Why Was the Anaconda Plan Important?

Lieutenant General Winfield Scott's Anaconda Plan was important because it would have cut off supplies and food to the Confederacy's Atlantic and Gulf coasts and launched a land and naval attack along the Mississippi River. The plan also called for moving forces to better protect Washington, D.C.

The Anaconda Plan's success hinged on setting up a blockade, cutting off supplies and troop reinforcements to the Confederacy, and capturing and forts and towns along the Mississippi. Capturing the Mississippi would have weakened the Confederacy even more than cutting off its supplies, since it would have effectively cut the Confederacy in half. Historians believe that the slow approach of the Anaconda Plan to winning the war would have resulted in fewer casualties.

Despite its chance of success, the Anaconda Plan didn't garner much support. Union leaders felt the likely decisive outcome wouldn't adequately punish the Confederacy for seceding from the Union or for launching its attack. Rather than cut off the Confederacy's supplies and wage the war along the Mississippi River, Union leaders and President Abraham Lincoln believed that invading Virginia and sacking Richmond would end the war, likely faster than the Anaconda Plan would, but this approach failed.

As the war entered its third year, Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William Sherman revisited and implemented parts of the Anaconda Plan. While General Grant captured Vicksburg and gained control of the Mississippi, General Sherman led his army through the south, cutting off the Confederacy's food and supplies. These two decisive victories crushed the Confederacy and ended the war.