Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Pen Picture: Colonel John Scott

Captain A. A. Stuart, a veteran of the 17th Iowa Infantry, wrote Iowa Colonels and Regiments that was published at the close of the war. Judging from the book he made an effort to solicit information from each surviving Iowa colonel although some were not too cooperative. One of these was Colonel John Scott, the commander of the 32nd Iowa Infantry, a regiment that has been featured in previous postings. This regiment made a remarkable stand during the battle of Pleasant Hill, losing many casualties in the process. One of the enjoyable features of Stuart’s book are the many pen pictures of the colonels plus attractive engravings of some of the commanders. Captain Stuart saw Colonel Scott at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and described him in this way:

“On walking up into the St. Charles, I saw, perched in a chair in the north-east corner of the bar-room, a man that attracted my notice. His chair was tipped against the wall, one foot stuck on the front stretcher, and the other thrown across the leg thus supported. His elbows were resting upon the arms of the chair, his head thrown forward, and his hat drawn over his eyes. In the small space between his lap and his face was a newspaper, which he was reading. I thought I never saw a man doubled up so before, and walked round to take a better look at him; when, my impudence attracting his attention, he looked up to me as much to say: ‘Who are you?’ A prominent trait in his character I read in that glance.

Colonel Scott is a man of middle size, and compactly built. His hair and whiskers are more red than sandy, and his eyes gray and sharp. His round, florid features are set off by a pair of gold-mounted spectacles.

I believe him to be among the ablest and best informed men of Iowa; and yet he has that sort of something about him which has kept him back. It may be the trait to which I have alluded; for he is incorrigibly suspicious, and never gives his confidence to a stranger. When I wrote to him for information relative to his biography, he replied: ‘If I can be convinced that the book is not to be a catch-penny affair, I will furnish data;’ but I could never convince him of that, and for what I have I am indebted to one of his friends. One thing is certain, Colonel Scott was never intended for a politician; and why, I believe, we heard no more of him in the army, is, he always stayed at his quarters, and minded his own business. I venture the assertion that he never asked to be made a brigadier-general. Had he less of the negative about him, it would be well; for, with the same honesty, he would be a much more popular and useful man in society.

Colonel Scott’s military record is without blemish. He was brave, a fair tactician, and a good disciplinarian” (pages 485-486). One wonders what Colonel Scott thought of this assessment…

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