Scott’s Anaconda Plan

Without a doubt, the greatest American general between the Revolution and the Civil War was Winfield Scott.  Vain enough to be called “Fuss and Feathers” by his men, too eager for political office, Scott also possessed military talent of a high order as he amply demonstrated as a young man in the War of 1812, and in his late middle age in the Mexican War.  By the Civil War, Scott was 75, obese and unable to physically take the field.  However his skill as a strategist remained undiminished.  In his Anaconda Plan he laid out the strategy by which the Union would prevail:  a naval blockade and taking control of the Mississippi to strangle the South economically.  Note also how he wants three year troops recruited.  At the time he wrote this in May 1861, most people, North and South, were predicting a 90 day war.  Scott could see that the war would be a long one, and not the short romp that so many were predicting.

 

The Anaconda Plan (Scott to McClellan)

Union Correspondence, Orders, And Returns Relating To Operations In Maryland, Eastern North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia (Except Southwestern), And West Virginia, From January 1, 1861, To June 30, 1865.–#3
O.R.–SERIES I–VOLUME LI/1 [S# 107]

HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY,
Washington, May 3, 1861.

Maj. Gen. GEORGE B. MCCLELLAN,
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,
WINFIELD SCOTT

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Published in: on March 18, 2010 at 5:17 am  Comments (2)  
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