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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 14, 2010 11:58AM) (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
This is a thread to discuss the ANACONDA PLAN - one of the campaigns of the American Civil War.

"The Anaconda Plan is the name widely applied to an outline strategy for subduing the seceding states in the American Civil War.

Proposed by General-in-Chief Winfield Scott, the plan emphasized the blockade of the Southern ports, and called for an advance down the Mississippi River to cut the South in two.

Because the blockade would be rather passive, it was widely derided by the vociferous faction who wanted a more vigorous prosecution of the war, and who likened it to the coils of an anaconda suffocating its victim. The snake image caught on, giving the proposal its popular name.

In the early days of the Civil War, General-in-Chief Winfield Scott's proposed strategy for the war against the South had two prominent features: first, all ports in the seceding states were to be rigorously blockaded; second, a strong column of perhaps 80,000 men should use the Mississippi River as a highway to thrust completely through the Confederacy.

A spearhead consisting of a relatively small amphibious force, army troops transported by boats and supported by gunboats, should advance rapidly, capturing the Confederate positions down the river in sequence.

They would be followed by a more traditional army, marching behind them to secure the victories. The culminating battle would be for the forts below New Orleans; when they fell, the river would be in Federal hands from its source to its mouth, and the rebellion would be cut in two.

The complete strategy could not be implemented immediately, as no warships of the type imagined for the Mississippi campaign existed. For example, the U.S. Navy was too small to enforce the blockade in the first months of the war. It would take time to gather and train the forces needed to carry out the central thrust, time that the critics of the plan were unwilling to concede.

Hence, Scott's plan was subjected to a great deal of ridicule. His opponents called for an immediate overland campaign, directed primarily at the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. Their stated belief was that if a few strongholds were taken, the Confederacy would collapse.

The conflict was not the brief affair that Scott's critics imagined. In the four years of war, the Federal Navy enforced a blockade that certainly weakened the South, although its effect on the war effort is still debated.

Furthermore, the Confederacy was split in two by a campaign based on the Mississippi River, and a consensus has now been established that this Southern defeat was at least as important in the final collapse of the Rebellion as the land battles in the East that had so long attracted both public and historians' attention.

The form of the Northern victory thus turned out to look very much like what Scott had proposed in the early days. Consequently, the Anaconda has been somewhat rehabilitated, and general histories of the Civil War often credit it with guiding President Abraham Lincoln's strategy throughout."


Source: Wikipedia

message 2: by Patricrk (new)

Patricrk patrick | 435 comments I think it interesting that the forts at the mouth of the mississippi fell after the city of New Orleans (largest city in the south) fell and the forts became useless. It seems like the navy department kept the Anaconda strategy as the driving theme of their contribution of the war but the army seemed to be more influenced by the "On to Richmond" crowd.

message 3: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 14, 2010 05:05PM) (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
Hard to say, there were a lot of critics at the beginning. Also many of the forts were forts built for other conflicts and some were already not well supported.

I think you are right Patrick, it became a little bit of both. I am still in the process of adding the remainder of the campaigns. However, there are a lot of folks who say that though the Anaconda Plan was ridiculed it really became the default strategy.

The Everything Civil War Book Everything you need to know about the conflict that divided a nation by Brooke C Stoddard Donald Vaughan

message 4: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
Here are a couple of books that might be of interest:

Winfield Scott The Quest for Military Glory by Timothy D. Johnson Timothy D. Johnson

Battle Tactics of the Civil War by Paddy Griffith Paddy Griffith

Civil War Generalship The Art of Command by W. J. Wood W. J. Wood

message 5: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 14, 2010 05:23PM) (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
Winfield Scott's letter to General McClellan:

Washington, May 3, 1861.
Commanding Ohio Volunteers, Cincinnati, Ohio:

SIR: I have read and carefully considered your plan for a campaign, and now send you confidentially my own views, supported by certain facts of which you should be advised.

First. It is the design of the Government to raise 25,000 additional regular troops, and 60,000 volunteers for three years. It will be inexpedient either to rely on the three-months’ volunteers for extensive operations or to put in their hands the best class of arms we have in store. The term of service would expire by the commencement of a regular campaign, and the arms not lost be returned mostly in a damaged condition. Hence I must strongly urge upon you to confine yourself strictly to the quota of three-months’ men called for by the War Department.

Second. We rely greatly on the sure operation of a complete blockade of the Atlantic and Gulf ports soon to commence. In connection with such blockade we propose a powerful movement down the Mississippi to the ocean, with a cordon of posts at proper points, and the capture of Forts Jackson and Saint Philip; the object being to clear out and keep open this great line of communication in connection with the strict blockade of the seaboard, so as to envelop the insurgent States and bring them to terms with less bloodshed than by any other plan. I suppose there will be needed from twelve to twenty steam gun-boats, and a sufficient number of steam transports (say forty) to carry all the personnel (say 60,000 men) and material of the expedition; most of the gunboats to be in advance to open the way, and the remainder to follow and protect the rear of the expedition, &c. This army, in which it is not improbable you may be invited to take an important part, should be composed of our best regulars for the advance and of three-years’ volunteers, all well officered, and with four months and a half of instruction in camps prior to (say) November 10. In the progress down the river all the enemy’s batteries on its banks we of course would turn and capture, leaving a sufficient number of posts with complete garrisons to keep the river open behind the expedition. Finally, it will be necessary that New Orleans should be strongly occupied and securely held until the present difficulties are composed.

Third. A word now as to the greatest obstacle in the way of this plan–the great danger now pressing upon us–the impatience of our patriotic and loyal Union friends. They will urge instant and vigorous action, regardless, I fear, of consequences–that is, unwilling to wait for the slow instruction of (say) twelve or fifteen camps, for the rise of rivers, and the return of frosts to kill the virus of malignant fevers below Memphis. I fear this; but impress right views, on every proper occasion, upon the brave men who are hastening to the support of their Government. Lose no time, while necessary preparations for the great expedition are in progress, in organizing, drilling, and disciplining your three-months’ men, many of whom, it is hoped, will be ultimately found enrolled under the call for three-years’ volunteers. Should an urgent and immediate occasion arise meantime for their services, they will be the more effective. I commend these views to your consideration, and shall be happy to hear the result.

With great respect, yours, truly,



Union Correspondence, Orders, And Returns Relating To Operations In Maryland, Eastern North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia (Except Southwestern), And West Virginia, From January 1, 1861, To June 30, 1865.–#3 O.R.–SERIES I–VOLUME LI/1 [S# 107:]

message 6: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
Some interesting details about Scott:

"At the beginning of the Civil War, General-in-Chief Winfield Scott was seventy-four-years-old, so overweight he could not mount or ride a horse, and suffered from painful gout. Scott’s best days were behind him.

Since the War of 1812, Scott had participated in all of America’s military actions. He was a genuine hero. There was no doubt about Scott’s leadership ability, in the War of 1812 he was once captured, and during the Mexican War he led the campaign that captured Mexico City.

His nickname was Old Fuss and Feathers, because of his reputation for strict adherence to regulations, and a propensity for fancy uniforms. Winfield Scott was born a Virginian in 1786, but was loyal to the Union. He did not understand Robert E. Lee’s choice to side with the Confederacy, and had even asked Lee to lead the United States Army.

President Abraham Lincoln sought Scott’s advice, however as the Civil War began, it was evident the aging Winfield Scott was not up to the demands of leading the army. At times, Scott would doze off during meetings. Scott voluntarily retired on November 1, 1861 and was replaced by George B. McClellan as general in chief.

Winfield Scott’s Anaconda Plan was criticized as too slow and gained its “Anaconda” name when the press mockingly compared it to a snake slowly constricting its prey to death. As Scott’s plan was being considered, the clamor in the North was for an invasion that would quickly crush the Confederate army presently found at a railroad junction in northern Virginia named Manassas. Taking Manassas would hurt the Rebels significantly as the railroad lines there were major ones that connected to the Shenandoah Valley, and the thus to the heart of the South.

Richmond, Virginia had become the Confederate capital, and the southern Congress planned a session there on July 20, 1861. The New York Tribune (published by Horace Greeley) responded with this headline:


The Rebel Congress Must Not be
Allowed to Meet There on the
20th of July


After this, other newspapers throughout the Union followed suit with the FORWARD TO RICHMOND! thought and the public soon caught on to the fever. In light of this, even though Southern seaports were beginning to be blockaded, Scott’s plan faltered as public and political pressure demanded quick military action.

President Lincoln saw merit in attacking the Confederates at Manassas. On July 21, 1861 the Battle of First Bull Run (called First Manassas by the Confederates) took place. It was a Union loss, no Union troops went on to Richmond, and most skedaddled back to Washington.

Soon the idea faded away that a quick, strong, and superior military action along with a compromising attitude, might end the Confederate rebellion fast. The Union would have to win the Civil War by destroying the Confederate armies on the field. Much time, many resources, and many, many lives would have to be spent to accomplish the Northern victory.

Winfield Scott’s Anaconda Plan was worthy. Blockading the South’s seaports and gaining control of the Mississippi River were major factors in crippling the Rebel economy and military.

As the Civil War progressed, the basic strategy of the Anaconda Plan contributed ultimately to the defeat of the Confederacy. Old Winfield Scott lived to see the end of the Civil War. He died in 1866."


message 7: by Patricrk (new)

Patricrk patrick | 435 comments I was wondering if the relative positions of the graduates of the service acadmies had anything to do with the development of the strategies. Just about all the major army leaders (except Scott) were graduates of West Point while the naval academy was only tewnty years old and didn't have graduates in major policy positions.

message 8: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
Hard to say Patrick..sometimes strategies could become quite predictable with everybody trained at one place like West Point. Everybody knew each other and what each other would usually do in specific instances. Do you have any source material by anyone who might have taken a specific position regarding the differences between the two or the rigor of the strategies between the army and navy at that time?

message 9: by Patricrk (new)

Patricrk patrick | 435 comments Bentley wrote: "Hard to say Patrick..sometimes strategies could become quite predictable with everybody trained at one place like West Point. Everybody knew each other and what each other would usually do in speci..."

Let me look through my Civil War library and see if I can figure out where this idea originated.

message 10: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
That would be interesting to know Patricrk...thanks.

message 11: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig The Grand Design:Strategy and the U.S. Civil War

The Grand Design Strategy and the U.S. Civil War by Donald Stoker by Donald Stoker (no photo)


Of the tens of thousands of books exploring virtually every aspect of the Civil War, surprisingly little has been said about what was in fact the determining factor in the outcome of the conflict: differences in Union and Southern strategy. In The Grand Design, Donald Stoker provides a comprehensive and often surprising account of strategy as it evolved between Fort Sumter and Appomattox. Reminding us that strategy is different from tactics (battlefield deployments) and operations (campaigns conducted in pursuit of a strategy), Stoker examines how Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis identified their political goals and worked with their generals to craft the military means to achieve them--or how they often failed to do so.

Stoker shows that Davis, despite a West Point education and experience as Secretary of War, failed as a strategist by losing control of the political side of the war. His invasion of Kentucky was a turning point that shifted the loyalties and vast resources of the border states to the Union. Lincoln, in contrast, evolved a clear strategic vision, but he failed for years to make his generals implement it. At the level of generalship, Stoker notes that Robert E. Lee correctly determined the Union's center of gravity, but proved mistaken in his assessment of how to destroy it. Stoker also presents evidence that the Union could have won the war in 1862, had it followed the grand plan of the much-derided general, George B. McClellan. Arguing that the North's advantages in population and industry did not ensure certain victory, Stoker reasserts the centrality of the overarching military ideas--the strategy--on each side, showing how strategy determined the war's outcome.

message 12: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) An excellent biography of the general who created the Anaconda Plan.

Agent of Destiny: The Life and Times of General Winfield Scott

Agent of Destiny The Life and Times of General Winfield Scott by John S.D. Eisenhower by John S.D. Eisenhower John S.D. Eisenhower


From a renowned historian and son of President Dwight D. Eisenhower comes the biography of General Winfield Scott, the towering commander, a hero of the War of 1812, who was instrumental in shaping America's border and who created the modern U.S. military. 16-page photo insert National author publicity.

message 13: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) The story of the most successful blockade runner of the CSA when the Union attempted to block the big river.

The Confederate Quartermaster in the Trans-Mississippi: The Blockage Runner's Texas Connection

The Confederate Quartermaster in the Trans-Mississippi The Blockade Runner's Texas Connection by James L. Nichols by James L. Nichols (no photo)


This book recounts the history and activities of the Denbigh, one of the Civil War's most successful blockade runners. A new introduction by J. Barto Arnold III (which includes a lengthy appendix) reviews recent archival and archaeological research and highlights the blockade runner's place in the Confederacy's complex and ultimately insoluble problem of obtaining manufactured items from abroad.

message 14: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) General Winfield Scott, the author of the Anaconda Plan. He looks like a man you wouldn't want to cross!!

message 15: by Betsy (new)

Betsy I agree with you there, but unfortunately he crossed with the "Little Napoleon" and Scott lost out. It's unfortunate that the beginning of a war can see some good ideas lost in the desperate need to "win".

message 16: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) True, Betsy. The Plan still causes historians to argue and in the end the South was defeated basically in the same way as Scott had originally outlined. I think the Northern leaders thought it would be a short war (think WWI) and that the South would fall quickly. I think they underestimated the strength, will, and leadership of the CSA.

message 17: by Betsy (new)

Betsy I think both sides were overconfident in the begininning. The Confederacy needed it to be a short war if they were to succeed. Just as the Kaiser's Armies felt they had to defeat France in 42 days to be be successful before Russia could intervene. The best laid plans ....

message 18: by Teri (new)

Teri (teriboop) Winfield Scott's Vision for the Army: Mobilizing the North to Preserve the Union

Winfield Scott's Vision for the Army Mobilizing the North to Preserve the Union by Mark C Vlahos by Mark C Vlahos (no photo)


Truly visionary, Winfield Scott's enduring contribution to the Union war effort was the "Anaconda Plan." This plan in essence became the basic overall Union military strategy in the American Civil War. Unlike most in 1861, Scott envisioned a protracted four-year-long war that would involve large numbers of troops and a grand strategy. Winfield Scott had another vision in 1861. This vision determined the role the standing, Regular Army would play as the Union mobilized to suppress the rebellion of the Southern states. Scott's vision called for the Regulars to be a nucleus for the Union Army to form around as it expanded. Scott's decision to keep Regular units intact would have a lasting impact on mobilization, training and the war effort the next four years.

message 19: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) This book, although it covers the entire war, gives the reader some background and understanding of the Southern blockade.

Commanding Lincoln's Navy: Union Naval Leadership During the Civil War

Commanding Lincoln's Navy Union Naval Leadership During the Civil War by Stephen R. Taaffe by Stephen R. Taaffe (no photo)


The Union Navy played a vital role in winning the Civil War by blockading Confederate ports, cooperating with the Union Army in amphibious assaults, and operating on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. To wage this multifaceted war, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles divided the Union Navy into six squadrons. The book examines who Welles assigned to squadron command and why he appointed these officers. Taaffe argues that President Abraham Lincoln gave Welles considerable latitude in picking squadron commanders. Lincoln not only trusted Welles's judgment, but he also understood that the Navy was not as important to the Union war effort militarily and politically as the Army, so there was less of a need for him to oversee closely its operations. Welles used this authority to make appointments to squadron command based on several criteria. Welles factored into his mental calculations seniority, availability, and political connections, but he was most interested in an officer's record, character, and abilities. Although some of Welles's earliest selections left something to be desired, his insight improved markedly as the war continued and he gained a greater understanding of the Navy and its officer corps. Indeed, by the end of the conflict, Welles had become quite ruthless in his search for effective squadron commanders capable of filling the Navy's increasingly difficult missions. In doing so, he contributed greatly to Union victory in the Civil War. The book covers some of the Civil War's most important campaigns and battles, such as the Union assaults on New Orleans, Charleston, Mobile Bay, and Fort Fisher, and the fighting on the Mississippi River.

message 20: by Jill (last edited Sep 28, 2016 06:56PM) (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Lifeline of the Confederacy: Blockade Running During the Civil War

Lifeline of the Confederacy Blockade Running During the Civil War by Stephen R. Wise by Stephen R. Wise (no photo)


hroughout the Civil War, the Confederacy was able to sustain its military forces due to a lifeline of steam propelled blockade runners. And now, for the first time, a comprehensive study that describes the tremendous maritime trade that flowed into Southern harbors from Texas to Virginia is available with the publication of Lifeline of the Confederacy: Blockade Running During the Civil War. Highlighted with numerous maps, illustrations, and a listing of more than 300 blockade runners, this book analyzes the impact of blockade running on the Southern war effort. The work tells the vivid story of the revolutionary vessels and the unknown individuals who made up the supply system that came to be called the "Lifeline of the Confederacy."

message 21: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
Strangling the Confederacy: Coastal Operations in the American Civil War

Strangling the Confederacy Coastal Operations in the American Civil War by Kevin Dougherty by Kevin Dougherty (no photo)


A selection of the Military Book Club

While the Civil War is mainly remembered for its epic battles between the Northern and Southern armies, the Union was simultaneously waging another campaign—dubbed “Anaconda”—that was gradually depriving the South of industry and commerce, thus rendering the exploits of its field armies moot.

When an independent Dixie finally met the dustbin of history, it was the North’s coastal campaign, as much as the achievements of its main forces, that was primarily responsible.

Strangling the Confederacy examines the various naval actions and land incursions the Union waged from Virginia down the Atlantic Coast and through the Gulf of Mexico to methodically close down every Confederate port that could bring in weapons or supplies.

The Rebels responded with fast ships—blockade runners—that tried to evade the Yankee fleets, while at the same time constructing formidable fortifications that could protect the ports themselves. While Union troopships floated offshore, able to strike anywhere, mobile Confederate forces were kept at hand near crucial points, albeit in smaller numbers, to resist Federal irruptions into their homeland.

In the final analysis, the Union’s Navy Board, a unique institution at the time, undertook the correct strategy. Its original decision to focus on ten seaports that had rail or water connections with the Confederate interior—from Norfolk to Charleston to Mobile to New Orleans—shows that the Navy Board understood the concept of decisive points. In a number of battles the Federals were able to leverage their superior technology, including steam power and rifled artillery, in a way that made the Confederate coastal defenses highly vulnerable, if not obsolete.

On the other hand, when the Federals encountered Confederate resistance at close-quarters they often experienced difficulties, as in the failures at Fort Fisher, the debacle at Battery Wagner, the Battle of Olustee, and in other clashes.

What makes this book particularly unique is its use of modern military doctrine to assess and analyze the campaigns. Kevin Dougherty, an accomplished historian and former career Army officer, concludes that, without knowing it, the Navy Board did an excellent job at following modern strategic doctrine. While the multitude of small battles that flared along the Rebel coast throughout the Civil War have heretofore not been as well known as the more titanic inland battles, in a cumulative sense, Anaconda—the most prolonged of the Union campaigns—spelled doom for the Confederacy.

About the Author:

Kevin Dougherty is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel. Formerly a faculty member in the History Department at the University of Southern Mississippi, he is currently a Tactical Officer at Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina.

Editorial Reviews:

“…discusses in detail the impact of combined arms, modern weapons(especially long range rifled artillery), and ironclads on strategy and tactics….useful entry into a complex subject. “ (CHOICE)

“…an excellent short history of the blockade, its campaigns and expeditions, and its successes and failures. It is also an excellent exposition of how the elements of operational design for conducting warfare and their applications have not changed over time. The trick is how to apply them. Dougherty has produced an interesting volume for someone who wants to learn about the Union blockade and for students of the Civil War’s grand strategy and operations. It is highly recommended for both. “ (Civil War News)

“…a dry, witty and ultimately educational account of Union coastal operations against the Confederate Army…” (Defence Web)

“…a very well written overview of the major coastal campaigns conducted during the war. The author has excellent knowledge of the subject coupled with an in depth knowledge of the subject military history and procedures. In addition, he can communicate this is an understandable and readable manner.” (James Durney)

”Even the oldest Civil War buffs will learn a few bits of new information….” (LONE STAR)

“It came to be known as the “Anaconda Plan”. It was a simple concept: block all the major southern ports and render their armies useless….In the end the strategy worked. Like the anaconda itself, the Union Navy squeezed the lifeblood out of the South.” (Military Heritage)

“For some time there has been a need for a comprehensive analysis of the joint Army-Navy operations conducted by Union forces off the Confederate Atlantic and Gulf coasts. . . . In this volume Kevin Dougherty, a former Army officer . . . examines the role of joint operations through the prism of modern joint-forces doctrine. . . . Evident rivalry and dysfunction between the Union Army and Navy notwithstanding, Dougherty argues that the coastal campaigns constituted ‘a major step in the evolution of joint warfare and planning in U.S. military history’.” (U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings)

“…recommended to all American Civil War students, as it covers an area of the naval war usually buried in complete histories of naval operations and seldom addressed in a stand alone volume on the subject….I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of the Civil War blockade.” (Mataka.Org)

“…an excellent short history of the main Federal operations that helped blockade the Confederate coast… very well structured… well written with a real feel for the period” (

“a nicely written and tightly worded book summarizing the Union Naval/Military operations against military targets along the Confederate coast…” (Journal of America’s Military Past)

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