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The Union Blockade

Powerful Essays
The Union Blockade

With the fall of Fort Sumter on the 13th of April, 1861, America entered the most costly and grueling war it has ever experienced. The Union's original military strategy was designed by the aging General Winfield Scott, who recognized that naval strategy could play a crucial role and that instead of being able to strike down the Confederacy with a quick lethal blow, it was more likely to be a long and grinding war. In his Anaconda plan, he proposed a naval blockade of the Confederate ports to isolate the Confederacy and choke its economy and supply lines. This plan was followed when Lincoln proclaimed the naval blockade on April 19, 1861.

While some historians claim the blockade was one of the major causes of the collapse of the Confederacy, others contend that it was hopelessly ineffective. Overall, in terms of closing off ports, capturing ships, and stopping supply lines, the blockade was ineffective. The very concept of closing off shipping on a 3,600 mile coast studded with inlets and inner channels with a numerically insignificant navy was a highly unrealistic goal and the Union could not accomplish it. For the first few years, there was virtually no blockade, and the blockade runners entered and cleared Southern ports with minimal risks. Only very late in the war was it actually more effectively enforced, but by that time the war had basically been decided. Blockade-running was an extremely profitable trade and lured many enterprising businessmen and ship captains. The Confederacy got most of its military supplies through the blockade. The failure of the Confederacy to supply its armies should not be credited to the Union blockade, but to other factors that did not allow the Confederacy to ...

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... under-enforced. After an exceptionally slow start, the blockade was never able to seal off Southern shipping. Thousands of superior blockade-runners passed through the ramshackle blockade and made incredible profits with relatively low risks.

There are many misconceptions that the blockade was responsible for the horrible economic situation and lack of supplies, but this was due more to the Confederate inability to take advantage of the weakness of the blockade. Through their cotton embargo and lack of government-controlled blockade-running, they did not work to give themselves a large portion of the profits and bring in the supplies the Confederacy needed. As it turned out, private enterprises kept the rich Southerners supplied with all the silks and wines they needed, while the Confederate troops were without shoes and the Confederate government without money.
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