BRIAN LAMB, HOST: John S.D. Eisenhower, author of "Ascent of Destiny," who was General
Mr. JOHN S.D. EISENHOWER (Author, "Agent of Destiny: The Life and
Times of General Winfield Scott"): Well, General Win--Winfield Scott
was our most prominent general of the 19th century, up to the Civil
War and including the first few months of the Civil War. He was an
astonishing man. He was a--a general officer under 13 presidents,
served under 14. He was our number one hero in the War--War of 1812
until the Battle of New Orleans, when he got s--supplanted by
s--Andrew Jackson. He led the expedition that landed at Veracruz and
took Mexico City in 1847. He was instrumental in moving the Indians
to the western parts of the United States. He was Lincoln's general
in chief at the beginning of the Civil War.
He was really quite a fellow. He did have a tendency to get political
every now and then, which sort of was one of the unfortunate things
about his career. But he's an astonishing--an astonishing general...
Mr. EISENHOWER: ...teacher of Grant, Meade, all of 'em.
LAMB: I--I just--I--I read in--early in the book, I--and I had to
personalize this because--and you'll see what I mean in a moment--I
wo--I grew up living on Shawnee Avenue in Tippecanoe County, and
there's a junior high school down the street called Tecumseh.
Mr. EISENHOWER: Yeah.
LAMB: I went to Jefferson High School, and I lived in Lafayette,
Indiana, and I just wondered if y--by just taking all those names,
Shawnee, Tecumseh, Lafayette, Jefferson and, you know, the Tippecanoe
River and the Wabash River, all that, you--it comes up early. What
relevance does any of that have to the history of the United States?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Well, it had everything to do with the early history
of the United States, certainly the War of 1812. The Battle of
Tippecanoe--which did not involve Scott; Scott was a captain down in
New Orleans at the time. The Battle of Tippecanoe is a battle in
Indiana where Tecumseh, who you mentioned as the Shawnee chief--being
the Shawnee chief, was trying to get the Indians to pull together
against the white man, which is something they were very poor at
doing, usually. They put together a t--a town--Prophetstown, they
called it, named after sh--Tecumseh's brother--up on the Tippecanoe
River. And in 1811, William Henry Harrison, future president...
LAMB: There's also a school named Harrison.
Mr. EISENHOWER: ...yes--took a--took an expedition up there. He
really was surprised. He--but he survived the battle, destroyed the
town, claimed a victory, was later elected president on the basis of
that, quote, "victory," closed quote. It's been compared in a
way--the Battle of Tippecanoe--the way it led on to the War of
1812--it's been compared to George Washington's murder of Jumonville
out by Pittsburgh, in other words, a little, little operation that so
excited people that it brought on a major war.
Now, of course, this is wh--a year before the War of 1812, but you can
make a--quite an argument that the feelings out west about the British
stirring up the Indians, including Tecumseh, really had more to do
with our getting into declaring war on Britain in 1812 than any
impressment of sailors.
LAMB: What was the significance of the War of 1812?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Well, the significance of the War of 1812 is
probably not much. The--the British, of course, were very angry at us
because they were fighting Napoleon tooth and nail, and we plain took
advantage of it, of the fact that the British were preoccupied there.
We were planning on their not being able to send very much by way of
force to the North American continent. But we had these war hawks
who--Britain was very high-handed on the seas, as--as is well-known,
the--the impressment of sailors. And there's also this feeling out
And we were the aggressors. We were--no--no question about it, we
were the aggressors in the war. The British didn't even declare war
against us until late in the year of 1812, and we declared war against
them in June of 1812. They kept trying to say, `Down, boy, let's not
have a war here,' but we were insistent. Thomas Jefferson wrote
letters saying, `Of course, we'll take all Canada by the end of the
year,' and things like that. So it was really s--a very--a very great
frustration from it for us. And we--we were lucky, actually. The
United States was lucky to get off with the Treaty of Ghent that just
recognized the status quo before we went into Canada.
LAMB: You have in the--the book five pictures of Winfield Scott.
Well, actually, this is--looks like a--a line drawing.
Mr. EISENHOWER: Yes.
LAMB: He was 29 years old in this picture. What was he doing when he
Mr. EISENHOWER: Well, by the time that was taken, he was already a
major general and the he--hero of the War of 1812. It's impossible to
tell whether these are idealized pictures. Of course they are, being
a line drawing. But--well, the reason why I put so many pictures of
Scott in the book is that the public remembers him primarily as the
way he looked in the Civil War when he was old--75 years old; he was
overweight, doddering, sick. And so I--I really wanted to have lots
of pictures to show that he wasn't always like that. He was really
quite a going concern, quite a glamorous young man there earlier.
LAMB: There he is here. This is when he was 50 years old.
Mr. EISENHOWER: That's when he's 50.
LAMB: The Second Seminole War.
Mr. EISENHOWER: Yes, sir.
LAMB: What was he doing there?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Well, he commanded--he had a f--a funny situation
there; he was always more or less at odds with Andrew Jackson, but
Andrew Jackson, when the Seminoles kicked up their rebellion down
there in 1830--late 1835--'36, Jackson called on--on Scott as our most
prominent general--not the highest ranking--most--most prominent
general, to go down and lead an expedition, which Scott did
in--against the Seminoles.
LAMB: And the Indians are--in your book, they're prominent--the story
of the Indians. How, in your opinion after you've looked at
this--history of this, did the white person in this country treat the
Mr. EISENHOWER: Very badly. Very badly. The--the main factor was
greed to take over Indian land. The Seminoles were sort of a wild
bunch of people, we--but we'd had two treaties that had put the--taken
the Seminoles' best land in Florida and put 'em out--well, matter of
fact, we finally had a treaty that they were supposed to move, and
they were all fraudulent treaties. And the ones who really suffered
most, I think, were treated most unjustly were the Cherokees in
Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, who had done a great job of integrating
with the--with white civilization. Most of those Cher--Cherokees were
known by their Anglicized names. We moved them anyway.
LAMB: Here's Winfield Scott when he was 60 years old. What was he
Mr. EISENHOWER: That's the time of the--of the Mexican War. I think
it's really quite something to point out the difference between the
previous picture, which is a rather glamorous-looking fellow, and
this--this old character here. He's strong and he's got his
faculties. He was absolutely terrific in the--in the Mexican War.
But that's a long 10 years between '36, when the previous picture was
taken, and '46 here.
LAMB: What was the Mexican War? How did we get into it?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Well, the Mexican War was the manifestation of the
doctrine of manifest destiny. It was the--it was brought about by
a--a great urge, a movement in the United States to move all the way
from the--from where we were with the Louisiana Purchase to take the
southwestern part of the country and reach out to the Pacific. As a
result of the Mexican War, which was engineered by President James K.
Polk, really, the borders the--of the 48 contiguous states were almost
the same as they are today, except for a little sliver of land that
was purchased later.
And the trigger--the trigger was the situation in Texas. Sam Houston
and his fellow Texans had rebelled against Santa Ana of Mexico in
1836, been an independent republic for, oh, some eight years, but a
very, very shaky independent republic. And they wanted to be annexed
to the United States for safety against Mexico, 'cause Mexico had
never recognized their independence. The Mexicans, having not
recognized their independence, were adamant against our annexing
Texas, and they threatened war if we would.
So we did, and then to make sure that the war happened, President Polk
sent a--a small army, Zachary Taylor's, down into highly disputed
territory that most American authorities thought really belonged to
Mexico, Rio Grande. The Mexicans crossed it, had a little patrol
action, and President Polk was able to declaim to the United States,
`American blood has been shed upon American soil.' And so Congress,
who was pretty reticent about declaring war, had no choice; they just
had to give him what he needed.
It's generally been thought to be a highly unjust war and certainly by
all--the Golden Rule, it was certainly unjust. Some politician out in
California once said, `Well, I don't know what they're complaining
about, since we stole it fair and square,' all that territory. But
the people who decry it don't want to give that land back:
California, Arizona and New Mexico.
It was a war that was in--very interesting from a military point of
view. Nobody wanted to conquer Mexico; they just wanted those
territories. And so the president tried at first to send Zachary
Taylor into just the northern part of Mexico within occupied
California with another force. But the Mex--Mexicans absolutely would
not c--cede any territory. That was enough to make him knuckle under.
So Scott, who is President Polk's last choice practically of anybody
because he was a political rival, was sent with 12,000 men to land at
Veracruz, way down the Gulf of Mexico and march inland over the same
route that Cortes had used 300 years earlier and took Mexico City.
And once--once Scott had Veracruz, Tampico, Mexico City, the Mexicans
finally said, `Get your people out of here; we'll--we'll sign this
treaty.' They have always resented it. It took over half the
territory they claimed but did not control. It was a grimy episode in
American history but one that's been beneficial on the long run.
Sometimes bad things have salutary results in the long run.
LAMB: This is a picture when he was 75 years old.
Mr. EISENHOWER: Yes, it's unfair be--and actually, one of my great
theses in this book is that when he was this age, he was performing
very, very valuable services. He's usually pictured in the Civil War
as being part of the problem, the guy you've got to get out of the way
before you can get with it. And that was true. But what he did at
the very beginning was indispensable, possibly his greatest
LAMB: When did you first get into the military yourself?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Into the military?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Oh, I was born into it. My dad being an Army
officer, I was just born to it. I--I was raised in a military manner,
and it was a--a given that Army brats went to West Point, so I went to
West Point in 1941. And being in the military has been my life.
LAMB: How many years did you spend in the military?
Mr. EISENHOWER: It depends on how you count. As a regular, I had
three years in West Point and then 19 years as a regular, but then I
resigned and went in the Reserves, and so if you count Reserve duty,
it was 35 years. But I was really out as of 1963.
LAMB: What was your first assignment out of West Point?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Well, after going to the usual Army schools, Ft.
Benning for infantry school, we were sent to Europe, and I was--I
reached Europe just in the very last months of the war.
LAMB: What was your assignment?
Mr. EISENHOWER: I was a--had a strange job as a tactical liaison
officer, a vertical liaison officer in--with 1st Army. Really, in
oper--it was a--I was a very junior operations officer.
LAMB: Did you work with your dad?
Mr. EISENHOWER: No. I visited with him. I visited with him for two
weeks just after graduation while the rest of my classmates were on
leave--visited in--in London. I graduated on D-Day, actually, June
6th, 1944, from West Point. That night I boarded the Queen Mary in
New York Port of Embarkation. The--the ship took seven days to--to
reach Europe, and I had no word whatsoever during those seven days how
the invasion was going. When I landed there on the 13th of June, I
spent the next 17 days with Dad. Quite an ex--quite--quite an
But then during the war when I was in Europe, I--I did have some
mobility, so I was able to drop in every now and then and get a bath
and say hello and keep on going my way. But I--during the war, I--I
never worked with him or--we all worked under him.
LAMB: What do you remember about those 17 days when--you spent with
Mr. EISENHOWER: The big thing I remember--well, we visited the--we
visited Normandy twice; his headquarters were still in London. We
visited Montgomery and visited Bradley in the--in--that was just
before the St.-Lo breakthrough, a couple of weeks before, and here are
all these generals sitting around under the trees, handling the thing
in a very--very professional matter--I--very professional--they were
not excited. That was quite an experience that--that day under the
trees, watching these generals talking over what they were gonna do
The most dramatic thing that happened that, when I look back on it,
it's miraculous, was that a storm hit when we were trying to get to
Normandy the second time. The storm hit on June 19th, 1944. That was
the day that, if D-Day had been deferred from the 6th of June, that
was the day that invasion would have been launched. That was the
worst storm that hit the Channel for 50 years, and it tied up all the
shipping; it--it wrecked the mulberries on Omaha Beach. And I was
with him at that time, and his only reaction--he was just--took it,
took it, took it, sitting down at telegraph cottage, and he--when one
piece of news came in, he says, `Pour me a scotch.' That was the only
sign of emotion I--that he really showed.
Buzz Bombs coming in; the guards' chapel was hit; one of his best
friends was killed in it. Dramatic times. It was a
dramatic--dramatic visit. I think the--the storm and the tie-up of
shipping down in Portsmouth and all that--which has not really been
emphasized very much in history except to say that if D-Day had not
gone the 6th of June, that's the day it would have gone.
LAMB: What did you do after you left the service in '63? And where
do you live today?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Today, Joanne and I live on the eastern shore of
Maryland, which is near the--near the town of Easton, just by choice,
'cause as a book writer, I can live anywhere I want to, practically.
When I left the service, I helped my father write his White House
memoirs, and that took about four years--three years, actually. And
then I got an offer to write books myself, so I wrote "The Bitter
Woods" at that point. And then I spent a couple of years in Belgium
as ambassador but came back to--what I really wanted to do was book
writing. I've been doing that ever since.
LAMB: How many books?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Seven. Seven.
LAMB: General subjects that you wrote about?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Oh, I can't get away from the military. That's my
readership. And I--I don't think I want to. I--in mo--my main
interest, though, my main preoccupation is the relationship between
the political echelons of government and the military. In the one
World War II book I wrote, "Allies," it has very much relationship
between Roosevelt and Churchill and their military marshal,
Eisenhower, Brooke, Montgomery and whatnot.
So that's how I got really into the Mexican War. After writing
"Allies," and I concluded that I was not given very much credibility
as family chronicler writing about Daddy, I cast about for other
subjects and I ran across an article in American History Illustrated
about the hassles between President James Polk and Winfield Scott, how
politics got mixed up in their military relationship. And so I said,
`You know, that's p--for me.' So I wrote a book about Mexican War,
and this--and that's how I got this area.
LAMB: Where is this cover portrait from of Winfield Scott?
Mr. EISENHOWER: I can't say. It's a common portrait, but the
publisher found it. It's--the--the time frame is the Mexican War
time, but you can see it's slightly idealized. He's--I think it makes
him a little more glamorous than he actually was at the time, but it
certainly is a great cover for a--for a book, in my opinion.
LAMB: Now did it strike you when you were writing about this book at
all that when he ran for president as a Whig, the last Whig ever...
Mr. EISENHOWER: Yes.
LAMB: ...he ran exactly 100 years before your father ran and won,
1852, if my calculations are right.
Mr. EISENHOWER: Yes, they--absolutely, yes. Well, that's--that's
sort of coincidence, isn't it? A military man running against a
Democrat. But the difference is that my dad had a pretty good sense
of politics and a touch with people, which--which Scott did not.
Scott's pomposity made him probably the worst candidate we've ever had
nominated for president. Wonderful soldier, one of our greatest
soldiers, certainly our greatest soldier in at least the first half of
the 19th century but a hopeless politician. His--his big Achilles'
heel--heel was his pomposity and his ego, and that showed through.
LAMB: Where was he born?
Mr. EISENHOWER: He was born in the--near Petersburg, Virginia,
Culpepper countho--Courthouse--Culpepper Courthouse, about 1,000 yards
from the courthouse itself.
LAMB: And where did he go to school?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Well, he went to school in--went to William
and--William and Mary for a--for a year or so, a couple years. He was
always very impetuous and--and full of his own opinions, even when he
was very young. I--I sometimes thought that he got his pomposity for
being a general too long, but that's not true; he had it when he was
born for some reason or another. He left school. But he--in those
days, you could work under a lawyer and--and get your law degree on
that--on that basis. And that's what he did; there's a--Benjamin
Watkins Leigh, that was his mentor, his--his teacher. And he worked
for him until 18--1809, really.
LAMB: How long was he a--well, first of all, you mentioned this
before; how long was he in the military, again?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Well, you know, in those days--what a--what a thing
to write about; it's so much fun. Here's this brash young character
from Virginia. A friend takes him in to see President Jefferson in
Jefferson's last year in office, 1808. And he says, `My friend
Win--Mr. Scott here, he wants to be commissioned straight as a
captain.' And Jefferson was preoccupied by other things, but he sort
of tolerated all this and talked to some other congressmen in there.
And finally--finally at the end of it, he says, `All right. If I get
the augmentation of the army that I've asked for, I'll make--you can
be a--I'll commission you a captain.' So that's when he got his
commission. That's 18--1809--or 18--1808. He served from 1808 to
1861--late 1861--it's 53 years--and was a retired officer for the last
five years of his life. That's a long t--and wi--within just a few
years of--of that, in 1814, he was made a brigadier general; 1814 to
1861, active duty general officer. Wow.
LAMB: So how many years does that make him a general?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Forty-seven years. Well--and if you count retired
time, that's--that's--What is it?--52--52 years.
LAMB: Let's go back to the election of 1852. What was a wig--or a
Mr. EISENHOWER: Well, the Whig Party was organized in 1832 as a
protest against Andrew Jackson. So it encompassed people of all
persuasions who were against And--Andrew Jackson. That meant an awful
lot of the Southerners and also much more heavily in the--in the
North. But Henry s--Henry Clay of--of Kentucky was a Whig. Zachary
Taylor of Vir--or Vir--born in Virginia but had Mississippi
LAMB: Had been a general.
Mr. EISENHOWER: ...and he was a--huh?
Mr. EISENHOWER: General, oh, yes--he was a Whig. The--they--they
collapsed because they had no purpose other than--they--they didn't
have a unifying philosophy. And so after--they were split badly over
the Fugitive Slave Act in 1852, and the--it was a v--unpopular act
that the Whigs--the abolitionists in the--in the North could barely
stomach. They could--they couldn't really st--st--but they said, `We
accept the candidate, Scott, but spit on the platform.'
Well, Scott's handlers, as Thurlow Weed and Seward--William Seward,
who bought Alaska there--they said, `All right, now, candidates, keep
your mouths shut. Don't open your mouth about anything.' With Scott,
that's impossible. When the reporters came around to--the--when he
learned about his nomination, he says, `I shall support the platform.'
Oh, boy, there went the election right there.
LAMB: And you show that--that he lost the election 254-42.
Mr. EISENHOWER: Well, that's electoral votes.
LAMB: Electoral votes--but lost the popular vote 1.6 million to 1.3
Mr. EISENHOWER: Yes. That's--that's a good margin.
LAMB: Who beat him?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Pierce, Franklin Pierce, who is a--a rather
admirable fellow, really, I think, New Jersey Democrat. He--you know,
in those days, when--when politicians went to war for glory and to
further their political career, they took risks. They took risks to
do it. Gideon Pillow, fellow we do not admire--most soldiers don't
admire--he was wounded twice. Pierce served as a brigadier general
after having signed up as a common soldier, served as a brigadier
general under Scott. That made it a little painful for Scott, to be
so roundly beaten in a presidential election by one of his previous
subordinates. But Pierce was a congenial fellow. They se--got along
LAMB: Did they actually run against as a drunk? Did--did they accuse
him of being a drunk in public--Franklin Pierce?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Well, you know, we--we think that personal remarks
and personal accusations and attacks are something new in politics.
They were virulent in the old days. And among all the things that
they could pick up against Pierce, who really had not much of a record
at all, they did accuse him of--of drunkenness. Now I don't--I don't
know and I've never read anybody who committed himself as to whether
that was true or not, but that was one of the accusations certainly.
LAMB: I made a list of all the things that you say that they--that
the Pierce group exploited against...
Mr. EISENHOWER: Oh, yes.
LAMB: ...Winfield Scott. One of them, for instance, is that they
call him "Old Fuss and Feathers."
Mr. EISENHOWER: Yes. Yes.
LAMB: What's that mean, "Old Fuss and Feathers"?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Well, S--Scott--maybe it was an asset to him as a
soldier--I don't know--but he really loved panoply. He loved panoply.
When he would go inspect troops, he'd have his whole staff line up.
He'd go in full dress. He'd go in full--when he first bought his full
dress uniform, he admitted that he locked a door and put up two
mirrors and paraded for two hours, admiring himself in that uniform.
He loved any picture--I've never seen Scott hardly in a picture in
which he's not decked out with epaulets and the--and full regalia. He
was pompous. He was very, very good with his troops, however. But
think of the contrast, two soldier politicians. Here's Zachary
Taylor, called "Old Rough and Ready." Well, boy, which was gonna get
more votes, "Old Rough and Ready" or "Old Fuss and Feathers"? That
was one of his--one of his downers.
LAMB: They cited a court-martial that--in 1809, which was 43 years
before. What was that about?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Yeah. Well, Scott was put before a court three
times in his career. This was quite legitimate, in a way--no, it was
quite legitimate. He was just commissioned--just commissioned, but he
was brash. And there was a General Wilkinson--James Wilkinson, who
was really, really a bum. He was--he was in the payroll--on the
payroll of the Spanish when he was wearing an American uniform. He
was down in New Orleans with the bulk of the Army down there 'cause we
were expecting possible war with Spain. And he put the Ar--the Army
in an awful sump hole where the diseases were some of--enough about
But Scott couldn't keep his mouth shut. He kept declaiming his
criticisms of Wilkinson. He'd--Wilkinson was involved with Aaron Burr
in the 187--ex--ex--trial of Aaron Burr for treason. Scott claimed
Wilkinson was just as great a traitor as Burr was. Well, that didn't
sit very well when--when Wilkinson's got some friends around that
report what he said. So they court-martialed him, and the only thing
that saved him--well--and that is that everybody else felt the same
way. So they worded it very carefully. They worded it
`unofficerly-like conduct.' Now by the Articles of War, if you say
`conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman,' that's--that's
curtains. You're--you're dismissed. But they weasel it around,
`unofficer-like--officerly-like conduct,' and they just suspended him
for a year. Wonderful thing that happened to him, actually. He--he
took off for a year. He was gonna go back into law. His friends
discouraged him. And he studied the military profession for one solid
year, came out the most professionally knowledgeable officer in the
Army, as a youngster. And it put him on this road toward military
professionalism, which is really what he was. He was our f--foremost
LAMB: You also said that in that campaign they exploited his clash
with Jackson, meaning General Andrew Jackson...
Mr. EISENHOWER: Uh-huh.
LAMB: ...another general. And then the next one that they exploited
was his challenge to De Witt Clinton, and this is all about dueling.
Mr. EISENHOWER: Yes, sir.
LAMB: Explain all that.
LAMB: Well, Scott had a little adjustment problem because after he'd
trained his troops in the War of 1812--oh, his brigade was 1,200 men,
something like that, maybe a little larger--into really professional
status--professional. On the Niagara front. They cross in 1814. He
fought the British to a standstill--British regulars--oh, the first
time in the war that Americans had fought the British regulars to a
standstill. My God, he was popular. Three weeks later, with all of
this rise and furor of popularity, he was wounded very badly at
Lundy's Lane. So he's made a major general. Well, here's this
guy--and this is 1814, he was born in--he was 28 years old, major
general, ranking almost everybody in the Army, maybe third-ranking
officer is the whole Army and he's still a kid. Well, he--he had a
lot to learn by way of administration and particularly about finesse,
and he had a lot to learn about humility, which he never did learn.
So Andrew Jackson, who commanded the West, had a run-in with the War
Department between--let's see, this is 1817, so that would be between
Madison and Monroe. His--Jackson's headquarters were in Nashville.
Way up in the Mississippi, the War Department tried to send an order
for an engineer officer to report back to Washington. But they didn't
have time to go all the way to Nashville, and so they sent the orders
directly to this officer. Well, Jackson showed some patience--and
protested--showed some patience, but finally, he put out an order
saying, `Any orders that come to you from the War Department ignore
them until you hear from me.' Now that is pretty bad insubordination,
'cause after all, the War Department established his command to start
Scott's at dinner with Clinton--with Governor-elect De Witt Clinton,
and they're--they--the crowds with these two prominent individuals
were sitting around listening to what they had to say. And somebody
asked Scott his opinion of it. Well, someplace or other, the word
`mutinous' got out. `Mutinous' got back to Jackson, who wrote Scott a
fairly icy but correct letter. And Scott, who never got over being a
lawyer, wrote him a great tome about the legalities of--of Jackson's
errors. Well, that was enough. Jackson--oh, my God, he called him
pimp of the War Department, he called him all sorts of names in this
letter, so--and said, `If you wish to challenge me'--he didn't say
that--`If you wish satisfaction,' or something, `I can be reached at
Well, Scott was--for once used a little sense. He thought it over a
long time and said, `I've got a no-win situation here. Either I get
killed, which is undesirable, or I kill the great hero of the country,
putting me in a cle--class with Aaron Burr,' who killed Hamilton.
`No, I can't win.' So he cited all sorts of spurious--religion, I
think, among other thi--things, why he could not accept a challenge,
why he could not issue a challenge. But--and so Jackson consoled
himself with telling people he would cut Scott's ears off, but the War
Department sort of straightened Jackson out halfway for the--if
anybody could. And it blew over and they--four years later, they sort
of made up--sort of made up.
Meantime, Scott thought Clinton was responsible for the word getting
down to Jackson about this--what he said. So he issues a challenge to
Clinton, who, likeli--likewise and wisely, passed it up. All right,
so here's the political foes who know everything about Scott. They
say, `Well, look, you passed up a--a guy who would probably kill
you--a duel with a fellow who's probably kill you, and you challenge
somebody else that you would probably kill. Now what kind of a brave
soldier is that?' See, one of the troubles in 1852, this election
you're talking about--is that Scott had a record, and boy, did he have
a record, all sorts of record, and Pierce had none.
LAMB: In the acknowledgements in the back, you thank three people.
Mr. EISENHOWER: Yes.
LAMB: And the reason I bring this up is because you go through a
s--scenario of all the traveling you did in order to write this book.
Mr. EISENHOWER: Yes.
LAMB: But you thank, first and foremost, your wife Joanne Thompson
Mr. EISENHOWER: Yeah. I'm glad you mentioned that.
LAMB: Wh--when did you meet her?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Oh, long time ago. Long time ago.
Mr. EISENHOWER: Oh, I guess in Coro--Colorado, but many years went
before we got together.
LAMB: How long have you been married?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Ten years.
LAMB: And you--you say here that--and you wrote earlier in a
book--you said, `I--at--to an unusual degree, I'm indebted to my wife
Joanne Thompson Eisenhower for her efforts on behalf of this book. It
would be trite to try to describe her role.' But you go on to say
that she arranged trips to Ni--the Niagara frontier--Sackett's Harbor,
Montreal and Quebec. To do what?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Oh, to see the territory. See the territory. I--I
might, if I'd been on my own, have made it to Mexico City, Veracruz,
s--Niagara, Maine, but it sure helped to have her nudging me,
to--to--to put it mildly. But you--you've gotta see these places, and
so it was--it was nice to have--and she made arrangements. And also,
she's a--she's a terrific editor and...
LAMB: But when you would go to these places, wh--when did you change
your mind about something after seeing them?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Rarely. Rarely. I can't think of very many
instances where seeing the ground afterward has made me change
ve--very much at all in what I had written before. Sometimes
it's--it's counterproductive because the terrain has changed so much,
it's been built up. Sometimes that's the case. But what
happens--what it--what it does, though, it makes me comfortable in
what I'm writing. So then I can--and talking and thinking about it.
Very rarely have I said, `Oh, my gosh, look at this. I had it all
wrong,' very, very rarely.
LAMB: You dedicate the book to Lewis D. Rubin Jr. of Chapel Hill,
Mr. EISENHOWER: Yes, sir.
LAMB: Who's--who is he?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Lewis D. Rubin--he's a distinguished professor of
English of University of North Carolina emeritus. We met by chance by
correspondence some--oh, 15 years ago, I guess, but he wanted me to
write an introduction to a book. We corresponded. We--we still
correspond about once a week. He's a real Renaissance man, even
though he's a really distinguished professor of English. He loves
military history, so I'm just one of his--one of his correspondents.
He gave me encouragement with a point--at a point--oh, about a year
and a half ago when I just wondered if anybody in the world would be
interested in Winfield Scott. So it's a good dedication.
LAMB: You know, so often when we do military history on this program,
the Carlisle Barracks...
Mr. EISENHOWER: Yes, sir.
LAMB: ...in Pennsylvania are cited. What's there?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Carlisle Barracks is the--the home of the Army War
College. There's the National War College in Washington and
each--each individual service has their own. But the place where I go
is an adjunct to the college itself, the War College. It's called
Military History Institute. And it was more or a less of a--it's
pickup thing, but people--military people tend to leave their military
books to that institution, and they've got quite a collection, and
they're very, very liberal in their putting out of--of old books.
They--they are really on your side there. It's--it's difficult to--to
research in Washington, I think. You have to--it--it certainly can be
done, but at Carlisle, you--you're there in the nice green
countryside. And--and places where they can make arrangements for you
to see a book in the archives, they'll let you check out up there.
It's just--it's just a congenial atmosphere.
LAMB: When you wrote the book here about General Winfield Scott, who
did you have in mind that would read it? What kind of--what was your
Mr. EISENHOWER: I hoped the general reader, the general reader who
is interested in American history, because I don't believe you can
understand American history, certainly the 19th century, without
knowing something about Scott. I--I--the--I hope to get a general
readership, not just--not just military.
LAMB: Did Winfield Scott marry?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Yes, yes. Married Virginia Mayo in 1816,
debutante--a very prominent debutante of Richmond, Virginia. Her
father was a--a Virginia aristocrat, more so than Scott, and her
father was not terribly enthusiastic about the marriage because he was
unimpressed by Scott's fame and military prowess. He--he thought more
about the status of where he stood in Virginia. But he gave his--gave
his assent. The two produced seven children, of whom three survived
to adulthood. They were very fond of each other, very proud of each
other, but they were both prima donnas and both used to having their
own little coterie of admirers around them. So they were sometimes
in, oh, maybe a little competition. She developed respiratory
problems later on and spent an awful lot of time in Europe. So he
spent a lot of his years--from--from about 1838 on, after 20 years of
marriage--but she spent a lot of time in Europe. She died there.
LAMB: One of the children came back to--going to a Catholic
Mr. EISENHOWER: Yes.
LAMB: ...or a convent?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Yes, Virginia.
LAMB: The reason I bring that up is that--what was the religion of
Mr. EISENHOWER: Episcopalian, I'm sure.
LAMB: But there was a small note when th--during the Mexican
War--where he would go to church down there after the victory in the
Catholic churches. And you mentioned in the book that that caused
political problems back in the United States.
Mr. EISENHOWER: Yes, it did, and I--I--I--I really wanna make a
point about Scott, that even though he was politically ambitious, like
any good soldier, he's--his military duties came first. And
some--very often, military people, they--they wanted to go into
political life to get another brevet, to just get the next higher rank
moving up the chain of command. Well, I think that was Scott, really.
I don't think he had any--any plans for the country or anything like
that. But since his--there was a--since the people who supported
Scott were generally anti-Catholic in those days, he was taking a risk
by attending a--a Catholic Mass and participating in it. But he did
that because he figured, `Here I've got--suppose I--10,000 effectives
at--to 10,000 troops are--at this time. I'm dealing with a--a nation
of 70 million people.' Now are--are 10,000 people gonna conquer 70
million who are dead-set hostile against you? No--no way. So he
courted the Catholic Church and to a very good effect to. And that
was--that was part of it. It was sort of embarrassing things.
They--they really put him to work that day at ch--in the chapel
carrying candles around, whatnot.
LAMB: There was a little, tiny--and it's a small chapter in your
book--about a man named Keyes.
Mr. EISENHOWER: Yes.
LAMB: That obviously told you something about General Scott. What
was the story? Who was he?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Well, Erasmus D. Keyes was a cadet when--when he
first noticed Scott. He was--graduated from West Point in '33 and
within a year after that became Scott's aide through the intercession
of another aide. He was an irreverent fellow, very Yankee, very
articulate. And he wrote a--a book called "50 Years of Recollections"
or something--"50 Years"--in which he told about himself. But the
only value in the--in the book is detailed, detailed description of
Scott and his foibles. And that's why--that's why it sells. And
it's--it's still around. I've--I have a copy which I treasure. He
later on was a corps commander in the peninsula in 1862 in the Civil
War. And I--I think the--the word you'd--you'd say was `lackluster'
at--at best. They--but his--his--his claim to fame was Winfield
LAMB: But it was that one episode at dinner one night that you write
about that changed Scott's opinion of him?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Yes, and that--that's sort of interesting.
That--that il--that illustrates--see, this happened about 19--1834.
Scott was 50--well, 48 years old. But as I say, he--he could have
been called "Young Fuss--Fuss and Feathers" long before he was called
"Old Fuss and Feathers." He had this aide, another lieutenant, at
dinner, and it was a question of passing the salt. Well, apparently
the salt was pretty close to the general, but the other aide could
reach it, and Keyes was sagacious enough to ask the lieutenant to pass
the salt rather than--than Scott. And Scott very, very much approved.
He said, `You showed good sense there, young gentlemen,' he called
him, he says, `to have Lieutenant So-and-So pass the salt because he's
more close to your age.' The fellow--he--he had his foibles.
LAMB: What was the end of his life like?
Mr. EISENHOWER: I would say quite serene. He--he knew that he'd
done great things in guarding Lincoln's inauguration and forming the
army that McDowell commanded at Bull Run--first Bull Run. May--the
fact that we had an Army at all is--in Civil War was due to him. But
he was, by this time, 75 years old and more and he--he had diseases
from the Mexican War, he was overweight and he picked up a--a
subordinate who was not very loyal, George B. McClellan. And even
though George McClellan said all sorts of nice things about Scott,
still he undercut him. He absolutely ignored his orders. Well, Scott
tried to resign a couple of times--did resign but then went to New
York--New York in--City in the wintertime and West Point in the
summers and lived to attend the Lincoln funeral in--in New York and
died at the age of 80 rather quietly and I don't really think
unhappily right after writing his memoirs, which generals do.
LAMB: How valuable were the memoirs for you in researching this book?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Tremendously valuable. They're tremendously
valuable to everybody for the simple reason that so little is known
about Scott's early years, and so he's the only source. He claims
that his grandfather fought at the Battle of Culloden in 1743 agai--as
part of Bron--Bonnie Prince Charlie's army fighting against the
British, and they got licked badly and his grandfather was lucky to
get to the United States. True? I don't know. But Scott said so in
his memoirs. It's sort of interesting, there's--there have been other
biographies of Scott, of course, lots of them. And it's interesting
to see how all of them take that basic material, including me--that
basic material that Scott provided in his memoirs and tried to make it
look a little different.
LAMB: How do you think, based on your life with writing history, that
the Eisenhower name has done in history? How fair have historians
been to your father and your family?
Mr. EISENHOWER: I have no complaints. Oh, I have complaints, but
I--I think, by and large, it's been OK. I think it's been OK.
LAMB: How valuable, though, has your own father's memoirs been to his
image in history?
Mr. EISENHOWER: I don't think that it's been read much, I don't
think his memoirs have. I--I--since I was his principal assistant in
writing them, I naturally think they are a very fine two volumes of
work. And they--they cover--they're gre--a great reference book. But
I don't--I've--I've had people ask me questions that I can say, `Well,
it's--it's in the memoirs. Why don't you read 'em?' I don't think
they've taken on very much.
LAMB: How much are you like father?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Not very much. I think we have a lot of basic
traits in common, probably foibles mostly, but we've had di--utterly
different life experiences. He came from K--he came from Abilene,
Kansas, and rough and ready, shucking wheat and all that and always
quite proud of that and thought there was something wrong with me that
I didn't do the same thing. But he put me in the apar--Wyoming
Apartments here in Washington, DC, to grow up. And, of course, since
he got so prominent in the Army that there was no chance, even if I
had the talent, which I didn't, to emulate him in a military career.
So I decided to branch off, go elsewhere.
LAMB: How many children have you had?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Four. Four.
LAMB: Where are they?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Well, they're all east of the Mississippi. Ann's in
New York, David's in Philadelphia, Susan's here in Washington and
Mary's in Alabama.
LAMB: Now Susan has been on this show.
Mr. EISENHOWER: Oh, yeah.
LAMB: She beat you to it...
Mr. EISENHOWER: Yes.
LAMB: ...for a book.
Mr. EISENHOWER: Yeah.
LAMB: And David is not, but we've interviewed him in this network and
he's writing a lot. How is it it turned out that you--what are the
other two children doing, Ann and Mary?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Well, Ann is a house--she's a housewife in New York,
married to a financier. And Ann--Mary is in Huntsville, Alabama,
leading the closest thing to a--a normal life of any of us. She's
working for an engineering firm. But she--now she's joined the People
to People organization. They've all stayed out of jail and I'm proud
of all of 'em.
LAMB: What about, though, the--the life of writing? Would you do it
again the same way?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Absolutely. Well, put it this way: if I could
afford to, and I've been lucky that way. I'm--it's a--it's a real
privilege, writing. It's--it's a tremendous privilege, but not if you
have to do it to keep the f--food on the table. Since I have
some--some inheritance, I'm--I'm--I'm able to do it. But...
LAMB: How long did it take you to write...
Mr. EISENHOWER: ...but people--people who do it for a liv--have to
make it for a living--my, God, they could--half of them get paranoid.
LAMB: How long did it take you to write this book?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Four--four years. Four years.
LAMB: And are you--you know, is it easy for you or hard to write,
physical part of it?
Mr. EISENHOWER: I think it's easy. I write easily. It helps very
much to have the energy of Joanne to make me get out and research
as--as much as I do. I go through the pangs of or--how to organize
the next chapter, I guess, just like the next fellow does. I very
rarely get writer's block, but I could put out some pretty awful first
LAMB: What do you write on?
Mr. EISENHOWER: A PC, a personal computer.
LAMB: Time of day?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Demand schedule. I'll write Sunday mornings, I'll
write all weekend and playing golf on Wednesday or whatever. I--I
think it's probably novel writers who are able to get up and say, `I
will start writing at 7:00 this morning and I will knock off at 1:00
and have the rest of the day.' On a rou--I can't do that. It's
just--I write when the spirit moves me, and the spirit moves me an
LAMB: Special place that you write?
Mr. EISENHOWER: Well, I've got two offices that--one at--in the town
of Easton, one at our home, which is near there. They're both
in--equipped exactly the same by way of electronic equipment, except
that, of course, you've only--you can only have your books in one
place. So I prefer to do my original writing up in Easton and do my
editing at home.
LAMB: Another book you're writing now?
Mr. EISENHOWER: I'm toying with the idea of World War I. I don't
think that General Pershing has quite gotten his due. I don't know.
I don't know yet. If I knew, I wouldn't do it.
LAMB: Last question--the John and then the S and D--what do they
Mr. EISENHOWER: Sheldon and Doud. My grandfather's name was John
Sheldon Doud and he had four daughters.
LAMB: Here's the cover of the book. It's called "Agent of Destiny."
It's all about General Winfield Scott. And our guest has been John
S.D. Eisenhower. Thank you very much.
Mr. EISENHOWER: Thank you.
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