x
Chess - Play & Learn

Chess.com

FREE - In Google Play

FREE - in Win Phone Store

VIEW

Scott

batgirl
Nov 18, 2008, 7:13 PM 2

I had been having an interchange with the Bishop Berkeley recently about Winfield Scott, the famous 19th century general who reportedly played and lost to 9 year old Paul Morphy.

I endeavored to search the internet for some deeper understanding and hopefully some more pertinent information.

I didn't really find any of the above, but, instead, came across an intriguing blog called The Civil War Bookshelf.  What I found so intriguing, beyond my own interest in the Civil War, was it's content on Paul Morphy as well as on my old, original Morphy site (which no longer exists).

On March 26, 2007 the author wrote, under the title Winfield Scott loses a Match:
". . .It's been a couple of years since I posted on Winfield Scott's chess game with Paul Morphy and since then have found only one scrap with some details.
The encounter material is poorly sourced [he provided a link to my old page]. For what it's worth, the year is 1846, Morphy is approaching nine years old."

here he inserted the account . . . [ which I have since duplicated here also.
 
Lawson had this to say of the matter:
"It is likely that he had been watching his father playing even before he was six years old, for at eight and ten years of age he was engaging Gen. Winfield Scott and Dr. Camille Rizzo successfully, as we shall see. 
. . .
"Obviously, Paul soon saw the great advantage of rapid development of his pieces and soon learned the importance of Pawns against strong opponents, and romours of his prowess became bruited about.  When General Winfield Scott was in New Orleans for five days in December 1846, on his way to Mexico to take command of the American army, it was arranged that Paul should play him.  General Scott had some reputation as an amateur.  Also he played often with H. R. Agnel, author of Chess for Winter Evenings; and Col. J. Monroe, author of The Science and Art of Chess, who dedicated his book “To Lieutenant General Winfield Scott, himself skilled in the play of chess.”  The following account of the Scott-Morphy meeting appeared in the May 1904 issue of the 'Evening Post':
     'The first of games of chess played by Paul Morphy, under anything like public circumstances was with General Winfield Scott . . . In those days [1846] a number of the leading citizens of New Orleans had a club on Royal Street just over the famous Sazerac Coffee House, and among the members of the coterie were Paul Morphy's father, Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court . . . and others who are not important to this story.
     Gen.Winfield Scott had many acquaintances there, some of them quite intimate, and knowing the habits of the members he repaired to their very comfortable rooms within a few hours after reaching the city. One of Scotts' passions was chess.  It may be said to have been one of his vanities as well. He was in the front rank of amateurs in his day.  After renewing an old friendship and talking about the war, he turn to Chief Justice Eustis and asked whether he could play a game of chess in the evening, explaining that he had been deprived of his favorite amusement for a year or two and was naturally keen to resume it.  "I want to be put to my mettle!" . . . "Very well," said Justice Eustis, "We can arrange it.  At eight o'clock tonight, if that will suit you."
     At eight o'clock, dinner having been disposed of, the room was full. Gen. Scott, a towering giant, was asked to meet his competitor, a small boy of about 10 years of age [eight and a half] and not by any means a prepossessing boy, dressed in velvet knickerbockers, with a lace shirt and a big spreading collar of the same material . . .
     At first Gen. Scott imagined it was a sorry jest, and his tremendous dignity arose in protest. It seemed to him that his friends had committed an incredible and unpardonable impertinence. Then Justice Eustis assured him that his wish had been scrupulously consulted; that this boy was . . . quite worthy of his notice.  So the game began with Gen. Scott still angry and by no means satisfied. Paul won the move and advanced his Queen's rook's pawn. [oddly, years later when Morphy met Anderssen in 1858, Anderssen played this same move against him three times during their match].  In response to the General's play he advanced the other pawn.  Next he had two knights on the field; then another pawn opened the line for the Queen, and at the tenth move he had the General checkmated before he had even begun to develop his defense. There was only one more game. Paul Morphy, after the sixth move, marked the spot and announced the movement for the debacle - which occurred according to schedule - and the General arose trembling with amazement and indignation. Paul was taken home, silent as usual, and the incident reached the end.
     The few survivors of that era still talk of Paul Morphy's first appearance in public, but only by hearsay. Gen. Scott lived to wonder that should have ever played with the first chess genius of the century, or for that matter, of any other century.'

Thereafter, Paul was sometimes taken to the Sazerac Coffee House and to the Exchange Reading Rooms on Exchange Place, where the chess players of New Orleans often gathered.  That more was not heard of the Scott incident at the time was doubtless due to consideration for the general and the above account did not appear until some fifty years had passed.  The case was likely the same with Paul’s first meeting with Lowenthal in 1850 (to be discussed later), for the real story of that encounter did not come out until some six years later. ]

"I have cleaned up the punctuation; by the look of it, this was scanned, not edited, and then posted on the Internet. My guess is that the undated news clip part comes via an old Morphy biography."

[His guess was wrong. In creating my original Morphy site I used the HTML editor that came with an old version of Netscape Browser.  The editor was extremely buggy and tended to garble text. I hadn't yet learned the importance of self-editing. I had cited the source simply as the Evening Post, which was the only information had at the time.]

My problem with this account, historiographically, is that Winfield Scott is here arriving in New Orleans under arrest; Gideon Pillow (right) had had him arrested in Mexico and Scott was being repatriated to Washington to stand trial. Scott had the pleasure of having Pillow arrested as well, but the consolation must have been small.

It seems a little loosey-goosey to allow Scott, under arrest, the freedom of the town this way. (I know, back then, terms of arrests of officers could be quite liberal. Still, to plan an evening on the town...)

The problem with The Civil War Bookshelf's author's account is that it's historically garbled much like my Netscape text. Scott's arrest in Mexico, first, didn't last very long and second was in 1848, at the end the Mexican War. Scott played Morphy at the beginning the Mexican War.
Scott came through New Orleans in July of 1845 according to General Scott by Gen. Marcus J. Wright in 1894.
                 "In March, 1845, as stated, Congress passed a joint resolution
                 for the annexation of the republic of Texas, and in July of 
                 that year Brigadier-General Zachary Taylor, then commanding
                 the first department of the United States army in the
                 Southwest, was ordered to Texas. He embarked at New
                 Orleans with fifteen hundred troops, and in August established
                 his camp at Corpus Christi. Re-enforcements were dispatched
                 to him rapidly, and in November his command amounted to
                 about four thousand men."

Scott also came through New Orleans in December of 1846 (which Lawson favored as the time the games with Morphy occured). 
                 "General Scott made repeated requests during the summer and 
                 autumn of 1846 to be ordered to Mexico. On November 23d he 
                 received the following order [a letter from W.L. Marcy  the 
                 Secretary of War 'Sir: The President several days since 
                 communicated in person to you his orders to repair to Mexico to 
                 take command of the forces there assembled. . .']
                 
                 General Scott was impressed with the belief that Mr. Marcy, the 
                 Secretary of War, and Hon. Robert J. Walker, of Mississippi, the 
                 Secretary of the Treasury, had the fullest confidence in his
                  ability, and favored giving him the substantial direction of the 
                 war. He was also impressed with the kindness and confidence 
                 extended to him by President Polk, but on his arrival in New 
                 Orleans he was shown a letter from Alexander Barrow, then a 
                 Senator in Congress from Louisiana and a personal friend of 
                 General Scott, informing him that the President had asked that 
                 the grade of lieutenant general be established in the army, and 
                 that on the passage of such an act by Congress it was the 
                 intention of the President to confer this rank, and consequently 
                 the command of the army, upon Thomas H. Benton, then a 
                 Senator from Missouri."

If Scott did meet Morphy as described, he had much on his mind before play began. Being made a fool of by Pillow had him in a bad frame of mind to be made fool of again by a mere child.

When Scott met Morphy, he was at the height of his power.

 

As an added bonus, in my search I came across a picture of RE Lee's traveling chess set -

Online Now