Page images
[ocr errors]
[graphic][merged small]


of the United States. Army.


lingrad tor the Analetic Aroazine Publishd by M Thomas

Entred according to ed of angres 25 Oc! 1816




It is no easy task to relate the actions, and describe the characters, of illustrious men who are still on the stage of active life. It may even be doubted, whether such subjects come at all within the proper province of Biography. It is her exalted office to forbid the good to die, and ope the temple of eternityto connect the past with the present, and to extend the sphere of human society, by enabling us to live not only with those who move around us, but with the great men of other times. Nay, she has yet higher duties; it is her’s to vindicate from calumny and misrepresentation the illustrious dead, who have spent their lives, and greatly sacrificed their fame, in opposing the mad torrent of popular delusion.

When intrest calls off ail her sneaking train,
And all the obliged desert, and all the vain,
She waits, or to the scaffold or the cell,
When the last lingering friend has bid farewell.
"Tis her's the BRAVE Man's latent steps to trace,
Rejudge his acts, and dignisy disgrace.

But it is almost impossible to speak of living men with this dignified impartiality. The truth itself cannot always be told, without rude and wanton violation of that delicacy which is due to every gentleman. There is still greater danger that the truth will not be told at all-at least, not in its native and honest simplicity. The personal feelings and opinions of the biographer will inevita:

Vol. IV. Nen Series. 59

bly discolour the narrative-praise will swell up into indiscriminate panegyric, censure degenerate into personal virulence, and minuteness of detail become little more than a vile, prying, and tattling curiosity. Still there are some few men, whose lives are so identified with the history of the passing times, and so connected with every thing which interests and excites their countrymen, that they have, in some sort, become public property. There is an honest curiosity concerning them-a curiosity, springing from the best and warmest feelings of our nature, which should certainly be gratified. This is peculiarly the truth with regard to the subject of the present biography, Major General Winfield Scott, the boast of his country, the pride and darling of the army. The character of this youthful hero is one which continually tempts the biographer to wander away into the regions of poetry and romancebut this would be alike, injustice to him, and to his country. We shall, therefore, endeavour to sober ourselves down to a calm and unadorned narrative, and to speak of his character and exploits in the plain language of history.

Winfield Scott was born June 13th, 1785, near Petersburg, Dinwiddie county, Virginia. He was early intended for the bar, and went through the usual course of classical and other preparatory studies, which he concluded at William and Mary College. He soon after settled at Petersburg, and, in 1806, commenced the practice of the law, with flattering indications of future success. The attack upon the frigate Chesapeake, which kindled into a flame every young and active spirit of the nation, roused him from the calm pursuits of peace; and the measures taken by Congress at their next session, making it probable that a war with Great Britain would ensue, he accepted, in 1808, a captaincy in the regiment of light artillery, which was raised on the first enlargement of our military establisbment. In this situation he continued to serve, until the declaration of war in 1812, a period of about four years, sometimes ardently prosecuting military, sometimes legal studies, according as the probabilities of war or peace seemed to predominate.

In March, 1812, he acted as judge advocate upon the trial of Col. Cushing, a report of which he afterwards published. Jlis able management of this interesting cause, and his eloquent and

well-argued replication to the prisoner's defence, afford honourable proofs of his legal acquirements and talents.

About this period, considering himself injured by Gen. 'Wilkinson, Capt. Scott expressed himself upon the subject with freedom and boldness. The commanding general did not think proper to overlook this offence, and Capt. Scott was arrested, on the Mississippi, where he was then stationed, and brought to trial. We have repeatedly heard his defence spoken of as admirable, both for its eloquence and its biting sarcasm. But the court would not travel out of the record to take cognizance of the original wrong, nor admit his plea of justification. The law was considered as imperative; Capt. Scott was accordingly found guilty (under the 5th article of the Rules and Articles of War) of speaking with contempt and disrespect of his commanding officer, and was suspended for twelve months. He left the camp, followed by the good wishes of every officer to whom he was personally known; every one saw that the sedition, if any, had been committed by the Senate, and not by the Gracchi.,

In 1812 Capt. Scott was promoted to the rank of lieut. 'colonel in the 2d, or Izard's regiment of artillery. Early in the autumn of that year he arrived on the Niagara, with two companies of his regiment, and took post at Black-rock, to protect the navy yard. On the 8th of October Capt. Elliott, of the navy, 'made an application to Col. Scott for assistance in men, to execute an enterprise which he had projected against two British brigs, then lying at anchor under the guns of Fort Erie. On the morning of the 9th both vessels were carried in a most gallant manner-the Adams by Capt. Elliott in person, the Caledonia by Capt. Towson of the artillery, who had been detached with a part of his company to the assistance of Elliott. In dropping the Adams down the Niagara, she became unmanageable by reason of a calid, took the wrong channel, and drifted aground immediately under the guns of the British batteries. Finding it impossible to get the vessel off, Capt. Elliott reluctantly abandoned her, under a most heavy fire from the British shore, having previously secured the prison

An active scene now ensued. The enemy sent off his boats to the brig, hoping to secure her by the next change of wind. Col. Scott, on his side, was as active and eager to dispossess them of


« PreviousContinue »