Naval strategies of the civil war

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naval strategies of the civil war

Jay W. Simson (Author of Naval Strategies in the Civil War)

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The Civil War at Sea: The First Modern Naval War - February 20, 2014

The Civil War on the water was marked by bold strategy, technological innovation, and unflinching bravery. These are a few of the actions that shaped the course of the struggle.
Jay W. Simson

Naval Actions of the Civil War

At all the watery margins they have been present. Not only on the deep sea, the broad bay, and the rapid river, but. Lincoln's call for a blockade of Southern ports, which created the need for a large navy, may have been one of his wisest wartime decisions. The blockade of more than 3, miles of Southern coastline consumed most of the navy's assets, and army-navy rivalries prevented joint operations that might have brought crucial victories. Furthermore, the Union leadership failed to develop any continuing strategy for the war, squandering the advantage the superior Union navy had over the Confederate naval forces— an advantage that, if properly used, might have shortened the war. After several months of implementing the blockade, however, it was clearly understood that the job at hand was larger than anyone perceived, and the navy needed some direction.

As the Civil War raged on the land, the two national navies— Union and Confederate —created another war on the water. The naval war was one of sudden, spectacular lightning battles as well as continual and fatal vigilance on the coasts, rivers, and seas. His plan was to cut off Southern trade with the outside world and prevent sale of the Confederacy's major crop, cotton. The task was daunting; the Southern coast measured over 2, miles and the Union navy numbered less than 40 usable ships. The Southern states had few resources compared to the North: a handful of shipyards, a small merchant marine, and no navy at all.

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Naval tactics is the collective name for methods of engaging and defeating an enemy ship or fleet in battle at sea during naval warfare , the naval equivalent of military tactics on land. Naval tactics are distinct from naval strategy. Naval tactics are concerned with the movements a commander makes in battle, typically in the presence of the enemy. Naval strategy concerns the overall strategy for achieving victory and the large movements by which a Commandant and commander secures the advantage of fighting at a place convenient to himself. Modern naval tactics are based on tactical doctrines developed after World War II , following the obsolescence of the battleship and the development of long-range missiles. Since there has been no major naval conflict since World War II, apart from the Indo-Pakistani Naval War of and the Falklands War , many of these doctrines reflect scenarios developed for planning purposes. Critics argue that the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent reduction in the size and capabilities of the Russian navy renders most such fleet-on-fleet scenarios obsolete.

Mallory's vision of seapower emphasized technological innovation and individual competence as he sought to match quality against the Union Navy's numerical superiority. Welles had to deal with more bureaucratic structure and to some degree a national strategy dictated by the White House. The naval blockade of the South was one of his first tasks -- for which he had but few ships available -- and although he followed the national strategy, he did not limit himself to it when opportunities arose. Mallory's dedication to ironclads is well known, but he also defined the roles of commerce raiders, submarines, and naval mines. Welles's contributions to the Union effort were rooted in his organizational skills and his willingness to cooperate with the other military departments of his government.


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