Learning Lincoln On-line



Click the navy patch to Return to Home Page

Proclamation of Blockade Against Southern Ports, April 19, 1861 & CSS Blockade Runners


National Ensign

Union Navy Jack

Confederate States National Ensign

Confederate Navy Jack

Proclamation of Blockade Against Southern Ports, April 19, 1861



Whereas an insurrection against the Government of the United States has broken out in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, and the laws of the United States for the collection of the revenue cannot be effectually executed therein comformably to that provision of the Constitution which requires duties to be uniform throughout the United States:

And whereas a combination of persons engaged in such insurrection, have threatened to grant pretended letters of marque to authorize the bearers thereof to commit assaults on the lives, vessels, and property of good citizens of the country lawfully engaged in commerce on the high seas, and in waters of the United States: And whereas an Executive Proclamation has been already issued, requiring the persons engaged in these disorderly proceedings to desist therefrom, calling out a militia force for the purpose of repressing the same, and convening Congress in extraordinary session, to deliberate and determine thereon:

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, with a view to the same purposes before mentioned, and to the protection of the public peace, and the lives and property of quiet and orderly citizens pursuing their lawful occupations, until Congress shall have assembled and deliberated on the said unlawful proceedings, or until the same shall ceased, have further deemed it advisable to set on foot a blockade of the ports within the States aforesaid, in pursuance of the laws of the United States, and of the law of Nations, in such case provided. For this purpose a competent force will be posted so as to prevent entrance and exit of vessels from the ports aforesaid. If, therefore, with a view to violate such blockade, a vessel shall approach, or shall attempt to leave either of the said ports, she will be duly warned by the Commander of one of the blockading vessels, who will endorse on her register the fact and date of such warning, and if the same vessel shall again attempt to enter or leave the blockaded port, she will be captured and sent to the nearest convenient port, for such proceedings against her and her cargo as prize, as may be deemed advisable.

And I hereby proclaim and declare that if any person, under the pretended authority of the said States, or under any other pretense, shall molest a vessel of the United States, or the persons or cargo on board of her, such person will be held amenable to the laws of the United States for the prevention and punishment of piracy.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this nineteenth day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-fifth.


By the President:

WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State

       The President was bound to meet it [the war] in the shape it presented itself, without waiting for Congress to baptize it with a name." By this decision, the Supreme Court upheld the President's executive powers to act in accordance with the Presidential oath of office, "to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" and to act expediently as the Commander-in-Chief in time of war—a de facto war existing since April 12, 1861

Blockade Determined Constitutional by Supreme Court, 1862

Prize Cases, 67 U.S. (2 Black) 635 (1863), was a case argued before the Supreme Court of the United States in 1862 during the American Civil War. The Supreme Court's decision declared constitutional the blockade of the Southern ports ordered by President Abraham Lincoln. The opinion in the case was written by Supreme Court Justice Robert Cooper Grier.

Union General-in-Chief Winfield Scott Proposal for a Strategy to Suppress the Confederacy


This Map Illustration of Scott's Great Snake contains the 13 parts of this activity.  Follow the anaconda, and click onto the HOTPOTS for links to other sites.

The Anaconda Plan is the name applied to a U.S. Union Army outline strategy for suppressing the Confederacy at the beginning of the American Civil War. Proposed by Union general-in-chief Winfield Scott, the plan emphasized a Union blockade of the Southern ports, and called for an advance down the Mississippi River to cut the South in two. Because the blockade would be rather passive, it was widely derided by a vociferous faction of Union generals who wanted a more vigorous prosecution of the war, and who likened it to the coils of an anaconda suffocating its victim. The snake image caught on, giving the proposal its popular name.

       In the early days of the Civil War, Winfield Scott's proposed strategy for the war against the South had two prominent features: first, all ports in the seceding states were to be rigorously blockaded; second, a strong column of perhaps 80,000 men should use the Mississippi River as a highway to thrust completely through the Confederacy. A spearhead, a relatively small amphibious force of army troops transported by boats and supported by gunboats, should advance rapidly, capturing the Confederate positions down the river in sequence. They would be followed by a more traditional army, marching behind them to secure the victories. The culminating battle would be for the forts below New Orleans; when they fell, the river would be in Federal hands from its source to its mouth, and the rebellion would be cut in two.

Use the Wikipedia Anaconda Plan Directory to Study in-Detail


Also read the Article on "Gray Phantoms"

       The blockade runners of the American Civil War were seagoing steam ships that were used to get through the Union blockade that extended some 3,500 miles along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastlines and the lower Mississippi River. Blockade runners imported from England most of the guns and other ordnance the Confederacy desperately needed. To get through the blockade, these ships, many of them built in British ship yards and specially designed for speed, had to cruise undetected, usually at night. The typical blockade runners were privately owned vessels often operating with a letter of marque issued by the Confederate States of America. If spotted, the blockade runners would attempt to outmaneuver or simply outrun any Union ships on blockade patrol, very often successfully.

       These vessels also carried cargoes to and from neutral ports often located in Nassau and Cuba. Neutral merchant ships in turn carried these cargoes, usually coming from or destined to England or other points abroad. Outbound ships chiefly exported cotton, tobacco and other goods for trade and revenue, while also carrying important mail and correspondence to suppliers and other interested parties in Europe, most often in England. Inbound ships usually brought badly needed supplies and mail to the Confederacy, and most of the guns and other ordnance of the Confederacy were imported from England via blockade runners. Some blockade runners made many successful runs, while many others were either captured or destroyed. Historians estimate that an estimated 2,500–2,800 attempts were made to run the blockade, with at least an 80% success rate. By the end of the Civil War, the Union Navy had captured more than 1,100 blockade runners and had destroyed or run aground another 355 vessels.

Notable Blockade Runners


CSS Robert E. Lee


CSS Fort  Sumter (left)

The first Confederate ship to put to sea was the CSS Sumter, a former Spanish screw steamer of 500 ton that was outfitted with cannons and other provisions for war time use. On April 18, 1861, Commander Raphael Semmes took command of the vessel and a dozen officers and crew. On June 30, 1861, the Sumter sailed from the mouth of the Mississippi River and was promptly chased by a Union steamer, USS Brooklyn, but managed to get out to sea and make her way to Cuba, where it engaged other merchant ships and took them as prizes.

CSS Advance (left)

Among the notable blockade runners were privately owned vessels like the SS Syren, a 169-foot (52 m) steel-hulled sidewheel steamer that made a record 33 successful runs through the Union blockade, and the CSS Advance that completed more than 20 successful runs before being captured. After its capture it was renamed USS Advance in 1864 and USS Frolic in 1865.

The first ship to evade the Union blockade was the A and A, a bark from Belfast, making its way from Charleston harbor. The General Parkhill, a British ship built in Liverpool, England, was the first blockade runner to be captured by the USS Niagara also at Charleston harbor.


U.S.S. Niagara, Blockade Patroller (left)


CSS Banshee

Waiting for Goods from a Blockade Runner Arrival

Cutaway Diagram of a Blockade Runner



The Anaconda Plan was the initial Civil War strategy devised by General Winfield Scott of the U.S. Army to put down the rebellion by the Confederacy in 1861.

Phantom Gray Confederate Blockade Runner


Winfield Scott, American army officer who held the rank of general in three wars and was the unsuccessful Whig candidate for president in 1852. He was the foremost American military figure between the Revolution and the Civil War.