Book Review: Hugh Lenox Scott, 1853–1934: Reluctant Warrior


by Armand S. La Potin

Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2021. Pp. xvi, 270. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $36.95. ISBN: 0806175745

Soldier, Diplomat, Scholar

Prof. La Potin (Emeritus, SUNY Oneonta), has written an excellent biography of a most unusual officer. Fresh out of West Point in 1876, Hugh Scott joined the 7th Cavalry, literally weeks after its disastrous encounter with the Sioux and Northern Cheyenne at the Little Big Horn. He served in the “Indian Fighting Army” for more than two decades.

Scott was on administrative duty during the war with Spain and the occupation of Cuba, became military governor of Cuba and later Sulu in the Philippines, Superintendent of West Point, commanded cavalry units in the Southwest, became Chief of Staff of the Army from 1914 to 1917, and for a time was acting Secretary of War.  Scott supervised operations on the Mexican border and helped prepare the Army for W.W. I. Officially retired in 1917, he was recalled to duty to raise a new division, but did not go overseas with it, retiring again in 1919.

Scott’s reputation as a soldier was due less to his service in the field and more to his work as a soldier-diplomat. He became friendly with many Native American leaders, as well as Filipino “Moro” chiefs, and even Pancho Villa, and attempted to learn about their culture. He was particularly knowledgeable about many aspects of Native American cultures, and became adept at Plains Indian sign language, which helped in negotiating peaceful settlements of disputes, and he supported recruiting Indians for military service. Scott respected native peoples, aside from his study of Plains sign, he compiled a collection of Kiowa folk tales. But he also believed their cultures were both backward and doomed, but also that through assimilation they would make excellent citizens, a paternalistic view perhaps, but at the time a rather radical idea.

La Potin covers this well, giving us a good look at the man and his career within his times, and also gives us profiles of many of the people with whom he worked; Native Americans and Anglo-Americans. Hugh Lenox Scott is a very good account of a very unusual soldier.


Note: Hugh Lenox Scott is also available in several e-editions.

StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi   

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