Northern Plans to End the War

Only one day after their victory at Gettysburg, Union forces captured Vicksburg, the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. Lincoln and Union commanders began making plans to finish the war. The Union strategy to win the war did not emerge all at once. By 1863, the Northern military plan consisted of five major goals.

  1. Fully blockade all Southern coasts, known as the Anaconda plan, eliminating possible help for Confederates from abroad.
  2. Control the Mississippi River.
  3. Capture Richmond, disrupting the Confederacy’s command lines at the capital.
  4. Shatter Southern civilian morale by capturing and destroying Atlanta, Savannah and South Carolina.
  5. Use the numerical advantage of Northern troops to engage the enemy everywhere to break the spirits of the Confederate army.

By early 1864 the first two goals had been accomplished. Lincoln turned to Grant to finish the job. Grant had a plan to end the war by November. General William Tecumseh Sherman was to plunge into the heart of the South, inflicting as much damage as he could against their war resources.

Grant was more determined than other Union commanders despite the cost. In 30 days of fighting Lee, he lost 50,000 soldiers; he became known as “the butcher.” Congress was appalled and petitioned for his removal, but Lincoln argued that Grant was winning the battles and refused to grant Congress’s request.

One week after Abraham Lincoln's reelection in 1864, Sherman began a fierce march through Georgia, leaving nothing behind but civilian sorrow and scorched earth. Both Atlanta and Savannah would fall back to Union control during this campaign.

Next, Sherman ordered his army to move north into South Carolina. Their intent was to destroy the state where secession began. Exactly a month later, its capital, Columbia, fell. On the same day, Union forces retook Fort Sumter. The war would soon be over.

Source: Northern Plans to End the War
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