The Anaconda Plan in the Civil War Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

When wars are fought, military leaders often have to devise plans to try and outsmart their opponents. During the American Civil War, one such plan was developed. In this lesson, you will learn about the Anaconda Plan.

Strangle Hold

What animal is almost as long as a school bus, weighs more than a piano, and can kill something by squeezing it to death?

An anaconda, of course!

During the American Civil War, a military plan was named after this fierce snake. As the Union (north) and the Confederacy (south) battled, a Union general developed the Anaconda Plan. The plan was named after the anaconda because it depended on cutting off supplies and resources to the south and attacking them when they were weak. This is very similar to how an anaconda will strangle its prey until it stops breathing and is weak, and then swallow it whole. Gross!

What exactly was the Anaconda Plan? Let's find out!

The Plan

At the beginning of the Civil War, General Winfield Scott was the highest ranking general of the army. He became commander of the Union forces and proposed the Anaconda Plan to quickly defeat the Confederates.

General Winfield Scott

First, the Union would create a naval blockade in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. A naval blockade means that Union ships would block the entry of other ships into Confederate waters and would not allow Confederate ships to leave. Think of it like setting up a huge net around the southern coast where nothing could enter or exit.

Since the south was poorer and had less resources, it relied on help from Great Britain and other countries. The south traded cotton for money, supplies, and weapons. With the blockade in place, it would make it difficult for boats carrying cotton to leave and ships carrying supplies to enter the Confederacy. It would also be harder to move supplies from place to place inside the Confederacy.

Once the blockade was in place, General Scott wanted to take men up the Mississippi River, capturing all the important ports and cities along the way before moving inland to march through the Confederacy to the coast. This would then cut the Confederacy in two and make it hard to move troops.

Drawing of the Anaconda Plan

The Union generals and President Lincoln didn't think the Anaconda Plan was the best idea. They thought it would take too long for the south to run out of supplies and a more direct attack on Richmond was best. General Scott resigned from the army for health reasons only about seven months into the war.

The Blockade

The Anaconda Plan was never fully implemented; however, the idea of blockading the Confederacy was used. Throughout the war, the Union Navy used approximately 500 ships to patrol 3,500 miles of coast and about 180 ports.

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