While the Civil War is mainly remembered for its epic battles between the Northern and Southern armies, the Union was simultaneously waging another campaign-dubbed "Anaconda"-that was gradually depriving the South of industry and commerce, thus rendering the exploits of its field armies moot. When an independent Dixie finally met its end, it was the North's coastal campaign, as much as the victories of its main forces, that was responsible.
Strangling the Confederacy examines the various naval actions and land incursions the Union waged from Virginia down the Atlantic Coast and through the Gulf of Mexico to methodically close down every Confederate port that could bring in weapons or supplies. The Union's Navy Board, a unique institution at the time, undertook the correct strategy. Its original decision to focus on ten seaports that had rail or water connections with the Confederate interior shows that it understood the concept of decisive points. In a number of battles the Federals were able to leverage their superior technology, including steam power and rifled artillery, in a way that made the Confederate coastal defences highly vulnerable, if not obsolete. On the other hand, when the Federals encountered Confederate resistance at close-quarters they often experienced difficulties, as in the failures at Fort Fisher, and the debacle at Battery Wagner.
What makes Strangling the Confederacy book particularly unique is its use of modern military doctrine to assess and analyse the campaigns. Kevin Dougherty, an accomplished historian and former career Army officer, concludes that, without knowing it, the Navy Board did an excellent job at following modern strategic doctrine. While the multitude of small battles that flared along the Rebel coast throughout the Civil War have heretofore not been as well known as the more titanic inland battles, in a cumulative sense, Anaconda-the most prolonged of the Union campaigns-spelled doom for the Confederacy.