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Book review: Strangling the Confederacy

“Strangling the Confederacy” is a dry, witty and ultimately educational account of Union coastal operations against the Confederate States during the American Civil War of 1861-1865. That conflict is mostly remembered as a series of land campaigns – but that was not the sum of it.

In April 1861, after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumpter, the first act of that war, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a blockade against the secessionist states. Author Kevin Dougherty rightly observes that declaring “a blockade and making it effective … were two different things. With 189 harbour and river openings along the 3549 miles of Confederate shoreline between the Potomac and the Rio Grande, clearly some focus was needed.

“Responsibility for the Federal blockade strategy rested with the Navy Board (also called the Bockade Board, the Strategy Board, and the Committee n Conference) that Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles created in June 1861,to study the conduct of the blockade and to devise ways of improving its efficiency.” It became known as the Anaconda Plan and is rated, by Dougherty, as one of the three really outstanding campaigns of that war, along with Ulysses Grant's Vicksburg campaign and William Sherman's March through Georgia.

Dougherty is a retired US Army lieutenant colonel and is presently a lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Mississippi. The value in this book therefore lies not only in the recording of a little known campaign that forced the US Army and US Navy to cooperate and collaborate in an era where “jointness” was not even yet a twinkle in the eye; but in Dougherty measuring the Navy Board's Plan and its execution against the Principles of War. Dougherty concludes the Navy Board, without knowing it, “did an excellent job at following modern strategic doctrine.” This book then is recommended for all those in or headed for joint posts as well as students at institutions such as the South African National War College.


Strangling the Confederacy
Kevin Dougherty
Casemate Publishers
Havertown, Pensylvania
2010

233 pages, illustrated, index, maps. Hardcover.

Available in South Africa trough Casemate's distributor, 30 Degrees South Publishers, www.30degreessouth.co.za

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