Winfield Scott

WINFIELD SCOTT, commander-in-chief of the American army, was born June 13, 1786, near Petersburg, Virginia. He is descended from a Scotch family, who were obliged to take refuge in America after the rebellion of 1745. After completing his preparatory education, he spent a year or two at William and Mary college, and afterward studied the law, and was admitted to the bar in 1806. In the autumn of 1807, he emigrated to South Carolina, intending to practice his profession at Charleston, but meeting with difficulties in the attainment of his object, he returned to the north. The political events of the country were then rapidly approaching the crisis of 1812; a bill had passed through Congress to enlarge the army, and Scott having applied for a commission, was appointed, in 1808, captain in a regiment of light artillery, and was ordered the following year to join the army in Louisiana, under the command of General Wilkinson. For some act of insubordination toward his commander he was suspended for a year, but he again joined the army before the commencement of the war. Shortly after that event, he received a lieutenant-colonel's commission, and was posted at Black Rock, on the Niagara frontier. His first active service was at the attack of Qeenstown heights, where he took command of the American force after all the superior Officers were killed or wounded. This affair, as is well known, ended disastrously, and Scott, with the survivors of his men, became prisoners-of-war. From Queenstown he was sent to Quebec, and shortly after exchanged. In the following year he distinguished himself at the attack on Fort George, in the descent upon York, and the capture of Fort Matilda, on the St. Lawrence. In March, 1814, he was made brigadier-general; July 3, in the same year, he captured Fort Erie, and on the fifth he fought the bloody battle of Chippewa, in which both sides claimed the victory. On the 25th of the same month was fought the still more sanguinary battle of Niagara or Lundy's Lane. In this well-fought contest, General Scott was badly wounded, and his life is said to have been despaired of for some weeks. Philadelphia and Baltimore having been threatened with an attack, Scott was requested to take command of the forces in that vicinity. On his way to the scene of his duties, he passed through Princeton, and the learned dignitaries of the college in that town conferred upon the general the honorary degree of master of arts, a curious compliment, probably having some reference to the art of war. About the same time he was promoted to the rank of major general, the highest grade in the army, he being at that time but twenty eight years of age. On the conclusion of the peace, in 1815, he was tendered the post of secretary of war, but declined to accept it; and the same year he paid a visit to Europe, principally for the purpose of improving himself in his profession. About 1833 he brought the Black-Hawk war, in the north-western frontier, to a successful termination, and he was shortly after in command at the commencement of the Seminole war in Florida; but this not being so successful as was anticipated, he was order ed home and deprived of his command. In 1837 - '38 he was stationed on the Niagara frontier to enforce the neutrality of the United States during the 'patriot war' in Canada; and soon afterward he superintended the removal of the Cherokee Indians beyond the Mississippi. By the death of General Macomb, in 1841, General Scott became commander-in-chief of the army. The scene of his next exploits was Mexico. After some difficulty with the president and secretary of war, General Scott was permitted to lead a force to Vera Cruz. The events of that campaign are recent and well known. San Juan de Ulloa was captured March 27, 1847; the battle of Cerro Gordo was fought on the 18th of April; the battle of Contreras on the 19th of August; and the battle of Churubusco on the following day; and after the storming of Molino del Rey and Chapultepec, the city of Mexico was captured September 14, 1847.