Aims, Strategies and Prospects

Aims, Strategies and Prospects

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Stated in simple terms, the aim of the Confederacy was to sustain its independence while the Union was intent upon restoring the Union. One side had defensive aims with time on its side; the other needed to take the war directly to its enemy.The Northern strategy was originally conceived by General Winfield Scott who, although elderly and in poor health, was able to devise what was called the Anaconda Plan, named after the constricting South American snake. The plan envisioned the following, to:

  1. Split the Confederacy by sending army and navy forces down the Mississippi River and occupy strategic points
  2. Starve the Confederacy by blockading the Southern port cities, making it impossible for them to receive European support or goods
  3. Invade the South and capture the confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia.

The Southern Strategy has often been described as offensive-defensive, meaning that the emphasis would be on defending Southern territory but offensive opportunities would be taken when presented. Confederate armies were split into state or regional contingents, in part in anticipation of potential invasion points, but also because of the political reality of allowing soldiers to remain under the control of local commanders or state governors. This spreading of troop strength risked the possibility of breakthroughs by the opposition. Later in the war the South would turn to a war of attrition, in the hopes that their entrenched forces could drag out the conflict until the Union withdrew in exhaustion. Both sides eventually resorted to the draft to fill their ranks.Many of the material advantages in the looming conflict rested with the North. The South, however, had less tangible advantages and remembered America’s surprising victory over a superior world power in the War for Independence. A summary of the two sides’ prospects follows:




22 million

9 million(including 3.5 million slaves)

Railroad mileage

20,000 miles of track

9,000 miles of track

Supply and communication lines

Long and exposed to hostile forces

Short interior lines—defending home territory

Gold reserves

$56 million

$27 million


Converted to war production

Little existed


Merchant marine traded worldwide

Little; had depended on North

Theater of war

Enemy territory; unfamiliar

Home territory; well known

Military leadership

Some experienced officers

Many experienced officers from Mexican War

Military readiness of soldiers

Disproportionate number of immigrants; hiring ofsubstitutes common; desertion

Young men accustomed to outdoor life, guns, horses; desertionalso a problem

Public support

Public opinion sharply divided; Copperheads, draft riots,bounty jumpers

Generally supportive of war effort, but tax evasion andprofiteering common

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