with June 25, 1841, as his date of rank.
As commanding general of the Army, Scott took great interest in the professional development of the cadets of the United States Military Academy.
During the Mexican–American War, Major General Scott was appointed by President James K. Polk to lead an army of regulars and volunteers to the Rio Grande for a hasty campaign. During the planning and initial movement, worsening political tensions between Scott and the president led to a very public shellacking and relief of Scott as field commander. With reluctance, Zachary Taylor was charged with leading the charge to the Rio Grande.
While Taylor was largely successful in securing the northeastern provinces of Mexico after war broke out, it became obvious by the mid-1846, the Mexicans would not surrender the captured territories without a direct assault on their capital. Deeming an overland campaign from northeastern Mexico unfeasible (required marching over 560 mi (901 km) of arid Mexican desert), Scott planned an expedition to Gulf port city of Veracruz. As Taylor gained notoriety for victories in northeastern Mexico, Polk became increasingly reluctant to posture Taylor for a presidential run post-bellum. Further, Polk and his cabinet had reasonable doubts whether Taylor could lead the complex operation. Left to choose between Taylor and Scott, Polk reluctantly chose Scott at the behest of his cabinet.
Even while Scott was en route to the theater of operations, Polk continued to search for a fellow Democrat to command the expedition in lieu of Scott. Senator William O. Butler and Robert Patterson were both selected as early options, but neither were deemed acceptable by Congress. Patterson, who was Irish-born and not eligible to be President, was dismissed early on as a suitable choice. Butler's capacity to command an army was questionable at best, never seeing combat and lacking experience in the regular Army.
Landing at Veracruz on March 9, 1847, Scott, assisted by one of his staff officers, Captain Robert E. Lee, and perhaps inspired by William H. Prescott's History of the Conquest of Mexico, followed the approximate route taken by Hernán Cortés in 1519, and assaulted Mexico City. Scott's opponent in this campaign, Mexican president and general Antonio López de Santa Anna, had just suffered a crushing defeat at Buena Vista and faced impending revolt by the Mexican populace. Santa Anna chose to meet Scott after the landing, assuming the American force to be significantly degraded after a costly offense on the well-fortified Vera Cruz. Despite high heat, rains, and difficult terrain, Scott won the battles of Cerro Gordo on April 18, 1847, Contreras/Padierna on August 19–20, 1847, Churubusco on August 20, 1847, and Molino del Rey on September 8, 1847. He then assaulted the fort of Chapultepec on September 13, 1847, after which Mexico City surrendered.
When the Duke of Wellington, victor of Waterloo, learned that Scott had succeeded against alarming odds in capturing Mexico City, he proclaimed Scott "the greatest living general".
Saint Patrick's Battalion
A group of Irish-American deserters from the U.S. Army joined the Mexican army as the San Patricio (St. Patrick) Battalion. Seventy-two of them were captured at Churubusco.
The San Patricio men were deserters in action, and had traitorously joined the enemy army. There was no question about this, and the punishment for desertion and treason was death. Scott's army was still facing a dangerous enemy and possible insurgency, so he placed the prisoners before courts martial to have them settle it. Eisenhower says the men were tried in two groups. The trials were conducted fairly by Brevet Colonel John Garland and by Colonel Bennet Riley. Because all the men captured were wearing Mexican uniforms, they were found guilty and sentenced to hang.
This created a serious problem for Scott. He was troubled by the sweep of guilty verdicts. He did not want to alienate the Mexican public, who by now had made the deserters national heroes. Nor did he want to encourage insurgency among the Mexican people that would weaken his pacification program in progress. He also knew that the deserters were Irish-born Catholics, who had deserted Taylor's army because they allegedly felt mistreated and had witnessed atrocities "sufficient to make Heaven weep" against fellow Catholics, the Mexicans. In response to these, in 1847, Scott ordered that Protestants respect Catholic ceremonies.
Scott believed he needed to confirm the trials and sentences. He concluded that some men deserved less punishment, and sat up nights attempting to find excuses to avoid the universal application of capital punishment. In the end he approved the death penalty for 50 of the 72 San Patricios, but later pardoned five and reduced the sentence of fifteen others, including the ringleader, Sergeant John Riley. This left 30 slated for execution, 16 of whom were hanged on September 10, 1847. Four were hanged the next day, and the remainder assigned to Colonel William Harney for execution at some later date.
On the day of execution, Harney ordered each deserter placed on a mule cart with a rope around his neck, fastening each rope to a mass gibbet. Then, during the battle of Chapultepec, just as the American flag was about to rise above the walls of the Mexican citadel, he ordered the executioners to give the mules a whack, causing the beasts to lurch forward, leaving the deserters in mid-air, dangling "en masse". Some argue that this adversely affected Scott's record, as the events violated numerous Articles of War. Eisenhower, however, attributes the incident to Harney.
During political intrigues later in his life, Scott ignored the events, stating "not one [Irishman] ... was ever known to turn his back upon the enemy or friend".
As military commander of Mexico City, he was held in high esteem by Mexican civil and American authorities alike, primarily owing to his pacification policy and fairness. For example, when he drew his "martial law order" to be issued and enforced in Mexico (to prevent looting, rape, murder, etc.), all offenders, both Mexicans and Americans, were treated equally.
Apart from his military career, Scott's vanity, as well as his corpulence, led to a catch phrase that haunted him for the remainder of his political life.
Complaining about the division of command between himself and General Taylor, in a letter to Secretary of War William Marcy, Scott wrote of not wishing to "have a fire in his rear (from Washington) while he met a fire in front of the Mexicans". This offended Marcy and also Polk. In another letter, Scott wrote that a letter from Marcy arrived as "at about 6 pm as I sat down to take a hasty plate of soup". The Polk administration, eager to embarrass Scott, promptly published the letter, and the cryptic phrase appeared in political cartoons and comic songs for the rest of his life.
Scott was made an honorary member of the Aztec Club of 1847, an organization of American officers who served in the Mexican War. Originally, the only officers who could join were those who served in the occupation of Mexico City. Later, the organization allowed for other officers who served during the Mexican War to join along with their descendants.
Scott was one of the candidates to be the Whig nominee for president in 1840. The leading contenders were General William Henry Harrison and Senator Henry Clay, with Scott in third place. Scott's hope was that delegates might turn to him if Harrison and Clay deadlocked. During the balloting at the party's December 1839 convention in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Clay and Scott were at the Astor House hotel in New York City, and played cards with Whig politicians John J. Crittenden and George Evans. When the group received word of Harrison's victory on the fifth ballot, Clay blamed his loss on Scott for not withdrawing and instructing his delegates to vote for Clay. In the ensuing argument, Clay struck Scott, with the blow landing on the shoulder which had been wounded during Scott's participation in the Battle of Lundy's Lane. Afterwards Clay had to be physically removed from the hotel room. Scott then sent Crittenden to Clay with Scott's challenge for a duel, but Crittenden reconciled them by convincing Clay to apologize.
Scott was again a contender for the Whig presidential nomination for the 1848 election. Clay, Daniel Webster, and General Zachary Taylor were also candidates for the nomination. As in 1840, Whigs were looking for a non-ideological war hero to be their candidate. Scott's main appeal was to anti-slavery "conscience Whigs", who were dismayed by the fact that two of the leading contenders, Clay and Taylor, were slaveholders. Ultimately, however, the delegates passed on Scott for a second time, nominating Taylor on the fourth ballot. Many anti-slavery Whigs then defected to support the nominee of the Free-Soil Party, former President Martin Van Buren. Taylor went on to win the general election.
In the 1852 presidential election, anti-slavery Whigs were able to block the nomination of incumbent President, Millard Fillmore, who had succeeded to the presidency on the death of Taylor. These Whigs were angry by Fillmore's signing of the Fugitive Slave Act, part of the Compromise of 1850. Seeking to repeat their previous successes with war heroes, the Whigs nominated Scott instead, who faced Democrat Franklin Pierce. However, the nomination process foreshadowed the general election:
More grievously rent by sectional rivalries than the Democrats, the Whigs balloted fifty-three times before nominating Scott. The delegates then unanimously approved the platform except for the central plank that pledged "acquiescence" in the Compromise of 1850, "the act known as the Fugitive Slave law included." The plank carried by a vote of 212 to 70, opposition coming largely from Scott's supporters. The old soldier, faced with disarray in the Whig ranks, sought out to resolve his dilemma by announcing, "I accept the nomination with the resolutions annexed." To this, antislavery Whigs rejoined, "We accept the candidate, but we spit on the platform."
Scott's anti-slavery reputation undermined his support in the South, while the Party's pro-slavery platform depressed turnout in the North, and Scott's opponent was a Mexican–American War veteran as well, which lessened the effectiveness of Scott's war hero status. Pierce was elected in an overwhelming win, leaving Scott with the electoral votes of only Massachusetts, Vermont, Kentucky and Tennessee. A contemporary newspaper called the 1852 election the most "ludicrous, ridiculous, and uninteresting presidential campaign" in history. The 1852 campaign is the only one in American history where one candidate (Pierce) had served under the command of the other (Scott) in time of war.
Despite his defeat in the election, Scott was still a popular national hero. In February 1855, by a special act of Congress, Scott was given a brevet promotion to the rank of lieutenant general, making him the second person in U.S. military history, after George Washington, to hold that rank.
In 1859, Scott traveled to the Pacific Northwest to settle a dispute with the British over San Juan Island, which had escalated to the so-called Pig War. The old general established a good rapport with the British, and brought about a peaceful resolution.
American Civil War
When the American Civil War began in the spring of 1861, Scott was 74 years old and suffering numerous health problems, including gout, rheumatism, and dropsy. He was also extremely overweight and unable to mount a horse or review troops.
As Scott could not lead an army into battle, he offered the command of the United States' army to Colonel Robert E. Lee on April 17, 1861, whom Scott referred to as "the very finest soldier I've ever seen". However, Virginia declared that it had left the Union on that same day. Lee, though disapproving of secession, was hesitant at the possibility of taking up arms against his home state and asked if he could keep out of the war. Scott replied "I have no place in my army for equivocal men." Lee then resigned and went south to join the Confederate army instead.
Although Scott was born and raised in Virginia, he remained loyal to the U.S., the nation that he had served for most of his life, and refused to resign his commission.
The command of the U.S. troops at Washington was given to Brigadier General Irvin McDowell.
At this time, public opinion throughout the Northern states called for an immediate campaign to crush the rebellion quickly. Scott considered this wrong-headed and probably impossible. Instead, he drew up a plan to defeat the Confederacy by blockading Southern ports and sending an army down the Mississippi Valley. Scott's scheme was derided as the "Anaconda Plan", intended to crush the Confederacy slowly; eventually the actual Union victory followed its broad outlines.
But in July 1861, the pressure to march "Forward to Richmond" was overwhelming. Lincoln set aside Scott's plan and directed McDowell to attack in Virginia.
When Lincoln received news that the Union Army had been defeated at Manassas on July 21, 1861, he went to Scott's residence. Scott assumed responsibility for the Union defeat. Major General George B. McClellan took command of the army at Washington (now the Army of the Potomac).
Scott's physical infirmities cast doubt on his fitness for command; his weight had ballooned to over 300 lbs. In a play on his old nickname, he was called "Old Fat and Feeble".
He also ran into conflict with President Lincoln and others who wanted to organize the army into divisions. Scott argued that in the Mexican War, no commands larger than brigades had been needed, and that none were needed now, even though the Army of the Potomac was more than triple the size of Scott's army in Mexico. McClellan, the ambitious new field commander, wanted Scott out, and had many influential political friends. Scott resigned on November 1, 1861. McClellan then succeeded him as general-in-chief. Although officially retired, Scott was still occasionally consulted by Lincoln for strategic advice during the war.
Retirement and death
After his retirement from the Army, Scott lived the rest of his life at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. Scott lived to see the Union's victory in the Civil War in April 1865.
On October 4, 1865, he was elected as a Companion of the Pennsylvania Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS), an organization of Union officers who had served in the Civil War. Scott was assigned MOLLUS insignia number 27 but, for undetermined reasons, the insignia was never issued to Scott. (Scott was one of the few individuals to have belonged to the Society of the Cincinnati, the Aztec Club of 1847 and the Loyal Legion.)
General Scott died at the West Point Hotel on May 29, 1866, and is buried in the West Point Cemetery.
In 1817, Scott married Maria D. Mayo (1789 – June 10, 1862). She was the daughter of Colonel John Mayo of Richmond, Virginia, who granted the couple the use of his house in Elizabeth, New Jersey, near the New York City headquarters Scott was assigned to at the time. They were the parents of seven children—five daughters and two sons:
- Maria Mayo (1818-1833)
- John Mayo (1819-1820)
- Virginia (1821-1845)
- Edward Winfield (1823-1827)
- Cornelia Winfield (1825-1885) - The wife of Brevet Brigadier General Henry L. Scott (1814-1866), who served as Winfield Scott's aide-de-camp and Inspector General of the Army.
- Adeline Camilla (1831-1882) - The wife of Goold Hoyt (1818-1883), a New York City businessman.
- Marcella (1834-1909) - The wife of Charles Carroll MacTavish (1818-1868), a member of Maryland's prominent Carroll family.
- Appletons' annual cyclopaedia and register of important events of the year: 1862. New York: D. Appleton & Company. 1863. p. 667.
- Eisenhower, John S. D. (1997). Agent of Destiny: The Life and Times of General Winfield Scott. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. p. 109. ISBN 978-0-8061-3128-3.
- Scott, Winfield; Johnson, Timothy D. (2015). Memoirs of Lieut.-General Winfield Scott. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press. p. 344. ISBN 978-1-62190-198-3.
- Peskin, Allan (2003). Winfield Scott and the Profession of Arms. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-87338-774-3.
Scott served under every President from Jefferson to Lincoln, a total of fourteen administrations. Scott served a total of 53 years of active service as an officer—including 47 years as a general, and twenty years (1841–61) as Commanding General. He holds the record for the longest length of active service as general in the U.S. Army as well as the longest tenure as the Army's chief officer.
Scott is one of a very few American officers who have served as a general during three major wars. (The others were General of the Army Douglas MacArthur and General Lewis B. Hershey.) Historians rank Scott highly both as a strategist and as a battlefield commander.
When Scott retired from the Army in November 1861 he had been a general longer than his successor, General McClellan, had been alive.
Scott's papers can be found at the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Scott County in the state of Iowa is named in Winfield Scott's honor, as he was the presiding officer at the signing of the peace treaty ending the Black Hawk War. Scott County, Kansas; Scott County, Virginia; Scott County, Minnesota; Scott County, Tennessee; Scottsdale, Arizona; Winfield, Illinois; Winfield, Indiana; Winfield, Alabama; and Winfield, Tennessee were also named for him. Fort Scott, Kansas, a former Army outpost, was also named for him, as were the towns of Scott Depot and Winfield in West Virginia. Scott Township in Mahaska County, Iowa, was formerly called Jackson before residents formally petitioned to change the township's name in light of their strong support of Scott in the 1852 presidential campaign. In addition, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa, and the town of Churubusco, Indiana, were named for battles where Scott led his troops to victory. Lake Winfield Scott, near Suches, is one of Georgia's highest elevation lakes. Mount Scott (Oklahoma) was named after Winfield Scott by Captain Randolph B. Marcy in 1851.
In 1882, the fort now known as Fort Point at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge in the Presidio was given the name "Fort Winfield Scott" by U.S. Army Headquarters. That fort officially retained the name until 1886, when the fort was downgraded to a sub-post of the Presidio of San Francisco. The name was then used once again for the new coast artillery post established in 1912 in the Presidio. A paddle steamer named the Winfield Scott launched in 1850 and a US Army tugboat currently in service is named Winfield Scott.
The General Winfield Scott House, his home in New York City during 1853–1855, was named National Historic Landmark in 1973. The saying "Great Scott!" may have originated from a soldier under Winfield Scott. The Scott's oriole was named for him by Darius N. Couch, a major general. It had turned out that the species was described several years earlier by naturalist Charles Bonaparte, but Scott's name was retained in the common name anyway.
Union General Winfield Scott Hancock, Confederate General Winfield Scott Featherston and Admiral Winfield Scott Schley were named after General Scott. (Scott was possibly the only general in history to have a subordinate named after himself.)
The actor Stuart Randall played Scott in the 1960 episode "The Quota" of NBC's Riverboat western television series.
Retired United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is a descendant of Winfield Scott.
Dates of rank
|Captain||Regular Army||3 May 1808|
|Lieutenant Colonel||Regular Army||6 July 1812|
|Colonel||Regular Army||12 March 1813|
|Brigadier General||Regular Army||9 March 1814|
|Brevet Major General||Regular Army||25 July 1814|
|Major General||Regular Army||25 June 1841|
|Brevet Lieutenant General||Regular Army||29 March 1847|
- Captain, Light Artillery – May 3, 1808
- Lieutenant Colonel, 2nd Artillery – July 6, 1812
- Colonel, 2nd Artillery – March 12, 1813
- Colonel, Adjutant General – March 18 to July 18, 1813
- Brigadier General – March 9, 1814
- Brevet Major General – July 25, 1814
- Major General – June 25, 1841
- Brevet Lieutenant General – February 1855 (date of rank: March 29, 1847)
- Retired – November 1, 1861
General Winfield Scott is one of very few US Army Generals to be honored on a US postage stamp. He was the first General to appear on a postage stamp after Washington, who was portrayed as a general on an issue of 1861. The first Winfield Scott stamp issue was released to the public in 1870, four years after the General's death at West Point. The engraving depicts Scott in classic profile with an arc of 13 stars overhead and allegorical military weaponry at the bottom of the design—surviving examples are very scarce and quite valuable today. General Scott was honored again on the Army issue of 1937, one in a series of five commemorative stamps honoring notable Army heroes where Scott is depicted along with Andrew Jackson on the 2-cent stamp of this series.
Scott is also honored in various other ways. Several statues of Scott exist, including the one located on a Street named after him in Washington DC.
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