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on April 15, 2017
I am a Second Seminole War period (1835-1842) researcher. This book was a reference in a bibliography I had seen and I purchased it based on the fact that it had good references, a solid bibliography, was well written and very well researched. This reference has been invaluable for the information that I have been able to obtain and use for my research. I would say that it is a must have for anyone researching Florida's Second Seminole War.
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on July 21, 2015
Although, as a military officer and, thus, a student of history, I knew of Winfield Scott, I never knew him as anything other than as the author of the Anaconda Plan and as being a head of the Army too old to act effectively as a commander. Until I read Lions of the West by Robert Morgan, which had a chapter about his career. His performance during the Mexican War, plus his application of his wide professional reading to US Army tactics & organization, made me realize I needed to know more about him. John Eisenhower has done an excellent job covering this multi-talented individual's career and accomplishments. I wish I'd read it years earlier.
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VINE VOICEon April 23, 2007
Agent of Destiny: The Life and Times of General Winfield Scott by John S. D. Eisenhower is, while a bit misnamed, an excellent introduction to both the history and culture of the 19th century army and General Winfield Scott.

Most Americans remember Winfield Scott as the General who made an amphibious landing on the east coast of Mexico and marched to Mexico City. Since that is about the sum of what is taught in 11th Grade American History class, that is where most reasonably well read American's knowledge of Winfield Scott stops. Reading this book is a good first step in rediscovering the man who defined the culture and professional competency of the 19th Century American Army.

While this book has some glaring weaknesses, it does introduce the casual reader to some interesting ideas and arguments.

First, the near complete destruction of the U S Army under Gen "Mad" Anthony Wayne by Shawnee Indians in the early 1790's. While I knew that the nomative War Chief of the Shawnees - believe his name was Simon Gurdy, but my memory may be off - was a white man who held a reserve commission in the British Army, I did not realize that this was one of the incidents that led to the War of 1812. The idea that as recent as the 1790's some of the Indian tribes had enough firepower and resources to crush the bulk of the U S Army in a single battle both shows the relative strength of those particular Indian tribes and the grotesque incompetence of most American military leadership of the time.

Second, America is a country that is at its best when it is a country of second chances that believes in forgiveness as much as accountability. Winfield Scott started off his military career by being courts martialed for calling a senior general a traitor. Even though this was probably a true statement, this was not an auspicious beginning. Likewise, from the book it appears as if Winfield Scott actually led his brigade into a slaughter at the battle of Lundy Lane. Yet, he retained his rank as a Brigadier General. That combined with his youth almost ensured that at some point in the future he would become the commanding general of the

U S Army. That somewhat fortuitous set of facts turned out to be pretty beneficial for the United States in not only Winfield Scott's peacetime efforts, but also in his skillful handling of the Mexican American War. Clearly, the Winfield Scott who led his brigade to slaughter in 1812 was not the one who skillfully defeated an Army in a foreign land when outnumbered three to one.

Third, there are a series of important ideas and debates that have shaped and, to a certain extant, continue to shape the U S Army. All of these debates are touched upon - although Eisenhower does not elaborate - in this book. What sort of military does America need when all of its peer competitors are so distant in terms of space and time? What is the role of conventional forces and special forces, this question first comes to light in the various Indian campaigns in Florida and Georgia. What is the proper role of "regular" forces versus "reserve" or "volunteer" forces? Perhaps the last is an important question today in Iraq. Indeed, Eisenhower's discussions of "red legged" infantry in Florida made me think about modern day Iraq where Armor and Artillery soldiers are serving in counter-insurgency missions.

Fourth, Winfield Scott was a much better peacemaker than war maker. I lost count of the number of times that Winfield Scott negotiated away potential conflict between the United Kingdom and the U S. The last was after he had retired when RADM Wilkes - famous from the U S Exploring Expedition - had initiated an international incident by seizing two British diplomats from a Confederate ship. Moreover, Winfield Scott's role in diffusing the "Nullification Crises", perhaps, shaped the nature of American history forever. If South Carolina had left the Union in the 1820s, it is possible that the Civil War might have happened three decades earlier. It is likely that without those thirty years of industrial development and the various crises in 1840s Europe to feed Northern population growth, the South just might have won that hypothetical Civil War.

None of these topics are really expanded upon. However, this is a good book for a basic introduction to Winfield Scott and 19th Century U S Army. I highly recommend it as a primer to begin to learn more.
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on July 31, 2017
A person long forgotten to history. He was a hero to his country and unknowingly prepared the army for the American Civil War. He was responsible for grooming many future generals; Meade, Lee, Jackson and Longstreet for example. Many of the future Civil War generals cut their teeth at one point under Scott.
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on June 15, 2005
This is an excellent introduction to one of the United State's greatest military leaders. It is not an exhaustive account but it never claims to be one. I think this book is perfect for the military history buff who wants to find out who Scott was and what his accomplishments were. The book is less than 500 pages long so Eisenhower's treatment of Scott's over 50 years of Military service is concise. However, it highlights many (if not all) of Scott's successes and failures during his tenure. The book has whetted my appetite to find out more about this illustrous man. Read Eisenhower's book on the Mexican War, "So far from God" for a more in-depth examination of General Scott's masterful campaign to capture Mexico City and force the Mexican government to capitulate to the U.S.
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on February 7, 2014
Good read about a pretty much forgotten historical figure. John Eisenhower books seem to always have a level headed approach towards historical figures and events.
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on January 26, 2015
New condition
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on July 18, 2017
This is an accessible overview of Winfield Scott. Eisenhower provides more than just a bald record of Scott's many achievements -- he gives valuable insights into his personality and his motivations. I think Eisenhower benefits from his association with his father, and through him his knowledge of the allied commanders of World War ll, many of whom he also knew personally. It certainly allows him to speak to Scott as committed to a professional army.
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General Winfield Scott concluded his military career as the commanding officer of the Union forces during the early part of the Civil War. Before that, he had a remarkable life as a soldier. This book does a good job of tracing his military and political career and noting the times in which he served.

He first served in the War of 1812, led an army in the Mexican War that finally led to victory, and served at the outset of the Civil War, until outmaneuvered by General George McClellan and, at the same time, suffering physical decline.

Despite that record, he was in trouble off and on over time, going before a military tribunal three different times (and being suspended for one year as a result of one of these). He was ambitious for political office, and was defeated for President. His political ambitions adversely affected his relationships with elected officials.

This volume, then, provides entree to the life and story of Winfield Scott. Well written by historian (and former General, and son of a President) John Eisenhower, this is a good starting point if one wishes to learn more about one of the United States' historically most important soldiers.
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on March 11, 2001
This biography of General Winfield Scott is lacking from a number of perspectives. First, there is a total lack of military analysis - the author merely states what Scott did but never in much depth and without an assessment of his strategy or tactical abilities. We never learn how Scott evolved from a lawyer into a soldier - what was his military education, how did he evolve as a soldier over a 40 year career. How did he view new technologies like railroads and rifled artillery? Second, Scott appears as a cardboard character here with little or no personal depth. What were his views on subjects such as slavery, tariffs, the Indians? His family relations are virtually ignored - why did his wife spend so much time in Europe? Instead, the author spends far too much time on Scott's political ambitions and his intra-service rivalries and bickering. This is not what he is remembered for and should not be the primary focus for a military biography. Scott was probably one of the best generals the United States has ever produced, particularly in light of the superb Mexico City campaign, and his generalship should be center stage in a biography, not low-level barracks intrigue. Finally, the notion that Scott was the agent of manifest destiny is unsupported; he was a dutiful soldier, not an imperialist. Maps were inadequate to follow Scott's battles.
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