Scott, Winfield


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Scott, Winfield,

1786–1866, American general, b. near Petersburg, Va.

Military Career

He briefly attended the College of William and Mary, studied law at Petersburg, and joined the military. At the outbreak of the War of 1812, Scott was made a lieutenant colonel. He was captured at Queenston Heights (Oct., 1812), but after his exchange he returned to the Niagara frontier and led a successful assault of Fort George (May, 1813). He was made a brigadier general in Mar., 1814. The thorough training he gave his troops paid off in July when his brigade bore the brunt of the fighting at Lundy's LaneLundy's Lane,
locality in S Ontario just W of the Niagara Falls, scene of a stubborn engagement of the War of 1812, fought July 25, 1814. The American forces commanded by Gen. Winfield Scott and led by Gen. Jacob J.
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, where Scott was severely wounded. Scott became a hero and was brevetted major general.

His subsequent army career was long and varied. In 1815–16 he visited Europe, where he studied French army practices. In 1832, President Andrew Jackson dispatched him to Charleston, S.C., where Scott ably handled the potentially explosive nullificationnullification,
in U.S. history, a doctrine expounded by the advocates of extreme states' rights. It held that states have the right to declare null and void any federal law that they deem unconstitutional.
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 troubles. He served in the Seminole and Creek campaigns and in 1838 supervised the removal of the Cherokee to the Indian TerritoryIndian Territory,
in U.S. history, name applied to the country set aside for Native Americans by the Indian Intercourse Act (1834). In the 1820s, the federal government began moving the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Choctaw, and Chickasaw) of the Southeast to
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 (now in Oklahoma). His talent for peacemaking was displayed in 1838, when he was sent to the Canadian border in the Caroline AffairCaroline Affair.
In 1837 a group of men led by William Lyon Mackenzie rebelled in Upper Canada (now Ontario), demanding a more democratic government. There was much sympathy for their cause in the United States, and a small steamer, the Caroline, owned by U.S.
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, and again in 1839, when he went to Maine during the so-called Aroostook WarAroostook War,
Feb.–May, 1839, border conflict between the United States and Canada. In 1838, Maine and New Brunswick both claimed territory left undetermined on the U.S.-Canadian border, including the valley of the Aroostook River.
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. In 1841, Scott was appointed supreme commander of the U.S. army.

In the Mexican WarMexican War,
1846–48, armed conflict between the United States and Mexico. Causes

While the immediate cause of the war was the U.S. annexation of Texas (Dec., 1845), other factors had disturbed peaceful relations between the two republics.
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, Scott approved the northern campaign of Gen. Zachary Taylor; then Scott himself accepted command of the southern expedition. With the cooperation of the navy, he took Veracruz early in 1847 and began the long march to Mexico City. Cerro GordoCerro Gordo
, mountain pass, E Mexico, on the road between Veracruz and Xalapa, site of a decisive battle (Apr. 17–18, 1847) of the Mexican War. General Santa Anna, having established himself firmly at and behind the pass, attempted to halt the advance of Gen.
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 fell in Apr., 1847, and Scott's army entered Puebla, where it remained inactive for several months. In August the Americans resumed their advance. Fighting at ContrerasContreras
, village, central Mexico, near Mexico City, site of an important battle (Aug. 19–20, 1847) of the Mexican War. Gen. Winfield Scott, continuing his advance after the battle of Cerro Gordo, approached Mexico City.
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 and Churubusco preceded an attack on the outposts of Mexico City. An engagement at Molino del Rey was followed by the storming of ChapultepecChapultepec
[Aztec,=grasshopper hill], 1,600 acres (650 hectares), park in Mexico City. It was originally developed as a residence for Aztec rulers. A castle built on a hill there in the late 18th cent.
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, which fell on Sept. 13, 1847, clearing the way to the capital. The campaign was a triumph for Scott's daring strategy and confirmed his reputation as a bold fighter. Scott was now a national hero, but as a Whig he was disliked by the Democratic administration of James K. PolkPolk, James Knox
, 1795–1849, 11th President of the United States (1845–49), b. Mecklenburg co., N.C. Early Career

His family moved (1806) to the Duck River valley in Tennessee and there, after graduating from the Univ.
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. As a result Scott was recalled to the United States early in 1848. A court of inquiry, however, dismissed charges leveled at him by some subordinate officers, and he was brevetted a lieutenant general.

In 1852, Scott was chosen as the Whig candidate for president, but he made a poor showing against his Democratic opponent, Franklin PiercePierce, Franklin,
1804–69, 14th President of the United States (1853–57), b. Hillsboro, N.H., grad. Bowdoin College, 1824. Admitted to the bar in 1827, he entered politics as a Jacksonian Democrat, like his father, Benjamin Pierce, who was twice elected governor of
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. In 1859, Scott once more took a hand in a boundary disagreement, going to Washington Territory in an effort to settle the San Juan Boundary DisputeSan Juan Boundary Dispute,
controversy between the United States and Great Britain over the U.S.–British Columbia boundary. It is sometimes called the Northwest Boundary Dispute.
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. The outbreak of the Civil WarCivil War,
in U.S. history, conflict (1861–65) between the Northern states (the Union) and the Southern states that seceded from the Union and formed the Confederacy.
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 brought onerous burdens to the general, who, though a Southerner by birth, opposed secession and was loyal to the Union. He wished some delay before any military action was taken, so that the Union's civilian army could be more adequately trained, and the disastrous first battle of Bull RunBull Run,
small stream, NE Va., c.30 mi (50 km) SW of Washington, D.C. Two important battles of the Civil War were fought there: the first on July 21, 1861, and the second Aug. 29–30, 1862. Both battlefields are included in Manassas National Battlefield Park (est. 1940).
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, fought against his wishes, bore out his views. Old and in failing health, Scott was compelled to retire on Nov. 1, 1861.

Character

Although vain and pompous (he was called "Old Fuss and Feathers"), Scott was also generous, fair-minded, considerate of his officers, and solicitous for the welfare of his soldiers. In nonmilitary matters—excluding his diplomatic ventures—his tendency to be quarrelsome and his faculty for "putting his foot in it" made him far less successful. However, he is generally considered the greatest American general between Washington and Lee.

Bibliography

See his memoirs (2 vol., 1864); J. S. D. Eisenhower, Agent of Destiny (1998).

Scott, Winfield

(1786–1866) soldier; born near Petersburg, Va. A Virginia patrician, he studied law but then joined the U.S. Army. In the War of 1812, he saw considerable action on the Canadian border, was briefly captured, and after being severely wounded in the battle of Lundy's Lane (near Niagara Falls), he emerged from the war as a national hero. In the peacetime army, he wrote about military tactics and rose in rank; he won a new reputation as a peacemaker for helping to ease the nullification crisis in 1832 and for settling border disputes with Canada; in 1839 he prevented what could have been a bloody conflict by convincing 16,000 Cherokee to accept resettlement beyond the Mississippi. Appointed general in chief of the army in 1841, he was in command of U.S. forces as they went to war against Mexico in 1846; in March 1847 he himself took to the field and captured Vera Cruz; he launched an offensive toward the Mexican capital; after a series of dramatic victories, he led American forces into Mexico City in September 1847. Once more a national hero—affectionately known as "Old Fuss and Feathers" for his weakness for military uniforms and pomp—he ran unsuccessfully for president as a Whig in 1852. When the Civil War broke out, he was still general in chief of the U.S. Army, and although a Virginian, he stayed with the Federal army; everyone agreed that he was too old and infirm to direct the Union's war, but he formulated what became known as "the anaconda plan"—because it called for a snake-like encirclement and strangulation of the Confederacy—and then retired in October 1861. He wrote his memoirs and traveled to Europe (1864); at his death he was regarded as one of the great men of America's history.