Accession number: 1965.9
Derided by one critic as a "humbug" and "old crocodile," Winfield Scott (1786–1866) was in fact one of America's greatest soldiers.
Born in Dinwiddie County, near Petersburg, Scott grew into a giant of a man, standing six feet five inches and weighing 230 pounds. After attending the College of William and Mary for two years, he studied law in Petersburg. Seemingly destined for a career as an attorney, Scott instead was commissioned in the Army in 1808, thus beginning a remarkable military career of 53 years. He fought with distinction during the War of 1812, ably served in a number of important peacetime positions, and orchestrated one of the most brilliant feats in American military history—the campaign for Mexico City during the Mexican War.
Promoted to general-in-chief of the army, Scott held influence over many young officers—northerners and southerners alike. U. S. Grant later commented that Scott was one of the greatest soldiers he ever knew. Scott, in turn, believed that Robert E. Lee, was "the greatest soldier in Christendom" and he offered Lee field command of the Union army in 1861. Although his fellow Virginian sided with the South, Scott refused to fight against the United States flag under which he had served for more than fifty years.
Scott devised the famous "Anaconda Plan," which in essence became the overall Federal strategy for winning the war during the following four years. Because of his age and infirmities, and the jealousy of rising star General George McClellan, Scott retired from active service in October 1861 and died in 1866.
Scott's loyalty to the Union left him few friends in the Old Dominion, but the key role he played in his nation's history places him among the roster of Virginia's most distinguished sons.
This spirited portrayal of the general-in-chief, painted by Miner Kellogg in the early 1850s, helps explain why many of his contemporaries referred to him behind his back as "Old Fuss and Feathers."