The Anaconda Plan; 1861

The Anaconda Plan; 1861


Print page

The Civil War military strategy known as the Anaconda Plan was designed by Virginian Winfield Scott, a union general.  Mr. Scott felt that this plan using ships was the most peaceful way to restore the Union.  It was tricky for President Lincoln because it involved blockading and dividing  his own nation  that he was attempting to unify.

 The Union and the Confederacy  had different advantages over each other, but one thing that they had in common was their inexperience in this type of  battle. While the Union had the upper hand in resources, the Confederacy benefited from the profits earned by cash crops on the world market, and its strong military tradition. Both sides had different military strategies, the Union believed that blockading southern ports would affect the confederacy’s status  and would  weaken their army slowly but effectively.  The plan gets its name from the image of  a giant Anaconda snake strangling the south’s trade ports and sneaking around from the Mississippi to cut off the south from the West.

This cartoon shows the differences between the people and the states in the US in the early 1860s.  Native Indians are shown living in the southwest and more whites are living up north were they had a higher quality of life.  Southerners adapted themselves to slave agriculture and living in open lands.   It is interesting that the state of Mississippi shows an active slave revolt and Arkansas is upset at Virginia for taking the Confederate capitol city to Richmond.  One thing that caught my attention is how they so accurately compare Scott’s military plan to a snake. I also noticed that the tail of the snake starts out in Virginia where they had their first battle in 1861 and the head of the snake ends in Mississippi where the Union won the battle of Vicksburg in 1863 and Sherman began his destructive “march to the sea”.

The Civil War was very costly in many ways.  In a period of 4 years from 1861-1865, more Americans died in this war than all the others combined.  Do you think General Scott’s plan helped end the war more quickly and save lives?