The Anaconda Plan

General-in-Chief Winfield Scott’s Anaconda Plan was a strategy to blockade the South by sea, and gain control of the Mississippi River. This would split the South, and eventually deprive it economically.

General-in-Chief Winfield Scott And His Anaconda Plan

Winfield Scott

General Winfield 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.

On May 3, 1861 General-in-Chief Winfield Scott writes to General George B. McClellan describing his strategy for subduing the rebellion. Later, Scott’s strategy was derisively referred to as The Anaconda Plan:

Winfield Scott’s The Anaconda Plan

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.

Anaconda Plan

Anaconda Plan

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]

The Press Mocks The Anaconda Plan

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.

The Anaconda Plan Helped The North Win The Civil War

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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


The “Peculiar Institution”

Slavery was a fact in the United States until the cleansing of the Civil War. The bloodshed of the Civil War brought an end to slavery and kept this nation as an undivided union of states. Slavery was the foundation cause of the Civil War. The evil, cruel, brutal, and abhorrent institution of slavery in the United States came to an end through the Civil War.

Am I Not A Man And A Brother? Am I Not A Man And A Brother?[/caption]It is important to note that slavery was not unique to the United States. Many European countries had slavery before it came to the New World colonies and grew. Countries like Spain and Portugal had significant counts of slaves before 1492. But, this is no defense of the institution of slavery. The world was guilty of slavery.

In 1619 a Dutch ship arrived at the Virginia colony and sold “20 and odd negroes” to colonists. Some of these blacks became indentured servants (people who worked for a period of years to pay for their passage to the New World, then became free) but others were slaves. Most blacks in the Virginia colony were either free or indentured servants in 1640. Slavery grew and flourished in the colonies, especially in the Southern ones. By 1700 in the Virginia colony, most blacks were in the bondage of that “Peculiar Institution.”

Slavery was a disease of humanity that spread to the colonies of the New World. It should be known that although the United States was guilty of slavery, it fought a war against itself to end this “Peculiar Institution” within its borders. As a result of the Civil War, in which brother literally fought against brother and hundreds of thousands died, slavery ended in the United States.

King Cotton

The South depended on slavery for its agricultural and economic success. Cotton was King in the South and the institution of slavery made it very profitable. Indeed, the South’s economy was based on slavery and cotton. One of the main contributing factors to the Civil War was that the South was willing to go to war with its own fellow countrymen in order to preserve the enslavement of other human beings.


Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe

In 1808, the importation of slaves was made illegal in the United States of America. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852, as an outcry against slavery after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

In Uncle Tom’s Cabin, slaves were described as victims of the Southern system. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book was a powerful factor in bringing about anti-slavery sentiment in the North, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was very popular book among abolitionists. The expansion of the country westward, with new territories and states coming into being, only fueled debate and conflict over the spread and continuation of slavery. When Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860, the South believed he intended to end slavery. Secession, and the Civil War followed. Uncle Tom’s Cabin sold more copies than any book other than the Bible and caused Abraham Lincoln to exclaim upon meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe during the Civil War: “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war!”


In 1860, approximately 4,500,000 white people were living in the states that had slavery. Of these 4,500,000 approximately 46,000 of them owned more than 20 slaves. Approximately 4,000,000 slaves lived in America at the start of the Civil War. On January 1, 1863 President Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation that declared free the slaves in the parts of the country which were in rebellion. Only Northern victory and preservation of the Union ensured the end of slavery in the United States.

Distribution Of Slaves In The Southern States

The shown map is: Distribution of Slaves in the Southern States from the book History of the United States by Charles A. Beard and Mary R. Beard.

  • White areas depict less than 25% slave distribution
  • Light gray areas depict 25 – 50%
  • Dark gray areas depict 50% and greater
Distribution of Slaves in the Southern States

Distribution of Slaves in the Southern States

Quotes By Abraham Lincoln Regarding Slavery

“In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the free,–honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve.”

— Abraham Lincoln, from his Second Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862.

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving the others alone, I would also do that.”

— Abraham Lincoln, from a letter to Horace Greeley of August 22, 1862. (The Emancipation Proclamation had been written but not yet released).

“I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.”

— Abraham Lincoln, from a letter to Horace Greeley, August 22, 1862.

Slavery Was Cruel

Scars of a whipped Mississippi slave.

Scars of a whipped Mississippi slave.

The ugly fact is that slaves were treated as property. Slavery was a brutal, cruel, unfair, and evil thing. Slaves did not have the right to vote. Slaves could not own land. Slaves could not travel. Slave marriages were not recognized by law. Slaves were allowed to work, and work hard from the early morning light until darkness… or longer if the moonlight was bright.

Slave families could be split up by the whims and desires of their owners. Slaves could be beaten and whipped to make them obey. Some slaves were killed either by their owners or by hard work. Disease killed slaves. Slaves worked on plantations and farms, in homes, on docks, in businesses, and anywhere labor was needed.

The history of slavery still haunts the United States to this day. Perhaps only with the coming of each new generation, with its hopefully new and unprejudiced rational understanding, will the scar of slavery completely fade away. That will be a glorious time.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email