What was the goal or purpose of the Anaconda Plan during the Civil War?
The Anaconda Plan was designed to 'strangle' the South into losing the war.
At the beginning of the war, General Winfield Scott designed the Anaconda Plan to achieve a Union win. The plan would isolate the South from the outside world, preventing trade, limiting transportation, and reducing resources. The strategy was never fully implemented, as Scott's fellow generals thought it was too passive. They preferred to crush the South with the North's sheer numbers, as opposed to the Anaconda Plan, which would minimize losses but required patience.
A drawing of the Plan can be seen here.
There were two basic objectives, as can be seen in the image.
1. Naval Blockade
The South relied heavily on trade with European powers, particularly Britain and France. The Anaconda Plan hoped to establish a naval blockade on the Confederacy's Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico ports. in doing so, the South's trade would be cut off. The economy would be crippled, and the Confederacy would soon run out of resources.
2. Mississippi River
This river was the main transportation method in the South. While the North was very industrialized and relied on railroads, the South still primarily used boats. The Anaconda Plan would move 60,000 Union soldiers in 40 steamboats and 20 gunboats down the Mississippi River, capturing forts and towns along the way. This would secure the river down to the naval blockade, dividing the South in half and establishing communications lines between the ships and the North.
Though the Plan was rejected, it was later revisited by Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman. These men used a version of the Anaconda Plan to eventually win the war against the Confederacy.