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General Scott eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 283 pages of information about General Scott.

When General Scott undertook this campaign Florida was a terra incognita.  The greater part of it had scarcely been visited by the whites, and very little was known of the settlements of the Seminoles.  They were known by their approaches to the white settlements, and when the war broke out by their plunders and devastations.  It was not known where their hiding places were, and this could only be determined by pursuing them.  At the time of General Scott’s assignment to the command all the information tended to locating them on the waters of the Ouithlacoochee and the St. John’s Rivers; and accordingly against this portion of the country the movement of the army was directed.

It was not only the want of ordnance, clothing, and subsistence, but the geographical peculiarity of Florida—­with its marshes, thickets, hammocks, everglades, and impenetrable swamps—­that made this campaign almost fruitless, and which for years baffled all efforts of the Government to subdue this small but brave and desperate tribe of Indians.

In Congress General Scott’s campaign in Florida was defended by some of the ablest men in the country.  Richard Biddle, of Pennsylvania, in 1837, when the House of Representatives was engaged in a debate on appropriations for carrying on the war in Florida, said:  “It would be recollected by all that after the war in Florida had assumed a formidable aspect Major-General Scott was called to the command.  An officer of his rank and standing was not likely to seek a service in which, amid infinite toil and vexation, there would be no opportunity for the display of military talent on a scale at all commensurate with that in which his past fame had been acquired.  Yet he entered on it with the alacrity, zeal, and devotion to duty by which he had ever been distinguished....

“When the late General Brown, writing from the field of Chippewa, said that General Scott merited the highest praises which a grateful country could bestow, was there a single bosom throughout the wide republic that did not respond to the sentiment?  I, for one at least, can never forget the thrill of enthusiasm, boy as I then was, which mingled with my own devout thankfulness to God that the cloud which seemed to have settled on our arms was at length dispelled.  On that plain it was established that Americans could be trained to meet and to beat in the open field, without breastworks, the regulars of Britain....

“Sir, the result of that day was due not merely to the gallantry of General Scott upon the field.  It must in part be ascribed to the patient, anxious, and indefatigable drudgery, the consummate skill as a tactician, with which he labored night and day, at the camp near Buffalo, to prepare his brigade for the career on which it was about to enter.  After a brief interval he again led that brigade to the glorious victory of Bridgewater.  He bears now upon his body the wounds of that day.  It had ever been the characteristic of this officer to seek the post of danger—­not to have it thrust upon him.  In the years preceding that to which I have specially referred—­in 1812 and 1813—­the eminent services he rendered were in the positions which properly belonged to others, but into which he was led by irrepressible ardor and jealousy of honor.

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