The Quest for Military Glory
Timothy D. Johnson
One of the most important public figures in antebellum America, Winfield Scott is known today more for his swagger than his sword. "Old Fuss-and-Feathers" was a brilliant military commander whose tactics and strategy were innovative adaptations from European military theory; yet he was often under appreciated by his contemporaries and until recently overlooked by historians.
While John Eisenhower's recent Agent of Destiny provides a solid summary of Scott's remarkable life, Timothy D. Johnson's much deeper critical exploration of this flawed genius should become the standard work. Thoroughly grounded in an essential understanding of nineteenth-century military professionalism, it draws extensively on unpublished sources in order to reveal neglected aspects of Scott's life, present a more complete view of his career, and accurately balance criticism and praise.
“Johnson has taken the biographical genre to its full extent, reaching beyond the life of his subject to offer a deeper understanding of the world around him.”
“A welcome biography.”
—Journal of the Early RepublicSee all reviews...
“Johnson has done a superb job of presenting Winfield Scott as a human being, replete with human failures.'”
—Journal of American History
“This is a well-researched, thoughtful, and readable biography that will now be the starting place for any serious student of Winfield Scott.”
—Journal of Southern History
“Johnson has brought to life both the imposing military commander and the flawed individual whose inflated ego matched his giant and increasingly corpulent frame.”
—American Nineteenth Century History
“Well-written and meticulously researched. This is a masterful biography that will appeal to laymen and scholars alike.”
—Journal of Military History
“The definitive study. Johnson’s distinguished work gives a long-deserved but neglected credit to ‘Old Fuss and Feathers.’”
“A fascinating study of a nineteenth-century Douglas MacArthur. I'm extremely impressed by Johnson’s writing style, ability to bring Scott’s personality alive, clear explanations of the Army's command structure, and deft analyses of military strategy. His treatment of Scott’s role in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, the most significant phases of Scott’s extended career, is especially astute.”
—Robert E. May, author of The Southern Dream of a Caribbean Empire, 1854–1861
“A fresh and engaging biography of ‘Old Fuss and Feathers,’ who helped shape American history in the antebellum republic, only to be eclipsed by the generation of Civil War officers who learned the art of war from him. Will appeal to scholars and general readers alike.”
—Richard Bruce Winders, author of Mr. Polk's Army: The American Military Experience in the Mexican WarSee fewer reviews...
Johnson dramatically relates the key features of Scott's career: how he led troops to victory in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, fought against the Seminoles and Creeks, and was instrumental in professionalizing the U.S. Army, which he commanded for two decades. He also tells how Scott tried to introduce French methods into army tactical manuals, and how he applied his study of the Napoleonic Wars during the Mexico City Campaign but found European strategy of little use against Indians. Johnson further suggests that Scott's creation of an officer corps that boasted Grant, Lee, McClellan and other veterans of the Mexican War raises important questions about his influence on Civil War generalship.
More than a military history, this book tells how Scott's aristocratic pretensions placed him at odds with emerging notions of equality in Jacksonian America and made him an unappealing politician in his bid for the presidency. Johnson not only recounts the facets of Scott's personality that alienated nearly everyone who knew him but also reveals the unsavory methods he used to promote his career and the scandalous ways he attempted to relieve his lifelong financial troubles.
Although his legendary vanity has tarnished his place among American military leaders, Scott is shown to have possessed great talent and courage. Johnson's biography offers the most balanced portrait available of Scott by never losing sight of the whole man.