Scott, Winfield

Born in Virginia, Winfield Scott began the Civil War as the General-in-Chief of the Union armies. Known as "Old Fuss and Feathers," Scott had been a war hero and presidential candidate (1852), but he was nearing the end of his life as the conflict erupted. The general clashed with President James Buchanan (Class of 1809) during the Sumter crisis.
Life Span
Full name
Winfield Scott
Place of Birth
Birth Date Certainty
Death Date Certainty
Sectional choice
Slave State
No. of Spouses
No. of Children
William Scott (father), Ann Mason Scott (mother), Maria D. Mayo (wife, 1817)
William & Mary
Attorney or Judge
US military (Pre-Civil War)
Union Army

Winfield Scott, Election of 1852 (American National Biography)

The Whigs sought a military hero again in 1852, and the party mobilized for Scott's election. However, Scott remained quiet on the slavery question and had been slow in his support of the Compromise of 1850, which worried southern members of the Whig party. He accepted the platform, which included full support of the Compromise of 1850, including the Fugitive Slave Law, which worried many northern members of the party. Scott lost the election, carrying only four states, although the popular vote was not nearly so one-sided.
The successful Democratic candidate, Franklin Pierce, appointed Jefferson Davis as his secretary of war, and Davis and Scott soon quarreled, initially over reimbursements for official travel. Scott and Davis argued over other questions as well, but the underlying cause of their quarrels was longstanding defects in the command system, which led to a division between the line and staff of the army. Whereas the secretary of war controlled the staff, he had not customarily commanded the commanding general, whose duties were undefined by law. Davis sought to remedy that situation, and he had the law and Constitution on his side. Scott maintained that he did not have to follow the orders of the secretary of war except when they were given in the name of the president, but he lost the argument when the attorney general's opinion was that the orders of the secretary of war were always presumed to be issued under the authority of the president.
Richard E. Beringer, "Scott, Winfield," American National Biography Online, February 2000,

Winfield Scott (American National Biography)

Ever ambitious, eager to grasp another honor, and jealous of his rank and fame, Scott was vain and dogmatic. He was always ready to write a letter when he took offense at some fancied insult. According to one of his biographers, he was generous and outgoing and possessed a "constitutional inability to nurse a grudge" (Elliott, p. 648). He was also an extremely effective commander, most notably in the Mexican War. Timothy Dwight Johnson, however, believes that Scott had a deep "streak of meanness and selfishness" and that his "ambition fed his arrogance and, in turn, his arrogance fed his ambition" (Johnson, pp. 4-5). This judgment is probably too harsh, for there is evidence that Scott could be forgiving and merciful. His concern for his soldiers, as in the cholera epidemic of 1832 or his desire for an asylum, went far beyond the normal obligation of a commanding general.

Scott, an Episcopalian, read the Bible often. He was well read and had a library of books on military subjects that was always with him. His reading was a mark of Scott's professionalism, as were his efforts to institutionalize such military skills as tactical training, camp sanitation, organization, and regularized procedure. Scott was responsible for much of the professionalization of the army between the War of 1812 and the Civil War, but his professionalism was limited by his narrow perspectives. His ideas were European in origin and did not fit frontier realities.
Richard E. Beringer, "Scott, Winfield," American National Biography Online, February 2000,
Date Title
Debate Over Increase of the Army, House of Representatives, January 9, 1847
Abraham Lincoln, Speech in United States House of Representatives: The War with Mexico, January 12, 1848
New York Times, “Gen. Scott and the Secretary of War,” February 5, 1857
Israel Washburn to James Shepard Pike, March 20, 1858
Boston (MA) Flag of Our Union, "The Mormon War," July 3, 1858
New York Herald, “Political Joking," August 15, 1858
New York Herald, “The Union of the Opposition Factions,” December 10, 1858
New York Herald, “The Present Congress and the Next President,” January 17, 1859
New York Herald, “The Presidential Question,” January 24, 1859
New York Times, “Gen. Scott’s Mission,” September 21, 1859
New York Herald, “Seward Nominated for the Presidency by the Abolitionists,” December 25, 1859
New York Herald, “Nomination of Gen. Scott by the New York Union Meeting,” December 27, 1859
Abraham Lincoln, Autobiography, circa June 1860
New York Times, “The Herald in Harness,” July 21, 1860
New York Times, “Buchanan vs. Gen Scott,” November 2, 1860
New York Herald, "General Scott Wanted At Washington," November 28, 1860
New York Herald, “Ex-Secretary Floyd on the Crisis,” January 15, 1861
Leonard Swett to Abraham Lincoln, January 24, 1861
Elihu B. Washburne to Abraham Lincoln, January 30, 1861
Atchison (KS) Freedom’s Champion, “Mr. Lincoln at Washington,” March 2, 1861
Cleveland (OH) Herald, “Proposed Evacuation of Fort Sumter,” March 13, 1861
New York Times, “About Fort Sumpter [Sumter],” March 18, 1861
Abraham Lincoln to William Seward, April 1, 1861
Fayetteville (NC) Observer, "Alarming News," April 11, 1861
New York Herald, “The Present Administration Doing What The Last Should Have Done,” April 16, 1861
James Henderson to Abraham Lincoln, April 16, 1861
Charleston (SC) Mercury, “Henry Ward Beecher on War,” April 19, 1861
William Seward to Thomas Hicks, April 22, 1861
- C. P. Kirkland, Jr.’s Letter, April 27-28, 1861
Charleston (SC) Mercury, “Gen. Scott,” April 27, 1861
Chicago (IL) Tribune, “Washington Safe,” April 29, 1861
Montgomery Blair to Abraham Lincoln, May 16, 1861
San Francisco (CA) Evening Bulletin, “The Lack of “Improved” Firearms in the South,” June 5, 1861
Fayetteville (NC) Observer, “The Mothers and Wives,” June 6, 1861
Cleveland (OH) Herald, “A Submissionist Answered,” June 17, 1861
Chillicothe (OH) Scioto Gazette, “The Plans of General Scott,” June 18, 1861
Boston (MA) Advertiser, “The Coming Man,” June 25, 1861
Boston (MA) Advertiser, “The Attacks Upon General Scott,” July 4, 1861
Abraham Lincoln, Message to the Congress in Special Session, July 4, 1861
Chicago (IL) Tribune, “An Absurdity Exposed,” July 24, 1861
Fayetteville (NC) Observer, “Gen. Scott Vanquished At Last,” August 1, 1861
Timothy Davis to William H. Seward, September 16, 1861
United States Army Order Number 19 , Washington, D.C., November 1, 1861
Mary Todd Lincoln to Abraham Lincoln, November 2, 1862
Chicago Style Entry Link
Castenda, Carlos Eduardo. "Relations of General Scott with Santa Anna." The Hispanic American Historical Review 29 (November 1949): 455-473. view record
Gienapp, William E. "The Whig Party, the Compromise of 1850, and the Nomination of Winfield Scott." Presidential Studies Quarterly 14, no. 3 (1984): 399-415. view record
Johnson, Timothy D. "A Most Anomalous Affair: Gideon Pillow and Winfield Scott in the Mexico City Campaign." Tennessee Historical Quarterly 66, no. 1 (2007): 2-19.
view record
Johnson, Timothy D. Winfield Scott: The Quest for Military Glory. Modern War Studies. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998. view record
Pohl, James W. "The Influence of Antoine Henri De Jomini on Winfield Scott's Campaign in the Mexican War." Southwestern Historical Quarterly 77, no. 1 (1973): 85-110. view record
Thompson, Jerry. "Winfield Scott's Army of Occupation as Pioneer Alpinists: Epic Ascents of Popocatepetl and Citlaltepetl." Southwestern Historical Quarterly 105, no. 4 (2002): 548-581. view record
How to Cite This Page: "Scott, Winfield," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,