The Anaconda Plan
"Winfield Scott's original plan fighting the rebellion"
The first military strategy offered to President Abraham Lincoln for crushing the rebellion of Southern states was devised by Union General-in-Chief Winfield Scott. From April 1 through early May 1861 Scott briefed the president daily, often in person, on the national military situation; the results of these briefings were used by Scott to work out Union military aims.
About 3 May Scott told his protégé, Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, that he believed an effective "Blockade" of Southern ports, a strong thrust down the Mississippi Valley with a large force, and the establishment of a line of strong Federal positions there would isolate the disorganized Confederate nation "and bring it to terms." Contemporary sources said McClellan called it Scott's "boa-constrictor" plan. Scott then presented it to the president, in greater detail, proposing that 60,000 troops move down the Mississippi with gunboats until they had secured the river from Cairo, Ill., to the Gulf, which, in concert with an effective blockade, would seal off the South. Then, he believed, Federal troops should stop, waiting for Southern Union sympathizers to turn on their Confederate governors and compel them to surrender. It was his belief that sympathy for secession was not as strong as it appeared and that isolation and pressure would make the "fire-eaters" back down and allow calmer heads to take control.
But the war-fevered nation wanted combat, not armed diplomacy, and the passive features of Scott's plan were ridiculed as a proposal "to squeeze the South to military death." The press, recalling McClellan's alleged "boa-constrictor" remark, named the plan after a different constricting snake, the anaconda. The plan was not adopted, but in 1864 it reappeared in aggressive form. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's 2-front war, fought in Virginia and Tennessee, pressed the Confederates, while Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman's march through Georgia to the sea helped "squeeze the South to military death.
Source: "Historical Times Encyclopedia of the Civil War" Edited by Patricia L. Faust
This page last updated 03/26/05
|Scott To McClellan Report||This is the report referenced earlier in the article where Winfield Scott explains the plan to George B. McClellan.|
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