What strategy did Union generals develop to defeat the South?

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larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The Union strategy to defeat the war was developed by General Winfield Scott. He was the only member of the army high command who did not anticipate a short war. Others believed that because of the close proximity of Washington and Richmond (the Confederate Capital) to each other, the war would end with possibly one battle. Gen. Scott anticipated a long war, and planned accordingly. His plan was the "Anaconda Strategy:"

  • Blockade the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. The South was heavily dependent upon exports of cotton to purchase weapons and supplies from Europe. There was only one arms manufacturer in the entire South, the Tredeger Iron Works near Richmond. By blockading Southern ports, exports and imports would be shut off, and the South isolated.
  • Capture the Mississippi, Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers moving Southward. This would cut the South in two and deny it the use of the vital port of New Orleans.
  • Capture the Confederate capital of Richmond.

Many newspapers in the North were skeptical of Scott's plan, which they believed to be too slow, and Scott too old. Lincoln in fact liked the plan and adopted it; particularly after the disastrous defeat of Union forces at the first battle of Bull Run. The plan was completed when Gen. Ulysses S. Grant captured Vicksburg, Mississippi on July 4, 1863.

The Emancipation Proclamation was also part of the Union strategy. General Robert E. Lee had invaded Maryland and hoped thereby to convince Europe that the South was a viable force and gain recognition from European countries. It was after the battle of Antietam when this plan became obvious that Lincoln issued the Proclamation. Contrary to popular belief, no slaves were freed by the Proclamation; it merely created a moral dilemma for Europe, and kept England and France from supporting the South.


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