The Union Navy - It's Task in the Civil War
The general Union strategy for the carrying out of the Civil War was promoted by General Winfield Scott and was known as the Anaconda Plan. The plan was to cut off the Southern states, via naval blockade, from the outside world. The limited industrial complex of the South forced heavy dependence on foreign trade and being without the necessary supplies would literally put their army out of business. Scott's plan was strategically sound and would avoid costly and bloody battles between the two armies, but it was destined to fail. The US Navy did adhere to the plan with its river campaigns and blockade efforts but the politicians in Washington, as well as the public, expected a quick victory through one great army battle. This mind set eventually led to bloody battle after battle. Most Americans could not grasp the realities of war and the general consensus was that the only way to victory was through battle and the public called for more and more battles.
The Union Navy did not grow nearly as fast as the Army and did not have the need for replacements that the battle losses caused on the Army and was able to keep a reasonably professional level of sailors. Since the public expected a short war, with the role of the Navy to be minimal, the recruitment of ground soldiers was seen as a priority. Actually this turned out to be beneficial to the Navy in retaining officers and men, although newly made warships sometimes had to sit at the dock for long periods of time waiting for a crew.
Given time the Anaconda Plan probably would have worked. The people in the North, who had thought all along that one big battle would mean victory, didn’t have the patience to give the plan a real chance. This impatience was to cost thousands of soldiers and civilians their lives. The Union Army had no real strategy until the appointment of General Ulysses Grant as supreme commander.
During the course of the war, the sailors and marines of the US Navy worked with the United States Army. On the Mississippi, Cumberland, and Tennessee rivers, marines and sailors literally fought alongside their Army counterparts. The Navy evacuated many of the Armys wounded and hauled a lot of their supplies. The Confederate soldiers could disrupt rail and road supply lines but the rivers proved to be another matter, making them a vital in moving the much needed supplies.
Island # 10, Ft. Donaldson, Vicksburg and Shiloh are all considered to be US Naval as well as Army victories. The capture of Forts Hatteras and Clark on the Outer Banks of North Carolina were Naval victories and the first victories for the North and they helped ease the defeat suffered at the Battle of Bull Run. The Navy not only supplied the Union Army and blockaded Southern ports, it also chased down Confederate supply smugglers and did recon on the rivers for the Army ground units. Generally the officers of the Union Army and Navy cooperated on strategic operations giving the US Navy an important role in the Civil War.