The Anaconda Plan was constructed by General Winfield Scott to shut down Confederate naval and shipping capabilities. The Confederacy, without ports, was unable to import European munitions. Even with the surplus in cotton and switch to wool, a market for cotton still existed. It was a cotton for guns exchange. Trading opens up foreign relations, and if the Confederacy was to become a recognized nation, foreign allies were needed.
The American Civil War was divided into two main fronts. The eastern front took place mainly in Virginia with the goal of capturing the Confederate capital of Richmond. The western front took place west of Virginia spanning from Kentucky to Texas. The battles of Fort Donelson, Port Royal, Baton Rouge, Mobile, and Vicksburg all had a naval presence. These cities or forts had to be captured in order to control the waterways that flowed through them. It would help split the Confederacy into geographical pieces. A tactic called divide and conquer comes to mind, The Union was seeking to control the Mississippi River, Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico to use as transport lines for their armies. This was the result of them doing the invading and the Confederacy fighting a defensive war.
Like an anaconda, the hybrid force of the Union offensive was to snake though the water routes and squeeze the Confederacy tight. A major aim was to cripple the southern economy in the form of scarcity. Not allowing imports and crippling manufacturing would cause desperation among the people. We all have to feed our stomachs. You cannot have soldiers marching without anything in their stomachs. It can be argued that the forces guarding some of these locations could have been put to better use reinforcing the main armies of Northern Virginia and Tennessee. Your forces being cut up like that and losing routes limits transportation, which was a key interest in this war.
The massive casualties in battles like Antietam (where a lot of troops were lost in a single day), Gettysburg, and Fredericksburg (pointless Union assault of a fortified field) suggests that whoever had superior manpower would triumph over the other. Both sides needed constant reinforcements to their massive armies. Yet, both civilians and soldiers need supplies. Taking away water access imposes a barrier to this need. Many factors go together to make up a complexity like this. Take one away and it comes tumbling down like a wall.
- I will publish one more article to make up for last week