This Saturday, June 13, 2020, we celebrate the 234th birthday of General Winfield Scott. Known as the “Grand Old Man of the Army” in recognition for his many years of service in the United States Army, Winfield Scott is one of the most accomplished soldiers and Generals to have ever lived.
Born on June 13, 1786 in Petersburg, Virginia, Winfield Scott rose to military prominence and fame while serving in the War of 1812 and later in the Mexican-American War. Often forgotten and overshadowed because his service falls between the more well-known Revolutionary War and Civil War, Scott’s strategies and victories during his 53 years of service (he served in the army under 14 presidents and holds the record for greatest length of active service as a general) make him one of the most important Americans of the 19th century.
His campaign from Vera Cruz to Mexico City during the Mexican-American War is considered one of the greatest military operations in history. After his capture of Mexico City, the Duke of Wellington called Scott “the greatest living general.” His leadership and success in Mexico City influenced other future generals such as Ulysses S. Grant.
Based on his earlier frontier experiences during the War of 1812, Scott was responsible for turning the US Army from one that relied on an ill-trained citizen militia into a professional fighting force. He wrote the first professional set of military bylaws in 1821, “General Regulations for the Army.”
His insistence on discipline, professionalism, and proper military etiquette earned him his other nickname “Old Fuss and Feathers,” but there is no doubt that Scott’s belief in military professionalism was key to the Army’s long-term success.
In 1855, Scott received a brevet promotion to the rank of lieutenant general, the first US Army officer to hold this rank since George Washington.
Later in 1861, Winfield Scott devised the Anaconda Plan to defeat the Confederacy. The plan called for a blockade of southern ports to put pressure on the South, much like an anaconda slowly squeezes its prey.
A member of the Whig party, Scott held presidential ambitions and tried for the Whig nomination several times before finally getting it in 1852. Sadly, he lost the 1852 presidential election to Franklin Pierce. Despite being a war hero, Scott lost mainly because the Whig party was split into northern and southern factions, with southern Whigs refusing to support Scott because he was anti-slavery, which allowed Franklin Pierce to take advantage of internal party divisions and win.
Scott also lived in New Jersey for about 30 years, in what was then called Elizabethtown, now Elizabeth. So this Saturday, on the 234th birthday of the great General Winfield Scott who once called our great state home, let us remember his service to our country and the service of all the brave men and women who have served our country.
-- Tom Strowe
Roselle Park, NJ