Anaconda Plan : Official Records

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General Winfield Scott's Anaconda Plan: Official Records

Columbus, Ohio, April 27, 1861.

Lieutenant General WINFIELD SCOTT,

Commanding U.S. Army:

GENERAL: Communication with Washington being so difficult, I beg to lay before you some views relative to this region of country, and to propose for your consideration a plan of operations intended to relieve the pressure upon Washington and tending to bring the war to a speedy close. The region north of the Ohio and between the Mississippi and the Alleghanies forms one grand strategic field, in which all operations must be under the control of one head, whether acting offensively or on the defensive. I assume it as the final result that hostilities will break out on the line of the Ohio. For two reasons it is necessary to delay this result by all political means for a certain period of time: First, to enable the Northwest to make the requisite preparations now very incomplete; second, that a strong diversion may be made in aid of the defense of Washington and the eastern line of operations.

First urging that the General Government should leave no means untried to arm and equip the Western States, I submit the following views; Cairo should be occupied by a small force, say two battalions, strongly intrenched, and provided with heavy guns and a gun-boat to control the river. A force of some eight battalions, to be in observation at Sandoval (the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi and the Illinois Central Railways) to observe Saint Louis, sustain the garrison of Cairo, and if necessary re-enforce Cincinnati. A few companies should observe the Wabash below Vincennes. A division of about 4,000 men at Seymour to observe Louisville and be ready to support Cincinnati or Cairo. A division of 5,000 men at or near Cincinnati. Two battalions at or near Chillicothe. Could we be provided with arms, the Northwest has ample resources to furnish 80,000 men for active operations, after providing somewhat more than the troops mentioned above for the protection of the frontier. With the active army of operations it is proposed to cross the Ohio at or in the vicinity of Gallipolis and move up the valley of the Great Kanawha on Richmond. In combination with this Cumberland should be seized and a few thousand men left at Ironton or Gallipolis to cover the rear and right flank of the main column. The presence of this detachment and a prompt movement on Louisville or the heights opposite Cincinnati would effectually prevent any interference on the part of Kentucky. The movement on Richmond should be conducted with the utmost promptness, and could not fail to relieve Washington as well as to secure the destruction of the Southern Army, if aided by a decided advance on the eastern line.

I know that there would be difficulties in crossing the mountains, but would go prepared to meet them. Another plan would be, in the event of Kentucky assuming a hostile position, to cross the Ohio at Cincinnati or Louisville with 80,000 men, march straight on Nashville, and thence act according to circumstances. Were a battle gained before reaching Nashville, so that the strength of Kentucky and Tennessee were effectually broken, a movement on Montgomery, aided by a vigorous movement on the eastern line toward Charleston and Augusta, should not be delayed. The ulterior movements of the combined armies might be on Pensacola, Mobile, and New Orleans. It seems clear that the forces of the Northwest should not remain quietly on the defensive, and that under present circumstances, if the supply of arms is such as to render it absolutely impossible to bring into the field the numbers indicated above, then offensive movements would be most effective on the line first indicated; but if so liberal a supply can be obtained as to enable us to dispose of 80,000 troops for the active army, then the second line of operations would be the most decisive. To enable us to carry out either of these plans it is absolutely necessary that the General Government should strain every nerve to supply the defensive we must be largely assisted. I beg to urge upon you that we are very badly supplied at present, and that a vast population eager to fight are rendered powerless by want of arms, the nation being thus deprived of their aid.

I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, yours,


Major-General, Commanding Ohio Volunteers.


MAY 2, 1861.

As at the date of this letter General McClellan knew nothing of the intended call for two years' volunteers, he must have had the idea of composing his enormous columns of three-months' men for operating against Nashville and Richmond-that is, of men whose term of service would expire by the time he had collected and organized them. That such was his idea appears from a prior letter, in which, although, the Ohio quota is but about 10,000 men the general speaks, I think of having 30,000 and wants arms, &c., for 80,000. Second. A march upon Richmond from the Ohio would probably insure the revolt of Western Virginia, which if left alone will soon be five out of seven for the Union. Third. The general eschews water transportation by the Ohio and Mississippi in favor of long, tedious and break-down (of men, horses, and wagons) marches. Fourth. His plan is to subdue the seceded States by piece-meal instead of enveloping them all (nearly) at once by a cordon of posts on the Mississippi to its mouth from its junction with the Ohio, and by blockading ships of war on the sea-board. For the cordon a number of men equal to one of the general's column would probably suffice, and the transportation of men and all supplies by water is about a fifth of the land cost, besides the immense saving in time.

Respectfully submitted to the President.


Source: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1, Vol. 51, Part 1, pp. 338-339

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.

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,

Source: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1, Vol. 51, Part 1, pp. 369-370

Recommended Reading: Naval Strategies of the Civil War: Confederate Innovations and Federal Opportunism. Description: One of the most overlooked aspects of the American Civil War is the naval strategy played out by the U.S. Navy and the fledgling Confederate Navy, which may make this the first book to compare and contrast the strategic concepts of the Southern Secretary of the Navy Stephen R. Mallory against his Northern counterpart, Gideon Welles. Both men had to accomplish much and were given great latitude in achieving their goals. Mallory's vision of seapower emphasized technological innovation and individual competence as he sought to match quality against the Union Navy's (quantity) numerical superiority. Continued below...

The naval blockade of the South was one of his first tasks - for which he had but few ships available - and although he followed the national strategy, he did not limit himself to it when opportunities arose. Mallory's dedication to ironclads is well known, but he also defined the roles of commerce raiders, submarines, and naval mines. Welles's contributions to the Union effort were rooted in his organizational skills and his willingness to cooperate with the other military departments of his government. This led to successes through combined army and naval units in several campaigns on and around the Mississippi River. Welles had to deal with more bureaucratic structure and to some degree a national strategy dictated by the White House.

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Recommended Reading: Naval Campaigns of the Civil War. Description: This analysis of naval engagements during the War Between the States presents the action from the efforts at Fort Sumter during the secession of South Carolina in 1860, through the battles in the Gulf of Mexico, on the Mississippi River, and along the eastern seaboard, to the final attack at Fort Fisher on the coast of North Carolina in January 1865. This work provides an understanding of the maritime problems facing both sides at the beginning of the war, their efforts to overcome these problems, and their attempts, both triumphant and tragic, to control the waterways of the South. The Union blockade, Confederate privateers and commerce raiders are discussed, as is the famous battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack. Continued below…

An overview of the events in the early months preceding the outbreak of the war is presented. The chronological arrangement of the campaigns allows for ready reference regarding a single event or an entire series of campaigns. Maps and an index are also included. About the Author: Paul Calore, a graduate of Johnson and Wales University, was the Operations Branch Chief with the Defense Logistics Agency of the Department of Defense before retiring. He is a supporting member of the U.S. Civil War Center and the Civil War Preservation Trust and has also written Land Campaigns of the Civil War (2000). He lives in Seekonk, Massachusetts.


Recommended Reading: Lifeline of the Confederacy: Blockade Running During the Civil War (Studies in Maritime History Series). From Library Journal: From the profusion of books about Confederate blockade running, this one will stand out for a long time as the most complete and exhaustively researched. …Wise sets out to provide a detailed study, giving particular attention to the blockade runners' effects on the Confederate war effort. It was, he finds, tapping hitherto unused sources, absolutely essential, affording the South a virtual lifeline of military necessities until the war's last days. This book covers it all: from cargoes to ship outfitting, from individuals and companies to financing at both ends. An indispensable addition to Civil War literature.


Recommended Reading: American Civil War Fortifications (3): The Mississippi and River Forts (Fortress). Description: The Mississippi River played a decisive role in the American Civil War. The Confederate fortifications that controlled the lower Mississippi valley were put to the test in the lengthy Federal campaign of 1862-63. Vicksburg was a fortress city, known as the "Gibraltar of the Confederacy," whose capture is often seen as the key to victory in the war. Continued below.

This book explores the fortifications of the river valley, focusing on Vicksburg and its defenses which boasted a network of forts, rifle pits, and cannon embrasures surrounding the city and examining the strengths and weaknesses of the fortifications when under siege. Also examined are numerous other fortified strongholds, including New Orleans, Port Hudson, New Madrid and, forts Henry and Donelson, all lavishly illustrated with full color artwork and cutaways.  


Recommended Reading: American Civil War Fortifications (1): Coastal brick and stone forts (Fortress) (Paperback). Description: The 50 years before the American Civil War saw a boom in the construction of coastal forts in the United States of America. These stone and brick forts stretched from New England to the Florida Keys, and as far as the Mississippi River. At the start of the war some were located in the secessionist states, and many fell into Confederate hands. Although a handful of key sites remained in Union hands throughout the war, the remainder had to be won back through bombardment or assault. This book examines the design, construction and operational history of those fortifications, such as Fort Sumter, Fort Morgan and Fort Pulaski, which played a crucial part in the course of the Civil War.


Recommended Reading: Mississippi River Gunboats of the American Civil War 1861-65 (New Vanguard). Description: At the start of the American Civil War, neither side had warships on the Mississippi River. In the first few months, moreover, both sides scrambled to gather a flotilla, converting existing riverboats for naval use. These ships were transformed into powerful naval weapons despite a lack of resources, trained manpower and suitable vessels. Continued below.

The creation of a river fleet was a miracle of ingenuity, improvisation and logistics, particularly for the South. This title describes their design, development and operation throughout the American Civil War.

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