American History x Megavideo or Old Fuss and Feathers
Two hundred years ago the United States fought the British for the second time in the War of 1812. Think of it as an American History x Megavideo in your mind’s eye. It is centered on Winfield Scott and relatives of Gail Stuart and his family described in my book, With One Hand Tied Behind His Back: The Life and Times of Gail Stuart. There were lots of Stuarts, aunts, uncles, and cousins, once, twice, and three times removed, and all of them were involved in significant events centered on the American Revolution. But later in the new century they continued popping up in the middle of things as well.
Scott Meets J.M. Stuart
For example, Winfield Scott got his start, as a Captain of artillery in the War of 1812 and acquitted himself well enough to make Brigadier General by the time it wound-up in 1815. Yet the army almost lost him. Scott had studied law at William and Mary College in 1807, but had it not been for the influence of Judge John Marshall Stuart, Scott would have studied something else, presumably done something else, and become lost to American history and its future hero buffs.
The Mexican War and Lieutenant Beau
Yes, he was still at it, making American History x Megavideo, and now Commanding General of the United States/Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. But his outstanding achievement had occurred fifteen years before when he developed the strategy and led the invasion of Mexico in 1846. By then the war had included battles across the entire Southwest, California, and Mexico itself. But the most significant and decisive move was Scott’s 195 mile march from Vera Cruz to Mexico City, fighting battles on the way and living off the land. It culminated with the successful invasion of Mexico City and the battle for Chapultepec, a fortified castle.
Some said Scott’s march couldn’t be done, including, no less, the British General, Sir Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington who had defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. But others who agreed that it could were Scott’s chief of staff, Colonel Robert E. Lee, and a very prescient assistant operations officer, Lieutenant Beauregard Hancock Stuart who introduced the forced march idea to Lee. Ten years earlier, Lieutenant Stuart had picked it up from a former congressman, The Honorable David Crockett from Tennessee, who had been on his way to Texas to see about “this Alamo business that has everyone stirred up. On our way we live off the land,” he had said.
American History x Megavideo Meets the Hero Test
Early in his army career during the War of 1812, Scott was involved in a number of battles along the Niagara river, Lake Erie, and in Canada to—as strange as it sounds—actually take part of the country. Then, Canada was part of the British Empire, and the Brits had been impressing American sailors onto British ships as that country fought the French under Napoleon. They also enacted trade restrictions on the U.S., and in general raised hell about U.S. expansion. Also, they ginned-up resentment in the Indian tribes to fight the white settlers moving west to current day Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana So, the United States declared war on England in 1812, deciding to raise some hell of their own by invading Canada, an American History x Megavideo if there ever was one.
One of the U.S. invaders serving under Scott, was Light Horse Harry Stuart who had distinguished himself in the revolution under Daniel Morgan in up-state New York and later at the Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina.
During the Canada campaign both Scott and Light Horse Harry were wounded. The doctor treating them was Johns Hopkins Stuart, another Stuart cousin who had studied medicine under Charles Mayo Stuart, a great uncle living in the Dakota Territory. Later in the war, Scott had occasion to dress down a member of his staff for being sloppy and out of uniform. But in fact, the man was not on Scott’s staff, instead, Hawkeye Fenimore Stuart was a hired scout who, after a couple of libations, allowed that General Scott was too persnickety and should be known as Old fuss and feathers.