• Historic street named for Winfield Scott

  • From 1858 to 1874, Fort Leavenworth had two separate Army entities under separate commanders with different missions.

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  • Quentin Schillare | Special to the Fort Leavenworth Lamp
    Before 1858, Fort Leavenworth was a single command. However, from 1858 to 1874, the post had two separate Army entities — Fort Leavenworth itself and the Leavenworth Ordnance Depot, which became the Fort Leavenworth Arsenal after 1860 — under separate commanders with different missions. The fort served as a headquarters for infantry, artillery and cavalry regiments and the depot/arsenal supported western Army forces. When the arsenal moved to Rock Island, Ill., in 1874, the U.S. Military Prison opened, so two separate entities remained, each reporting to different superiors at the War Department.
    Today joined as part of the old Main Post area, in the 19th century they were separated by open space along what is now Scott Avenue. It connected the area around Main Parade with the depot/arsenal location on what was then called Arsenal Hill, today occupied by the Combined Arms Center headquarters complex.
    Maj. Gen. Wesley Merritt appointed a board of officers in 1887 to standardize street names on the installation. In 1888, Merritt suggested to the board that Arsenal Avenue be renamed for Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott, who served as a general officer on active duty from 1814 to 1861, the longest in U.S. Army history. The board of officers refused to change it — they felt it was too well known as Arsenal Avenue. However, generals usually get their way, and it is now known as Scott Avenue, perhaps because the obstructionist members of the board found themselves reassigned to lonely adobe forts in rural Arizona and New Mexico.
    Scott Avenue is the street on Fort Leavenworth with the greatest architectural diversity. There are 14 different buildings, the oldest, the Sutler’s House constructed of wood beginning in 1841, and the newest, Riverside Apartments built of brick in 1921. They represent nine architectural styles, including one — the 1865 United Kingdom liaison officer’s designated quarters — described as Victorian Steamboat Gothic. The structures range in size from the expanse of Quarters No. 1 to the gazebo in Zais Park. After Quarters No. 1, the most recognized structure on Scott Avenue is Memorial Chapel, completed in 1878 as the post chapel.
    Although the most recent building on Scott Avenue was finished 95 years ago, there is more recent construction. When Riverside Apartments were renovated as office space a few years ago, a geothermal array to support heating and cooling of the structure was buried in the field to its south. The low ground occupied by the array was once the site of a terminal depot for the Kansas City Northwestern Railroad (and its predecessor) that operated on post from 1888-1908. A picture of the terminal and some of the rolling stock is in the collection of the Frontier Army Museum.
    Winfield Scott was born on June 13, 1786, in Petersburg, Va. He began his distinguished military career as a captain in the light artillery in 1808. Serving as a lieutenant colonel and colonel during the War of 1812, he was promoted to brigadier general in 1814. He was severely wounded at the battle of Lundy’s Lane near Niagara Falls in Upper Canada in 1814.
    Page 2 of 2 - Scott commanded the Army forces on the “Trail of Tears,” the forced movement of the Cherokee Tribe and other Native American nations to the west of the Mississippi in 1838 in response to the Indian Removal Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Andrew Jackson in 1830.
    He commanded the southern of the three U.S. armies in the Mexican War winning the battles of Cerro Gordo, Contreras/ Padierna, Churubusco, Molino del Rey and Chapultepec. Scott received a gold medal from Congress in 1847 for his meritorious conduct during the war. Building on his fame as a warfighter, Scott was the Whig candidate for president in 1852 against Franklin Pierce. He received only 14 percent of the electoral votes, losing in something of a landslide. Regardless, he remained a popular figure.
    He served as commander in chief of the Army for 20 years (1841-61), longer than anyone else. At the start of the Civil War, he stayed loyal to the Union despite his Virginia birth. At age 75 and too corpulent to mount or ride a horse at the start of the war, Scott knew he could not take the field. Nevertheless, he was the author of the “Anaconda Plan” strategy to isolate the Confederacy by blockading its ports and cutting off access to the Mississippi River. Eventually this contributed to the winning strategy.
    Scott was brevetted a lieutenant general in 1855, the first since George Washington to hold that rank, and retired in November 1861. He died on May 29, 1866, and is buried at West Point, N.Y., although he was not a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy.
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