Winfield Scott collection  1809-1862
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Winfield Scott collection is a miscellaneous collection of letters and documents written by or related to Scott, spanning 1818-1862. The items cover much of Scott's long military career, including his involvement in the War of 1812, the Second Seminole War, the Anglo-American dispute over the Canadian border, the Mexican-American War, and to a lesser extent, the Civil War. Also present are letters documenting Scott's ideas concerning politics, temperance, army discipline, and his presidential ambitions.

The earliest material in the collection primarily pertains to the War of 1812 and includes a warrant issued by Scott to pay the Seneca Turnpike for toll charges incurred by troops (October 25, 1813) and a note with a brief discussion of supply abuses in the Army (May 27, 1814). In the note Scott wrote, "The expenditures of the war have already been four times greater than they should have been." Somewhat later items include a prolonged discussion of army rank (January 19, 1826), and Scott's observations on the conduct of Col. George Croghan: "I heard of his having drawn a prize; of his being drunk in the street--scattering money to the crowd &c &c. On Saturday he was seen dead drunk in a hackney coach driving up Broadway" (October 4, 1830). Also present is a recommendation of Brevet Major Mann Page Lomax to Secretary of War Lewis Cass (January 21, 1832).

Several items of interest in the collection relate to military actions against Native Americans. On June 22, 1832, Scott wrote to William J. Worth explaining that he was en route to Chicago, where he was to assume command of the army in the Black Hawk War. The letter also includes a discussion of securing supplies from Watervliet, New York (June 22, 1832). In another item, Scott wrote from the headquarters of the Army of the South at Columbus, Georgia, calling for two regiments to be placed under his command for three months "to act against the Seminole Indians in Florida." He also noted that he would be at Picolata, Florida, by February 10, and would confer with William Schley about the Creeks at the borders of Georgia, whom he considered "unquiet, if not in a state of hostility" (January 31, 1836). A letter of June 17, 1836, also concerns the Second Seminole War, particularly regarding general strategy and the logistics of equipping the Georgia Volunteers with rifles (June 17, 1836).

A handful of letters concerns Scott's presidential ambitions and his thoughts on political matters. In a letter of November 16, 1839, he wrote of his desire to be the Whig nominee for president, debated whether to claim Virginia or New Jersey as his home, and noted that he had support in Ohio and Michigan. In other letters, he discussed several prominent Whigs and their politics, his "agitated" reaction to election results (October 12, 1844), and his tactics for gaining the presidential nomination of his party. On the last subject, he noted his attempts to silently bide his time and "become as perfect a non-entity as my best advisors can wish" (June 28, 1845). Other letters reveal Scott's efforts to gather intelligence concerning "Canadian patriots," (July 8, 1841) and his views that a "humble Tract" that he wrote about the abuses of alcohol "led to the formation of the early temperance societies, under pledges to abstain from the use of all intoxicating drinks" (February 17, 1842). However, Scott did not shun all alcoholic beverages, and several items document his wine orders (November 15, 1844; October 29, 1847).

The collection closes with a few items related to the Mexican-American War and the Civil War. Items concerning the former conflict include Scott's orders to Brigadier General John Anthony Quitman (May 6, 1847) and a discussion by Brigadier General David Emanuel Twiggs of the scarcity of water and shelter for troops under him (September 23, 1847). Also of interest is Scott's statement that he had "no expectation of a change of feeling on the part of Mexico in favour of peace until we shall have taken Vera Cruz harbour & have the Capitol in extreme peril of capture" (November 30, 1846). Several items relate to the Civil War, including a memorandum entitled "Views," which Scott wrote in 1860 concerning the threat of southern secession and future divisions within the United States (October 29, 1860). He also noted, "From a knowledge of our southern population, it is my solemn conviction that there is some danger of an early act of rashness, preliminary to secession." In a letter dated May 17, 1862, Scott revealed his deeply optimistic view that the war would end soon: "Thank God this unnatural Rebellion is likely to be crushed & terminated in a few weeks, perhaps days."

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