Winfield Scott
by R.D. Monroe, Ph.D.


Winfield Scott (1786-1866) was born on a plantation near Petersburg, Virginia. He briefly studied at William and Mary College before turning to the law, joining the bar in 1806. An experience with the local volunteer cavalry unit convinced him that a military career was to his liking, and he was commissioned in the army in 1808. Always brusque and ambitious, Scott immediately feuded with his superior officer, the odious James Wilkinson. He was suspended for a year for insubordination and used the time to voraciously read military texts. Reinstated, he distinguished himself in the War of 1812, excelling in organization, training, and tactics. He had read the books, and he put what he had learned into practice. The result was a more professional American army. Scott's greatest feat was his 1847 campaign in Mexico, which culminated in the capture of Mexico City. A Whig in politics, Scott lusted for the presidency, but he was not a successful politician. Imperious and used to command, he could not master the political art. He was crushed as the Whig presidential candidate in 1852. Scott retired from the army in late 1861 and devoted much of his remaining years to writing his memoirs.

Read the campaign biography:
Mansfield, Edward D. Life and Services of General Winfield Scott, Including the Siege of Vera Cruz, the Battle of Cerro Gordo, and the Battles in the Valley of Mexico, to the Conclusion of Peace, and His Return to the United States. New York: A.S. Barnes and Co., 1852.