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Winfield Scott

By John T. Marck

Old Fuss and Feathers as he was called due to his methodical dress and persistence for military regulations, Winfield Scott was born outside Petersburg, Virginia on June 13, 1786.

Before the start of the Civil War, Scott was the one who complained to the powers that be, that his regular army was not sufficient to handle the problems with the Indians, although it was peacetime, let alone the impending war with the South. When the war did begin, Scott was seventy-five years old. A hero and veteran of the Mexican War, Winfield recommended to President James Buchanan that he strengthen the forts in the South but was ignored. Upon Lincoln assuming the presidency, he to disagreed with Scott, who was his highest ranking military advisor at the time. Lincoln said it was pointless to save Fort Sumter, as well as Congress resisted Scott's idea of asking for 300,000 troops for a three-year enlistment, versus the existing 90-day volunteers.

In October 1861, Scott, who was a veteran of every U.S. war since 1812, refused a commission in the Confederate army, keeping his command of Union forces. One of Scott's first duties in the Civil War was the direction of the Washington defenses. Scott's problems arose because his military experience was dealing with smaller forces, and he was not prepared to deal with the huge number of raw recruits in the Union army. Consequently, he was considered basically a politician, and thus much of his advice was overlooked.

Scott requested George McClellan as his field commander, however, his conceit was worse than Scott's, leading to constant disagreements in policy and command decisions. After the Union's crushing defeat at First Bull Run, Scott's abilities were in question, leading many to believe he was now feebleminded. As a result, Scott was replaced in command which lead to his resignation on November 1, 1861. But, Scott did establish a battle plan that finally led to the Union's victory in the war. Because Scott had the foresight to predict that the war would be a long and costly one, his strategies proved invaluable to the Union. Known for his Anaconda Plan, which he devised as a strategy to strangle the Confederacy, it designated for the Union to have a strong defense in the West, thereby dividing the Confederacy, therefore weakening them. It further established the border states as a protection zone, as well as provided for plans for blocking the coast from Norfolk, Virginia to Galveston, Texas.

Winfield Scott did live to see his ideas in place in helping to defeat the Confederacy. He died on May 29, 1866 at West Point, New York.

Copyright 1993-2022 by  John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.