General Scott Resigns from U.S. Army, McClellan Succeeds Him
Major General Winfield Scott (1786-1866) [all illustrations courtesy of Wikipedia]
Today in Military History: November 1, 1861
He commanded the American army longer than any man, but was pushed aside as being too old. Winfield Scott also made a huge contribution to U.S. strategy to prosecute the American Civil War.
Scott was born in June of 1786 near Petersburg, Virginia. He attended the College of William and Mary briefly, studied law in a private attorney's office, a served briefly as a Virginia militia cavalry corporal in 1806. Scott received a commission as a U.S. army captain of artillery in 1808. It was the beginning of a career that would last nearly 60 years.
Some of the highlights of Scott's career include:
+ Service in the War of 1812, particularly the battles of Chippawa and Lundy's Lane;
+ Publication of two manuals on army tactics and training, one in 1830, another in 1840;
+ Service in the Black Hawk War (1832) and 2nd Seminole War (1835-1842);
+ Command of troops responsible for the removal of the Cherokee from Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama to Oklahoma in 1838, later referred to as the "Trail of Tear;"
+ Command of American soldiers responsible for the capture of Mexico City, ending the Mexican American War (1846-1848);
+ Nomination by the Whig Party as Presidential candidate in 1852, losing to Democrat Franklin Pierce 254 electoral votes to 24;
+ Appointment as major general in 1841, first American soldier to achieve that rank;
+ By special act of Congress, appointment to brevet rank of lieutenant general, only second man – after George Washington – to hold that rank.
Gen. Scott, photograph taken in 1861
When many fellow southerners were under suspicion, Scott stayed true to his country. At the beginning of the Civil War, Gen. Scott knew that his time was nearly done, and that a younger man was needed to run the nation's military. Less than 3 days after the surrender of Fort Sumter, Scott offered the command of Union forces to Colonel Robert E. Lee, who Scott referred to as "the very finest soldier I've ever seen."
Scott's physical infirmities cast doubt on his stamina; he suffered from gout and rheumatism and his weight had ballooned to over 300 lbs, prompting some wags to use a play on his nickname of "Old Fuss and Feathers," instead calling him "Old Fat and Feeble." McClellan was anxious for Scott to be pushed aside; political pressure from McClellan's supporters in Congress led to Scott's resignation on November 1, 1861. McClellan then succeeded him as general-in-chief.
However, Scott had one last major contribution to the nation he served. In the war's early days, he developed a strategy that he hoped would bring the Confederacy to its knees. It was called the "Anaconda Plan." It envisioned a Union naval blockade of the South, strangling its commerce, then a Federal army going down the Mississippi River, cutting off the western states of the Rebel nation. The plan was first thought to be too expensive, and Lincoln initially rejected it. However, its broad outlines were the basis for the strategy that eventually won the war for the North.
Scott lived to see the victory of Federal forces, dying in May of 1866 (less than a month before his 80th birthday), and is buried in the West Point Cemetery.
Scott Circle in Washington, DC is named for him:
...as is the Scott's oriole.