Civil War Blockade Strategy Board
The Blockade Strategy
Board of the American Civil War, also known as the Commission of Conference or as the Du
Pont Board, was a group of four men, meeting in the summer of 1861 at the request of the U.S. Navy Department, who
developed a preliminary strategy (The Civil War Blockade Strategy Board Reports) for enforcing the blockade of seceding states.
The Union Blockade, part of
General Winfield Scott’s Anaconda Plan, was proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln in his "Blockade Proclamation."
|Federal Blockade: Union Blockade Squadrons
|Courtesy Mark A. Moore
The board delivered its first report, dealing with a southern
anchor for the Atlantic blockade, on 5 July 1864. It continued to issue reports throughout the summer, with its last report
issued on 19 September 1861. These 'published reports' were included in the Official Records of the Union and Confederate
Navies in the War of the Rebellion.
Although the board reported to
the Navy Department, only half of its members were sailors. These were Captain Samuel Francis Du Pont, who acted as chairman,
and Commander Charles Henry Davis. The other two were Major John Gross Barnard of the US Army and Alexander Dallas Bache of
the US Coast Survey and the Smithsonian Institution. The board considered the entire coast held by the Confederate States
of America, and recommended how best to complete the blockade. Their reports for the
Atlantic seaboard were used, with modifications, to direct the early course of the naval war. Their analysis of the Gulf Coast was not
so successful, largely because the detailed oceanographic knowledge that marked the Atlantic reports was not available for
The Blockade Strategy Board was
also the first effort by the United States
to conduct a war by rational principles, rather than simply reacting to events. Since the armed forces did not have an Office
of Naval Operations or a General Staff at the time, it served as a rudimentary surrogate. Consequently, it was an important
forerunner of the present-day staff system.
Reading: Naval Strategies of the Civil War: Confederate Innovations and Federal Opportunism. Description: One of the most overlooked aspects of the American Civil War is the
naval strategy played out by the U.S. Navy and the fledgling Confederate Navy, which may make this the first book to compare
and contrast the strategic concepts of the Southern Secretary of the Navy Stephen R. Mallory against his Northern counterpart,
Gideon Welles. Both men had to accomplish much and were given great latitude in achieving their goals. Mallory's vision of
seapower emphasized technological innovation and individual competence as he sought to match quality against the Union Navy's
(quantity) numerical superiority. Welles had to deal with more bureaucratic structure and to some degree a national strategy
dictated by the White House. Continued below...
The naval blockade
of the South was one of his first tasks - for which he had but few ships available - and although he followed the national
strategy, he did not limit himself to it when opportunities arose. Mallory's dedication to ironclads is well known, but he
also defined the roles of commerce raiders, submarines, and naval mines. Welles's contributions to the Union effort were rooted
in his organizational skills and his willingness to cooperate with the other military departments of his government. This
led to successes through combined army and naval units in several campaigns on and around the Mississippi River.
Reading: Naval Campaigns of the Civil War.
Description: This analysis of naval engagements during the War Between the States presents the action from the efforts at
Fort Sumter during the secession of South Carolina in 1860, through the battles in the Gulf of Mexico, on the Mississippi
River, and along the eastern seaboard, to the final attack at Fort Fisher on the coast of North Carolina in January 1865.
This work provides an understanding of the maritime problems facing both sides at the beginning of the war, their efforts
to overcome these problems, and their attempts, both triumphant and tragic, to control the waterways of the South. The Union
blockade, Confederate privateers and commerce raiders are discussed, as is the famous battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack. Continued below…
of the events in the early months preceding the outbreak of the war is presented. The chronological arrangement of the campaigns
allows for ready reference regarding a single event or an entire series of campaigns. Maps and an index are also included.
About the Author: Paul Calore, a graduate of Johnson and Wales University,
was the Operations Branch Chief with the Defense Logistics Agency of the Department of Defense before retiring. He is a supporting
member of the U.S. Civil War Center and the Civil War Preservation Trust and has also written Land Campaigns of the Civil
War (2000). He lives in Seekonk, Massachusetts.
Reading: Civil War Navies, 1855-1883 (The U.S.
Navy Warship Series) (Hardcover). Description: Civil War Warships, 1855-1883 is the second in the five-volume US Navy Warships
encyclopedia set. This valuable reference lists the ships of the U.S. Navy and Confederate Navy during the Civil War and the
years immediately following - a significant period in the evolution of warships, the use of steam propulsion, and the development
of ordnance. Civil War Warships provides a wealth and variety of material not found in other books on the subject and will
save the reader the effort needed to track down information in multiple sources. Continued below…
size and time and place of construction are listed along with particulars of naval service. The author provides historical
details that include actions fought, damage sustained, prizes taken, ships sunk, and dates in and out of commission as well
as information about when the ship left the Navy, names used in other services, and its ultimate fate. 140 photographs, including
one of the Confederate cruiser Alabama recently uncovered by the author further contribute to this
indispensable volume. This definitive record of Civil War ships updates the author's previous work and will find a lasting
place among naval reference works.
Reading: The Rebel Raiders:
The Astonishing History of the Confederacy's Secret Navy (American Civil War). From Booklist: DeKay's modest monograph pulls together four separate stories
from the naval aspects of the American Civil War. All have been told before but never integrated as they are here. The first
story is that of James Bulloch, the Confederate agent who carefully and capably set out to have Confederate commerce raiders
built in neutral England. The second is
that of the anti-American attitudes of British politicians, far more extreme than conventional histories let on, and U.S.
Ambassador Charles Francis Adams' heroic fight against them. Continued below...
The third is a thoroughly readable narrative of the raider Alabama
and her capable, quirky captain, Raphael Semmes. The final story is about the Alabama claims--suits
for damages done to the U.S. merchant
marine by Confederate raiders, which became the first successful case of international arbitration. Sound and remarkably free
of fury, DeKay's commendable effort nicely expands coverage of the naval aspects of the Civil War.
Reading: Confederate Blockade Runner 1861-65
(New Vanguard). Description: The lifeblood of the Confederacy, the blockade runners of the Civil War usually began life as
regular fast steam-powered merchant ships. They were adapted for the high-speed dashes through the Union blockade which closed
off all the major Southern ports, and for much of the war they brought much-needed food, clothing and weaponry to the Confederacy.
This book traces their operational history, including the development of purpose-built blockade running ships, and examines
their engines, crews and tactics. It describes their wartime exploits, demonstrating their operational and mechanical performance,
whilst examining what life was like on these vessels through accounts of conditions on board when they sailed into action.
Reading: Gray Raiders of the Sea: How Eight Confederate Warships Destroyed the Union's High
Seas Commerce. Reader’s Review:
This subject is one of the most fascinating in the history of sea power, and the general public has needed a reliable single-volume
reference on it for some time. The story of the eight Confederate privateers and their attempt to bring Union trade to a halt
seems to break every rule of common sense. How could so few be so successful against so many? The United
States, after Great Britain,
had the most valuable and extensive import/export trade in the world by the middle of the 19th century. The British themselves
were worried since they were in danger of being surpassed in the same manner that their own sea traders had surpassed the
Dutch early in the 18th century. Continued below…
From its founding
in 1861, the Confederate States of America realized it had a huge problem since it lacked a navy.
It also saw that it couldn't build one, especially after the fall of its biggest port, New
Orleans, in 1862. The vast majority of shipbuilders and men with maritime skills lived north of the
Mason-Dixon Line, in the United States, and mostly in New
England. This put an incredible burden on the Confederate Secretary of the Navy, Stephen R. Mallory. When he saw
that most of the enemy navy was being used to blockade the thousands of miles of Confederate coasts, however, he saw an opportunity
for the use of privateers. Mallory sent Archibald Bulloch, a Georgian and the future maternal grandfather of Theodore Roosevelt,
to England to purchase British-made vessels
that the Confederacy could send out to prey on Union merchant ships. Bulloch's long experience with the sea enabled him to
buy good ships, including the vessels that became the most feared of the Confederate privateers - the Alabama,
the Florida, and the Shenandoah. Matthew Fontaine Maury
added the British-built Georgia, and the Confederacy itself launched the
Sumter, the Nashville, the Tallahassee,
and the Chickamauga - though these were generally not as effective
commerce raiders as the first four. This popular history details the history of the eight vessels in question, and gives detailed
biographical information on their captains, officers, and crews. The author relates the careers of Raphael Semmes, John Newland
Maffitt, Charles Manigault Morris, James Iredell Waddell, Charles W. Read, and others with great enthusiasm. "Gray Raiders"
is a great basic introduction to the privateers of the Confederacy. More than eighty black and white illustrations help the
reader to visualize their dramatic exploits, and an appendix lists all the captured vessels. I highly recommend it to everyone
interested in the Confederacy, and also to all naval and military history lovers.