Lincoln Proclaims the Anaconda Plan

The Confederate attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, transformed the secession crisis from a constitutional dispute to a violent insurrection. Abraham Lincoln had to act quickly to impose a strategy that would swiftly and effectively end the rebellion. This took the form of two proclamations that laid the foundation for his “Anaconda Plan.” The first came on April 15, with a call for 75,000 volunteer soldiers “to maintain the honor, the integrity, and the existence of our National Union.”

This document authorized the second proclamation, declaring a naval blockade of the rebelling states. The goal was to cut off supplies to the Confederate war effort and prevent exports of trade goods, especially cotton. It was a controversial move—not least because it entered the complicated world of international diplomacy and risked unofficially “recognizing” the Confederacy—but it held for the rest of the war and proved critical for securing victory against the secessionists.

Gift of Governor J. B. Pritzker and First Lady M. K. Pritzker, 2023

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