Few men exerted as much influence on the early American army as Winfield Scott. Born on this day in 1786, Scott fought in the War of 1812, the Blackhawk War, the Seminole Wars, the Mexican-American War, and the Civil War. His men called him “Old Fuss and Feathers” thanks to his attention to detail and his attraction to gaudy uniforms.
Scott was born in Georgia, son of a Revolutionary War hero. He attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg before joining the army to serve in the War of 1812. After the war, he retired for several years, then fought in the various Indian wars in the Southeast. His real fame, however, came with his actions during the Mexican-American War.
During this war, Scott led a brilliant five month campaign. Although hampered by poorly equipped troops, a lack of reinforcements and limited supplies, he took his men from Vera Cruz to Mexico City. However, because of problems with subordinate officers, Scott was recalled. Eventually his actions were defended, and he was promoted to lieutenant general and voted a gold medal by Congress.
After an unsuccessful run for the Presidency in 1852, Scott returned to his military duty. Although 75 years old at the outbreak of the Civil War, he continued to serve, even though he was too large to mount a horse. Old Fuss and Feathers drew up a detailed plan to defeat the Confederacy, including plans to blockade Southern ports. Because most people thought the war would be over quickly, Scott’s ideas weren’t taken seriously. The general retired shortly after the beginning of the War, however his plans eventually became a crucial part of Lincoln’s war efforts.