Parentage and birth of Scott—Precocity—Enters William and Mary College—Leaves college and commences the study of law with Judge Robinson—Attends the trial of Burr at Richmond—Impressment of American seamen and proclamation of President Jefferson—Joins the Petersburg troop—Leaves for Charleston—Returns to Petersburg—Appointed captain of artillery—Trial of General Wilkinson—Scott sends in his resignation, but withdraws it and returns to Natchez—Is court-martialed—On staff duty at New Orleans—Declaration of war with Great Britain—General Wade Hampton and the Secretary of War—Hull’s surrender—Storming of Queenstown—March to Lewiston—Scott’s appeal to the officers and soldiers—Indians fire on a flag of truce—Incident with a Caledonian priest—Letter in relation to Irish prisoners sent home to be tried for treason.
Winfield Scott was born at Laurel Branch, the estate of his father, fourteen miles from Petersburg, Dinwiddie County, Virginia, June 13, 1786. His grandfather, James Scott, was a Scotchman of the Clan Buccleuch, and a follower of the Pretender to the throne of England, who, escaping from the defeat at Culloden, made his way to Virginia in 1746, where he settled. William, the son of this James, married Ann Mason, a native of Dinwiddie County and a neighbor of the Scott family. Winfield Scott was the issue of this marriage. There were an elder brother and two daughters. James Scott died at an early age, when Winfield was but six years old. William, the father of Winfield, was a lieutenant and afterward captain in a Virginia company which served in the Revolutionary army. Eleven years after the father’s death the mother died, leaving Winfield, at seventeen years old, to make his own way in the world.
At the death of his father, Winfield, being but six years old, was left to the charge of his mother, to whom he was devotedly attached. It is a well-warranted tradition of the county in which the Scott family resided, that the mother of General Scott was a woman of superior mind and great force of character. In acknowledging the inspiration from the lessons of that admirable parent for whatever of success he achieved, he was not unlike Andrew Jackson and the majority of the great men of the world. He wrote of her in his mature age as follows: “And if, in my now protracted career, I have achieved anything worthy of being written, anything that my countrymen are likely to honor in the next century, it is from the lessons of that admirable parent that I derived the inspiration.”
In his seventh year he was ordered on a Sunday morning to get ready for church. Disobeying the order, he ran off and concealed himself, but was pursued, captured, and returned to his mother, who at once sent for a switch. The switch was a limb from a Lombardy poplar, and the precocious little truant, seeing this, quoted a verse from St. Matthew which was from a lesson he had but recently read to his mother. The quotation was as follows: “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” The quotation was so apt that the punishment was withheld, but the offender was not spared a very wholesome lesson.