Editorials about the Death of General Winfield Scott
When Winfield Scott—the nation’s leading military man for more than half of the 19th century—died on May 29, 1866, his passing was announced and his memory honored in newspapers all across the country. Even Southern newspapers, although the region was embittered over the Confederacy’s recent defeat, paid tribute to the man who served longer as a general in the U.S. Army (47 years) than anyone in American history. Scott was a hero in the War of 1812, several Indian Wars, and the Mexican-American War, and was the Commanding General of the U.S. Army for 20 years including the outset of the Civil War.
This editorial was published by the Boston Daily Journal (Boston, Massachusetts) on May 30, 1866:
Death of General Scott
The announcement of the death of General Winfield Scott was received in this city yesterday with a general feeling of surprise and sadness. There had been no intimations but that he was enjoying his usual degree of health, and therefore the announcement was sudden and unexpected. The public feeling was manifested in the raising of flags at half-mast and in the tolling of the bells at four o’clock. All seemed to feel that a true soldier and an honored patriot had passed away—one whose memory will always be cherished by his countrymen, in whose behalf he had often rendered most important and honorable service, and whose name is indissolubly connected with the military history of the nation.
This editorial was published by the Lowell Daily Citizen and News (Lowell, Massachusetts) on May 30, 1866:
His career in public life has been remarkable for the period of history it embraces, as well as for its brilliancy and general success, challenging the respect of mankind. Had his wise and earnest counsels been followed by James Buchanan in 1860 this country would have been spared the horrors of the secession war. The name of Scott will be cherished by his countrymen to the end of time.
This editorial was published by the Macon Daily Telegraph (Macon, Georgia) on May 30, 1866:
The South at the present is not the source of eulogy, or even perhaps impartial judgment, upon the character and public services of General Scott. Prostrate at the feet of a conqueror and denied the rights of freemen, it is not to be expected that any bereavement or calamity among those who are the authors of her ruin, should meet with any great degree of sympathy, or that any of the men who contributed to that result should stand particularly fair in her eyes. As Southern men though we may say of the deceased, that he is entitled to be ranked among the great men whom our country has produced. The world has long since recognized him as one of the great captains of the age, and the military exploits by which his fame was won, belong to those better days of the Republic, and are common property of which every American should be proud.
This editorial was published by the Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, Massachusetts) on May 30, 1866:
Five years ago the death of General Scott would have been regarded—and justly—as the greatest calamity that could have befallen the nation. In that frightful period of darkness and distrust it is not too much to say that the great reliance of the American people was, under God, in the magnificent old soldier who was directing from his invalid’s couch the military movements intended to check the nascent rebellion. His military preeminence was accepted as a matter of traditional faith, established for two generations on grounds which few took the trouble to explore for themselves, and when men and money began to be called for and armies to be organized and moved, all felt that in his hands the most would be made of the military resources of the nation, and that the mere prestige of his great name would be a power on our side and a terror to our enemies. Of course this sublime confidence could not have been wholly justified, but that it existed, and that it was a powerful agent in sustaining the popular enthusiasm, no one who remembers the condition of the public mind at the time will question. In the five years that have since passed greater soldiers, statesmen, and diplomats have occupied the stage, and a war has been fought through, compared with which the campaigns which gave Scott his overshadowing reputation shrink into utter insignificance; yet his name can never fail to fill a large place in the history of his country, and his splendid services in war and peace will always be held in grateful remembrance.
This editorial was published by the North American and United States Gazette (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) on May 30, 1866:
In looking back over the record of his life, we are impressed with the duration and magnitude of his public services, and feel a deep conviction that, however honored while he lived, he had more claims upon the gratitude of the Republic than were ever requited.
This tribute was published by the Providence Evening Press (Providence, Rhode Island) on May 30, 1866:
The Scott Medal
The universal respect entertained for the late Gen. Scott is illustrated by the following paragraph, taken from his autobiography. He tells the story as follows:
“This medal chanced to be temporarily in the City Bank of New York, for safe keeping, when two thieves, in a night’s work, took from that institution $260,000. The medal was lying in a trunk of gold. All the coin was stolen, but the medal, though taken out of the case (marked with the owner’s name) to gratify curiosity, was left. A few years later, when the robbers had served out their sentences in the State prison, or been pardoned by the Executive, Scott was, in a steamer, on the Hudson, robbed of his purse by pick-pockets who did not know him. The principal of the bank robbery hearing of the loss ($140) bestirred himself among the fraternity; threatened to cause the whole body to be sent to the State prison if the money was not returned, and added, ‘When in the City Bank I saw the medal, but was not such a villain as to rob a gallant soldier.’ In a day or two the money was returned by Hays, the high constable, with that report, received from a third party. To show that he did not himself pocket the money, Hays was required to produce Scott’s written receipt for its return—which was given.”
Click here for more articles about the War of 1812.
Click here for more articles about the Mexican-American War.
Click here for more articles about the American Civil War.