Born near Petersburg, Va. on June 13, 1786, having already served as the country's general-in-chief for two decades, America's preeminent military figure-perhaps the most celebrated since George Washington, Scott was nearly 75 when he commanded the Union armies at the start of the Civil War. By that time, Scott, a Virginia native who refused to join the Confederacy, was clearly nearing the end of his brilliant career.
Hero of the War of 1812 and Black Hawk War, commander of U.S. forces in the Mexican War, unsuccessful Whig presidential candidate in 1852, Scott, called "Old Fuss and Feathers" because of his devotion to military pomp and protocol, now suffered from gout and vertigo, weighed more than 300 pounds, and could no longer ride his horse. Because of his infirmities, he required a field commander and urged Lincoln to appoint his fellow Virginian Robert E. Lee to the position. George B. McClellan, who got the post after Lee turned down the Union commander's personal appeal, soon began to resent Scott and took to contradicting him in staff meetings and snubbing him in public.
By then, however, the general-in-chief was being amply ridiculed elsewhere as well. Blamed for the Union's dismal showing in the first months of the war, Scott received sharp criticism for his "Anaconda Plan," in which he recommended a naval blockade to press the Confederacy while the Union gradually developed its armed forces for what he anticipated to be a long struggle. Although Scott was more clearheaded on the subject than the majority of military and political figures-Union and Confederate alike-who believed the war would conclude quickly, many suspected Old Fuss and Feathers was growing senile.
On November 1, 1861, after another Union battlefield defeat at Ball's Bluff, Lincoln accepted Scott's standing offer to resign. Succeeded the same day by McClellan, he retired to write his two-volume memoirs, travel through Europe, and see the essential elements of his Anaconda Plan ultimately prove effective in the waging of the war.
Scott lived to see the Confederates defeated, dying in West Point, N.Y., May 29, 1866. Though he was buried at West Point, he never attended there.
Source: "Winfield Scott, The Soldier and The Man" by Charles Winslow Elliot
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