City Journal Winter 2016

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Winter 2016
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Steven Malanga
The War Hero New York Forgot « Back to Story

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Excellent article Steven. My great-gr-gr grandmother, Elizabeth Winfield Scott was his sister, I have never been able to track down any direct descendants of his. There are many (probably hundreds) descendants of his sisters and brother. I have been researching his New York City haunts. I have visited some. I have not yet been to Elizabeth. Articles like yours help me flesh out long dead relatives. I must say it is rare that I find anyone who knows who Winfield Scott is.
The general is also remembered in the former Queens neighborhood of Winfield, now subsumed into Woodside and Masbeth, but some remnants of which still remain.
A glaring historical omission caught the eye of this long-time resident of the South: Scott's role in the Trail of Tears. From "Scott also supervised Martin Van Burenís Cherokee removal, treating the Indians with respect and forbidding any acts of violence or cruelty against them. Unfortunately, however, even the general could not protect the Native Americans, and more than 4000 Cherokee died from disease or starvation before even making the journey west. In 1838, Scott accompanied the first Indians on their journey to Nashville, now known as the Trail of Tears."

I don't dwell solely on the less savory details of other folks' lives, but this heartrending part of history should have been included, regardless of Scott being an unwilling participant.

There's a Lake Winfield Scott a few miles from where I live...the Trail's not far from there. Wish they'd rename the lake.
Scott recognized from the outset that defeating the South would require a long, bloody and expensive war of attrition and demanded that the government prepare for one. At the time the rest of the government and Army expected a quick and relatively easy victory. After Bull Run showed he was right he was forced out of the top job. Admittedly, he was too old and too fat for a field command, but nobody had a clearer understanding of the problem for two more years.
Interesting history about General Winfield Scott. Scottsdale, Arizona is named after a distant relative of his- Capt./Major Winfield Scott who served in the Civil War from NY; wounded; retired and drew a pension. Major Scott later became a Chaplain and lettled in Scottsdale. He was one of the original founders. His great grandfather and the father of the GG both served in the Rev. War from Richfield Co., Conn. Thanks for the great history as I volunteer in the "Little Red School House" Scottsdale Historical Society, and people often confuse the two Winfield Scotts. Now, I have more to tell them!
Whigs and soldiers do not appeal to present day New York City, I fear.
"Democrats used the fact that Scottís daughter had converted to Catholicism and joined a convent to alarm the countryís overwhelmingly Protestant electorate by charging that the candidate was a Romish sympathizer."--Stephen Malanga

'Tis ironic that Winfield Scott's ambition to become president was checkmated by anti-Catholic bigotry for he himself proved to be deeply anti-Catholic himself during the Mexican-American War.
Scott midwifed the morale and espirit of the US Army at those battles in Canada. As the British commander exclaimed, "Those are regulars by God!"
Humans in general, and Americans in particular, look to possibilities of the future, not to the impossibilities of the past.
Why the surprise, then, that heroes, like every other dead American, are forgotten?
The fact that the US Army is a professional force, that is apolitical, rests soley at the feet of Winfield Scott. The current president, however, is retiring general officers at an alarming rate...because they don't support his political views. That's a sad testiment to the US Army.
RE: "There, he prospered as a lawyer and bore a son". "Bore" is the past tense of "bear" meaning in this context "give birth to". I doubt Scott's grandfather gave birth to his son. I believe the word you are looking for is "fathered".
He remains remembered by Fort Winfield Scott which housed the batteries that guarded the Golden Gate and San Francisco for many decades. The "Fort" is still there with an entirely different mission as part of the park which has evolved from the Presidio.

The myth of Lincoln's military genius has airbrushed Scott from history. He was the only man in DC in 1961 who understood the enormity of the challenge of subduing the South. He proposed a comprehensive war plan to the cabinet, which ignored the fatal temptation of Richmond, and focused instead on encirclement, blockade, seizing the Mississippi, and making opportunistic warfare at will. Had his plan prevailed, the seven failed Richmond campaigns would have been avoided, with all of their associated casualties. The decision to focus the strategy on Richmond was purely political, as Lincoln himself admitted. He said that to do otherwise would result in his impeachment by the Radical Republicans who dominated the Congress. Further, G.B. McLellan slandered Scott by telling the radicals that Scott was preventing McLellan from attacking the rebels, which was a complete lie. McLellan had no warlike spirit.
I find it hard to believe that Scott's male forebear "bore a son" as alleged in paragraph three.
The is a very nice statue of Winfield Scott in uniform astride a horse looking down an avenue at the White House in Washington, D.C.
Kudos to Steven Malanga for recovering this forgotten aspect of the city's history and for recalling Scott to us, one of the least appreciated of America's great men.
Bravo! Scott was one of the few competent senior officers in the War of 1812, the war that nearly toasted America's future. Scott's heroics at Queenston and his capture by the British, including his defense of Irish immigrants among the prisoners who were about to be dragged back to London to be hanged as traitors are detailed in my historical novel, "Madness: The War of 1812" ( To say that Scott was court-martialed because he "badmouthed his superiors" is a bit of an understatement. The guy he was badmouthing was James Wilkinson, variously described as a spy, liar and scoundrel. Scott said that serving under Wilkinson was like being married to a whore. Wilkinson ratted out Aaron Burr's treasonous plot to break off the western states from the Union to create a separate country. The thing was that his betrayal of Burr came after it was obvious that the conspiracy would fail. Obviously, Wilkinson is a story unto himself.