A Warrior for the Ages: Winfield Scott
Happy birthday to a warrior for the ages, Winfield Scott, born on June 13, 1786 in Dinwiddie County, Virginia.
For fifty-three of his seventy-nine years on this earth, Winfield Scott wore the uniform of a soldier. He spent forty-seven of those years as a general, serving in that rank longer than any other individual in American history. Over his long life of service, Scott distinguished himself as a warrior for the ages across three major wars: the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, and the American Civil War.
An 1855 portrait of Winfield Scott. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Scott’s talent for military leadership was unleashed during the War of 1812, a conflict in which he proved himself fearless on the battlefield, a superb organizer, and skilled at turning volunteers into crack soldiers. Nicknamed “Old Fuss and Feathers” for his sharp dress and discipline, he used his eye for precision to help mold the U.S. Army into a more professional force in the years after the war.
Scott truly made his name during the Mexican-American War. As the commanding general of the United States Army, he executed the largest amphibious landing in American history on March 9, 1847, a feat that stood unsurpassed until World War II, putting a 10,000-strong force ashore to the south of the fortified Mexican city of Veracruz. After capturing Veracruz, Scott cut loose from his coastal base and set out for Mexico City, leading his small force across nearly 250 miles of treacherous terrain, living off the land and prevailing over Mexican forces in several battles along the way until reaching the enemy capital. Six months after launching his campaign, the Stars and Stripes were raised over the Halls of Montezuma and Mexico City was in Scott’s hands. Admiring Scott’s daring and highly successful campaign from afar, the legendary Duke of Wellington anointed him “the greatest living soldier.”
Winfield Scott triumphantly enters Mexico City on September 14, 1847. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
When the American Civil War broke out in April 1861, Scott was 74 years old and in poor health, but he remained the commanding general of the U.S. Army. Although his native state of Virginia ultimately seceded from the Union, he remained faithful to the Stars and Stripes. Under pressure, Scott resigned his post in November, making way for the younger George B. McClellan, but his impact in guiding the Northern war effort during the opening months of the war was vital to the Union’s ultimate victory four years later. Nicknamed the “Anaconda Plan,” Scott’s grand strategy to win the war aimed to strangle the Confederate economy and divide the states in rebellion by blockading Southern seaports and gaining control of the Mississippi River. It was a strategy that took time to unfold, but one that did ultimately prove effective in bringing about the demise of the Confederacy.
There is a reason why Winfield Scott served as a general longer than any other individual in American history. His sense of professionalism and his abilities to fight, formulate grand strategy, train troops, and more all clearly mark him as a warrior for the ages.
American Battlefield Trust: 10 Facts - Civil War Navies.
American Battlefield Trust: Winfield Scott.
History.com: General Winfield Scott Captures Mexico City.
History.com: Winfield Scott.
National Park Service: Winfield Scott.
This Is Why We Stand: Titans of War - The Five Greatest Generals in American History.