The First Battles: April 1861 to February 1862

One Special Young Man

What was the Anaconda Plan?

In late April 1861, General Winfield Scott submitted to Lincoln his proposal for the Union war strategy. Scott was so heavy and weary he could no longer ride a horse, but his mind was still sharp, as evidenced by his writing. First and foremost, Scott predicted that this would not be a short and easy conflict. It might take as long as three years, he declared.

A Virginian by birth, Scott predicted that the Old Dominion would be the toughest nut to crack. Rather than march straight south, various Union forces should move at and into the Confederacy from oblique angles, including the Tennessee and Cumberland River valleys. At the same time, the Union Navy would blockade the entire coastline, and eventually, by capturing New Orleans, accomplish a snakelike effect of strangling the Confederacy. Scott’s idea came in for much ridicule in 1861, but by 1865 many people saw that he had been correct in at least two-thirds, perhaps even three-quarters, of his predictions.


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