A token plan (cont.)

The "Anaconda plan" does not refer to a document, as we have seen in the previous post. Nor does it exist embodied in orders or other artifacts that take shape during a planning process.

This "plan," whenever referred to, is just a concept, a couple of talking points. A military plan, written or unwritten, has operational and other elements that are missing here. To the newspapermen of the 19th Century, random thought experiments could platonically be composited by some invisible hand into a notional "plan" that exists hypothetically on its own plane, complete, perfect, or at least good enough for their readers then. It's not good enough for us now, and I would strongly caution writers and teachers in military schools especially to examine their consciences before referring to an "Anaconda Plan." This term has even less substance to it than the nonsense referred to as "McClellan's letters to his wife."

Again, I make the caveat that it is possible Scott had a plan per se and he presented this to newspapermen and that a story with proper plan elements exists in some archive undiscovered, just as McClellan's letters to his wife may yet someday be discovered. Meanwhile, let's follow the data we have.

This leaves us with the term "Anaconda strategy." Again, a strategy contains elements that are missing from our Anaconda record, the most important of which is aim or purpose. Scott's statements represent proposed operations to achieve unstated goals and effects. They are operational ideas lacking any kind of strategic framework. Example of an effective statement of strategy: we will end the rebellion by capturing Richmond and the CSA government there. Some will argue that this is not a strategy since it has left out the means, but I would accept this from defenders of the Anaconda as a strategy if the Anaconda reached that level of clarity. It doesn't. The Anaconda is the antithesis of strategy.

I will post the three most popular Anaconda citational texts in full late tonight so you can judge for yourself.

Assume Anaconda really is a strategy for a moment and ask yourself the next logical question: if a "strategy" is not implemented, is it a strategy at all? On a comedy record, Mony Python once asked, "Can a bee be half a bee, or must it* ipso facto half not be?"

Many Civil War historians vote for the bee equalling half a bee when they say the Anaconda was implemented over time as part of the unfolding war. I am on the *not* side. Strategy needs an actor, an implementor consciously applying it. Outcomes that resemble elements of earlier concepts are not strategies, nor are they vindications.

Most late war historians seem to take great pains to exclude analogies between McClellan's waterborne Richmond campaign and Grant's 1864 efforts - to the reader's detriment, I think, but that is neither here nor there. The point is outside of a contemporary report filed with the Prussian General Staff, no historian has suggested that Grant's activity in 1864 was a fulfillment of McClellan's plans. Some historians even take pains to distinguish overt correlations, such as the attack on Petersburg proposed by GBM in '62 from the attack made in '64.

The same reasoning should apply where there is a temptation to say that the Anaconda was fulfilled as the war progressed. The Anaconda was not a strategy, it was not a plan, and it was not fulfilled. Scott envisioned certain operations independent of specific outcomes and some of these were undertaken independently of his thinking to achieve results he never specified.

*it = the half bee