Winfield Scott (1786–1866) was a United States Army officer with a career that spanned for fifty-three years (during forty-seven of which he held a general's rank). He served during the War of 1812 (when he first achieved the rank of general), the Mexican-American War, and the American Civil War. Throughout, Scott proved to be an able leader and strategist. For 20 years, he held the position of "Commanding General of the United States Army".
Winfield Scott in Trail of Glory
Battle of Chippewa
In May, 1814, Brigadier Winfield Scott was temporarily in command of the Army of the Niagara, headquartered near Buffalo, New York. He quickly changed the entire training regimen of the army, and implemented one based on European methods. Consequently, the Army of the Niagara was one of the most professional armies the U.S. fielded during the war.
In June, Scott brought two men together, and so helped change the history of the continent. One was Anthony McParland a very young soldier who'd grown homesick and attempted to desert. The other was Sgt. Patrick Driscol, an Irish veteran of several wars. Scott and Driscol had grown rather close during Scott's time in command. Scott realized that McParland was probably worth salvaging, and, after staging an execution in which four other deserters were killed and McParland spared, turned the young boy over to Driscol.
Scott received word that Napoleon had abdicated, and that General Brown wanted to launch an attack on the enemy by the end of the month. Scott was in command of the First Brigade, a large brigade, made-up primarily of regular army.
In July, 1814, the Army of the Niagara crossed the Niagara River not far from Fort Erie. While the crossing was without loss or incident, Scott himself crossed at a particularly deep part of the river, and for a time vanished from view. After making it ashore, his brigade linked up with the Second and Third Brigades, under the command of Eleazer Ripley and Peter Porter, respectively. They army then moved on Fort Erie. After a short siege, Erie surrendered. While Scott was unhappy with the lost time, he heeded Driscol's recommendation that there be no frontal assault.
With Fort Erie secured, Brown arrived, and proposed that the First Brigade take the bridge over the Chippewa Creek. Scott moved out the next day, but the British commander, General Phineas Riall, had already entrenched. Scott quickly retreated out of range. While Driscol suggested that the army's dusty uniforms looked like militia uniforms from a distance, neither man sincerely believed that Riall would commit such a blunder as to attack. The other two brigades arrived.
The next day, July 5, proved Scott was wrong: Riall's men crossed the bridge, and blundered into an impromtu trap. Scott successfully moved Thomas Jesup's Twenty-Fifth Regiment to shore up his left flank, left open when Peter Porter's Thir Bridgade collapses. Concurrently, Scott ordered artillery commander Nathan Towson to take out the British battery, which Towson was able to do.
Realizing that the British right flank was exposed, Scott ordered Jesup to immediately wheel around and start enfilding it. Riall's forces were soon caught in a vice. Riall ordered a retreat.
Driscol was wounded in the arm during the fighting. It was subsequently amputated. Scott, concerned for Driscol's well-being, transferred him to Washington, D.C. to the care of Jeremy Boulder. Scott himself pressed on under Brown. Both men were badly wounded at the Battle of Lundy's Lane, a battle that the British subsequently claimed as a victory, but was more properly described as a draw.
Return to Duty
While Scott recuperated, Sam Houston rallied American forces to victory at the Battle of the Capitol, leading to Houston's status as a national hero. The Capitol was enough to halt the British drive on Baltimore before it truly began, and the British now turned their attention to invading New Orleans. Secretary of State James Monroe, who was not doubling as Secretary of War, contemplated sending Scott to New Orleans to reinforce Genearl Andrew Jackson. Patrick Driscol, who'd participated in the Battle of the Capitol, and was now a national hero himself, recommended against that course of action, knowing that the vainglorious Scott would not be able to work well with the equally vainglorious Jackson.
Scott knew none of this. He was given the command of the Tenth Military District, and arrived just in time to see Housto and Driscol off on October 9, 1814. While he greeted Driscol warmly and made it clear he was always ready to help Driscol, he was just barely cordial to Houston.
- 1812: The Rivers of War, Ch. 33.
- Winfield Scott at the Harry Turtledove Wiki