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Agent of Destiny: The Life and Times of General Winfield Scott Paperback – Mar 15 1999

3.8 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press (March 15 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806131284
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806131283
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 635 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,488,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

It's about time somebody wrote a biography of Winfield Scott, and reading this fascinating account by accomplished military historian John S. D. Eisenhower, you'll wonder why nobody did it sooner. Scott's career spanned an astonishing 54 years and he spent most of it as a general. He was one of the few American heroes to emerge from the War of 1812; he launched a daring and successful invasion of Mexico in 1847; and he defended a vulnerable Washington, D.C., during the first months of the Lincoln administration in 1861. Scott was a profoundly courageous man with a flair for the organizational side of military life. Yet an unseemly amount of ambition and vanity marred his character, even as these qualities help make him an interesting subject for Eisenhower (who is, you guessed it, the son of Ike). Agent of Destiny is a skilled portrait of a man who is often overshadowed by the generation of Civil War leaders following him. Eisenhower deserves our thanks for writing this magnificent book about a vital figure. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

A great but frequently overlooked figure in America during the early decades of the 19th century now gets his due. Military historian Eisenhower (son of the late president, and author of Intervention! The United States and the Mexican Revolution, 1993, etc.) describes a natural leader of imposing stature, overweening pride, exceptional courage, and wide learning, who possessed considerable organizational and diplomatic skills along with outstanding martial instincts. Descended from a Scottish warrior who followed ``Bonnie Prince Charlie'' and escaped from bloody Culloden Moor, Scott was educated at William and Mary College and trained as a lawyer. But he was a born soldier: He loved the glamour of the military life. He raised a ragtag national army to professional levels and boldly recruited social outcasts like Irish and German immigrants, offering advancement to ambitious ethnic men when other professions did not. As the nation's youngest general, Scott distinguished himself in the War of 1812, and he was a hero of the Mexican War in the 1840s. After a brilliant campaign fought entirely on foreign soil, he stormed and captured Mexico City despite considerable political maneuvering on the battlefield and the homefront by a variety of influential enemies. In peacetime, he served successfully as a diplomat to the Canadians, the British, the Seminoles, and the Cherokees. Eisenhower argues that the outspoken Scott's military exploits vastly overshadowed those of Zachary Taylor in the Mexican War--but Taylor, who became president in 1850, was an astute politician and Scott, who lost his bid for the presidency in 1852, was not. Scott served 15 presidents, from Jefferson to Andrew Johnson, retiring as general- in-chief. In an afflicted old age, he organized the defense of Washington and started to build the Union Army in 1861. While Eisenhower largely skirts Scott's personal life, he offers a vivid portrait of Scott's times and accomplishments, and of the violent young nation in which he came to prominence. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"Old Fuss and Feathers", Winfield Scott, is one of the most important soldiers in American history. He was breveted a Brigadier General during the War of 1812, his shadow passes across all of the American Army's actions during the first half of the 19th Century, and before retiring he came up with "The Anaconda Plan" as a strategy to win the Civil War.
But there is no decent biography of this great historic figure. And AGENT OF DESTINY falls far short of the mark.
Sure, it is meticulously researched. In fact, it is more researched than written. Eisenhower wrote SO FAR FROM GOD about the Mexican War; AGENT OF DESTINY seems to be an expansion of that research project.
The presentation is very episodic. They read like they were all written separately, and no real cohesive thread runs through the book.
There is just no real sense of proportion. A Scott court martial is covered in little more than a page, with the juicy details buried in footnotes, and then it goes on forever with the intriguing and fueding for positions.
And a critism that applies to much modern military history -- there are way too few maps.
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Format: Paperback
This man's life is very much worth knowing about. Serving 14 Presidents, 13 as a general officer, he is the person who executed the military policies and directions of his civilian superiors.
He became a military officer almost by accident. He did this at a time when the United States was a mere concept, a thought process whose liberties and freedoms were undeveloped, untested and subject to interpretation by men who were not completely sold on the United States as a unified country.
His time coincided with the concept more popularly known as Manifest Destiny and he lived to see the United States evolve from an aggregation of discordant, fractious, sovereign States to a Nation that filled a continent. He was a man that avoided more wars than he fought and when he fought them you had best get out of the way.
The military was his life, the tool through which he made his contribution to America. Because he made his contributions in our country's formative stages, he has largely been forgotten. But he once strode across the evolution of the American stage with very big boots, a set of shoes which very few military men have since been able to fill.
John Eisenhower's book is a long overdue thank you.
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Format: Paperback
This rather wooden biography of Scott does not begin to cover in any details the complexity of this man and the times he lived in. As a military historian, Eisenhower seems to gloss over much of Scott's battlefield tactics. This is surprising. His description of the battle of Lundy's Lane, argueably the bloodiest encounter in the War of 1812, is given scant attention here. At this battle, Scott pioneered using a French Napoleanic colume to attack the British position on the bluff above the town. Scott tried this attack hours after the battle had been raging, and long after his own brigade had been shot to pieces by the British. His attack again failed, the British vollies ripping into his column, but the event marked Scott as an important tactical innovator in the fledgling US army. None of this is mentioned in Eisnhower's account of the battle.
The remaining portion of this book moves at a snail's pace. Eisenhower's prose is not inspiring, and at times clumsy. Too much time is spent on Scott's petty intrigues with US Presidents and rival generals. In the course of which we learn little of his domestic life, and even less about Winfield Scott, the man. Scott was a brilliant, but arrogant, elistest individual. He envisioned himself as to the manor born, and wanted nothing better than to be a european aristocrat. Eisenhower gives us very little of this perspective.
The narrative picks up a little for the Mexcian War chapters as the author has already published a book on this topic. Still, this biography is weak overall. For the length it spans, some 400 pages, the reader does not emerge with a great understanding of Winfield Scott. I would recommed a far better bio done recently by Timothy Johnson which is available from Amazon.com.
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Format: Paperback
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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