Continued from last week:
The Union blockade, a naval strategy never before attempted by the US, was intended to strangle the Confederacy by cutting off the ability to import much-needed supplies and arms and to export goods. The naval blockade was part of LTG Winfield Scott’s 1861 so-called Anaconda Plan. The Navy’s mission required monitoring over 3,500 miles of coastline on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, dotted with many ports, including Charleston. The Anaconda Plan was put into place in hopes that it would quickly take effect and bring the Confederate states to peaceful terms without fighting a long war. By the end of 1861, the Union Navy had purchased and built enough vessels to grow to 671 ships, making it the largest navy in the world. Over the course of the war, many blockade runners, which are vessels that run or attempts to run into or out of a blockaded port, made many successful trips. However, the tighter the grip grew, the more vessels were lost. In the end, there were over 1,500 blockade runners destroyed or captured, severely impacting Confederate imports and exports. As the Union Navy grew, more ports were closed and/or captured. By the end of 1862, only three remained: Wilmington, NC; Mobile, AL; and Charleston, SC.
Around Charleston Harbor, many Union ships participated in the blockade, the isolation of Charleston, the siege of Fort Sumter and the attack on Battery Wagner. One major player in the sieges was the 200-foot USS Housatonic. Much of the damage to the walls of Fort Sumter was caused by this powerful warship. The USS Housatonic captured many blockade runners and helped set up the North’s eventual capture of the city; followed closely by the end of the war. But this fight did not lack Southern push back. The Confederacy fought back with the development and deployment of the submarine, the HL Hunley. The Housatonic would help set things up for the end of the war, but would not be around for the finale, as it became the Hunley’s first and last victim. Check back next week to learn more about what happened to the USS Housatonic and its crew that fateful night of February 17, 1864. #flashbackfriday #nationalparkservice #fortsumter