A token plan (conclusion)

In this post, you saw what historians are linking to when they cite an Anaconda plan or strategy.

In the first Anaconda artifact, Scott refers to an operation involving seaboard blockade and a Mississippi blockade made up of naval posts. He alludes cryptically to waterborne transport of armies without elaboration.

In the second artifact, Scott he says the river and seabord blockade can be supplemented with an army movement on steam transports to clear the Mississippi down to the sea. He asks for input on details for this projected operation.

In the third artifact, Scott adds a modification to his idea, that of having a clearing force divided between riverborne and roadbound columns and the columns originating on the Ohio.

These represent three different concepts. To those who believe in an Anaconda plan or strategy, I say, you have three if you have any. To use a single source to footnote your reference to an Anaconda plan or strategy is to say THIS is the Anaconda. But at different points in time, Scott entertained different operational schemes.

Scott himself refers to the third incomplete sketch using the word "plan" and the newspapers and historians have followed suit. Even the most basic operational elements have not yet been defined making this (in fact) a non-plan.

Just as careless, hurried historians could be misled by Scott's own use of "plan," so they could also be misled into thinking there is a strategy through the presence of what looks like a strategy statement in the second artifact:

... so as to envelop the insurgent States and bring them to terms with less bloodshed than by any other plan.

This is an ill-defined operation proposed against a speculative end state to gain bargaining chips in a future negotiation. This is not a strategy, not even an operational objective.

Here is a strategy statement: Displace, destroy or capture the rebel government. Here is a statement of operational objectives: Capture Richmond. Another strategy statement: Prevent communication with the outside world. Statement of operational objectives: Occupy these X points on the rivers and coasts.

What Scott gives out is a non-strategy statement: Establish a blockade to [experience a possible political outcome].

Remember the context. On April 27, McClellan proposes a violent operation to overthrow the seat of Confederate government. Scott responds with a counterproposal to mount an operation to strengthen future negotiating positions. Scott forwards both items to Lincoln in a way that presumes Lincoln's favor. In a separate letter he tempts McClellan with leadership of the hypothetical river operation. He tries to entangle McClellan in the planning for such an operation. Out of these gossamer threads, history spins a complete plan and a famous strategy.

What is unsaid in Scott's statement is the presumption of future negotiations. Whence this faith? From his political mentor and patron William Seward, chief of Cabinet, a believer in negotiations. Why might Scott presume Lincoln's favor for his views? He might be getting Lincoln second hand through Seward's filter.

Scott is in fact developing a "product" for Seward, who sees himself leading peace negotiations; Scott is selling goods designed for Seward to Lincoln (and McClellan). That is the "Anaconda plan" or "Anaconda strategy" in a nutshell. Chips and tokens for sale or trade with no plan or strategy in sight.