Definition: The Union Blockade
was part of a military strategy, known as the Anaconda
Plan, that the United States put into operation against
the Confederacy during the
War (1861 - 1865). The
whole of the coast of
the Southern states were
subjected to a naval blockade (barrier) to prevent the
South from importing essential war supplies and
provisions or exporting of cotton, tobacco, and other
cash crops to Europe. The Union blockade strategy played
a significant role in the defeat of the Confederate
States of America in the Civil War.
Abraham Lincoln was
the 16th American President who served in office from March 4, 1861 to April 15, 1865. One of the
key strategic military policies during his presidency was the Union Blockade
of the coastal ports of the Confederacy.
Map of the
Anaconda Plan and the Union Blockade
Map of the Anaconda Plan provides a graphic
representation of the Union Blockade, the military strategy
adopted by the
leaders of the United States that operated a naval
around the whole
coast of the Southern
states of the Confederacy preventing any cargo goods
entering or leaving the Confederate States of America.
Purpose of the Union Blockade
Why did the union blockade
southern ports? The purpose of the Union Blockade was to crush the life out of the
Confederacy by preventing essential supplies and
provisions reaching the army and the people of the South.
The aim of the Union Blockade was to demoralize the South by
slowly starving them out and forcing the
Confederate States of America to surrender and return to the Union.
Union Blockade Operation
The Union Blockade concentrated on
closing the 12 major ports of the Confederacy, another
180 additional ports by patrolling approximately 3,000
miles of coastline along the Confederate States using
over 500 ships that were commissioned by the Union
Map of the
and the Union Blockade
Union Blockade: Abraham Lincoln
President Abraham Lincoln ordered
this measure against the Confederate seaports
on April 19, 1861, just six days after the fall of
Fort Sumter. As the Civil War progressed the
blockade became tighter,
depriving the Southerners of many supplies and causing them great
hardship. The Union Blockade prevented
the Southern States from sending their raw products to Europe, and
completely blocked their cash
flow. The reactions of the British to the Union Blockade led
to the incident known as the Trent Affair.
The Location of the Union Blockade
The Union Blockade operated in the Southern United States, the Atlantic Ocean
and the Gulf of Mexico and major inland rivers, such as the Mississippi and in
The Union Blockade ran from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia,
Florida and all the way up the waterways of the Mississippi as can be seen in
the above map.
Union Blockade: The Union Ships
At the beginning of the American Civil War the Union had less than 40 ships in
their navy. Intensive ship building projects began in the North, this was a
major industry in the North and the ship building industry started to respond to
the demand. Gunboats and warships were their main interest but 100's of
merchant vessels were also purchased to swell the navy. The merchant ships were
then often equipped with guns and cannon.
The Union ships were stationed off the blockaded harbors from where
they patrolled their stretch of the coast.
squadrons operating the Union blockade needed not only ships, but also bases on
the Southern coast. Capturing ports in the south became an important element to
creating the Union Blockade. The Southern ports of Wilmington, New Orleans,
Charleston, Savannah and Mobile became prime targets for the land forces of the
Union and the sites of many important Military
Battles of the Civil War. The importance of the Southern ports were
recognized at the very start of the Civil War by both the North and the South.
The first shot of the Civil War was made at the
Battle of Fort Sumter,
which guarded the harbor of Charleston. The military strategy of the Union
Blockade proved to be highly successful and played a significant role in
defeating the Confederacy.
Union Blockade: The Blockade Runners
The Confederacy responded to the Union Blockade by using Blockade Runners. The
Confederacy had no navy at all, had limited resources to build ships and only
had a handful of shipyards. The South were dependent on purchasing merchant
ships and new steamships built in Britain that had no chance of matching the gun
power of the large gunboats and warships of the North. The South relied on the
speed and maneuverability of the small merchant ships and
Steamships. These small, faster
ships, referred to as Blockade Runners were lightly armed and armored. The men
who risked running the Union Blockade were also referred to as Blockade Runners.
The purpose of the Blockade Runners was to
evade a naval blockade of a port or harbor, as opposed to confronting the
blockaders to break the Union Blockade.
Union Blockade: The Ironclads of the
Given that the Confederacy had
a minimal fleet of ships and fewer shipyards than the North, the Southerners
decided to make the ships that they did have as effective and as formidable as
possible. The Confederacy therefore decided to challenge the Union Blockade and
the navy by the use of the latest technology, the ironclads. An ironclad was a
naval vessel that had the parts above water covered and protected by large
plates of iron that were thick and strong to resist heavy shot. In addition to
the Confederacy also constructed torpedo boats and
attack the Union fleet.
The info about the Union Blockade provides
interesting facts and
important information about this important military
that occured during the presidency of the 16th President of the
United States of America. For additional facts refer to
War for Kids (FAQ's)
Union Blockade: The Blockade Runners - Heroes or Villains?
Many Blockade Runners were treated as heroes in the South. A Blockade Runner who
brought much needed goods and supplies into were feted by the Southerners. Their
exploits were detailed in the newspapers, providing valuable propaganda for the
However, goods and provisions supplied by the Blockade Runners could
only be paid for in specie (gold and silver).
Many of the Blockade Runners became wealthy men. So were the Blockade runners
really heroes or villains? (At this point mention just has to be made of the
novel 'Gone with the Wind' by Margaret Mitchell, which was famously made into a
movie starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. This book and old movie provides
excellent information for those studying the American Civil War. The hero of
'Gone with the Wind' is Rhett Butler, who plays a Blockade Runner and becomes
The Union Blockade prevented the South from sending raw materials
such as cotton and tobacco to Europe, which blocked their cash flow. Before long
was no more gold and silver in the Confederacy, and paper money took its place.
Union Blockade: The British Blockade Runners
of Blockade Runners were operated largely by the British who made good use of
neutral ports in places such as Havana, Nassau, Cuba, the Bahamas and Bermuda.
The Union Blockade: The Confederacy, Great Britain and France
start of the Union Blockade the Confederate leaders believed that Great Britain
and France would help them them. (They sent a diplomatic mission to Britain
which resulted in the
Trent Affair). The southerners believed that "Cotton is king"
and that unless there were a regular supply of cotton from the Southern states
of America that the mills of England and of France would grind to a halt. They
believed that thousands of French and British mill workers would soon be
starving. The South therefore believed that the British and French governments
would raise the Union blockade and possibly force the United States to
acknowledge the independence of the Confederate States of America. There was a
great deal of truth in these beliefs as the British and French governments were
both becoming increasingly concerned over the growing power of the American
republic and would gladly have seen the Union of the United States of America
smashed into pieces. However all of these calculations and hopes came to
nothing. Before the supply of American cotton in Great Britain and France was
used up, new supplies began to come in from India and from Egypt. The Union
armies then stated to occupy portions of the cotton belt early in 1862, and
American cotton was again exported to both the countries. In addition the
British mill operatives, despite their hardships, would not ask their government
to interfere with the Union Blockade as they believed that the North was
fighting for the rights of free labor.
Union Blockade: How did the Union Blockade affect the South
How did the union blockade affect the south? Supplies of manufactured goods,
that were not produced in the South, soon ran out. The Southerners were unable
to buy items such as clothes, shoes, blankets, food, meat, salt, paper, coffee,
medicines, lead, arms or cannon.
economy of the South was
based on farming, unlike
the North which was highly industrialized. The food started to run out towards
the end of the Civil war and this situation was made even worse when
the Anaconda Plan took an
aggressive stance when General William T. Sherman employed the
destructive "scorched earth policy" during his March to
the Sea following the capture of Atlanta.
Union Blockade: What was the Significance of the Union Blockade?
What was the significance of the Union Blockade?
Unable to buy goods or
sell cotton, the Confederacy experienced a massive economic collapse in 1862
and was never able to recover
Imports: The Union
Blockade prevented goods reaching the South
Exports: It blocked exports with Europe preventing Southern raw materials such
as cotton and tobacco leaving the South
The Union Blockade caused great
suffering, hunger and hardship to the people of the South
The Union Blockade
made a highly significant contribution to the victory of the North and the
defeat of the South
technology: The Ironclads, torpedo boats and submarines
Union Blockade - President Abraham Lincoln Video
The article on the Union Blockade provides an overview of one of the major
military strategies in his presidential term in office. The following
Abraham Lincoln video will
give you additional important facts and dates about the political events experienced by the 16th American President whose presidency spanned from March 4, 1861 to April 15, 1865.