Over 3,000 miles of coast makes up the Southern seafront. From Virginia on the east coast down to Texas along the gulf, the southern shoreline is truly a magnificent stretch of beach that has helped to sustain the populations that have made the region their home, wither in the 19th century or the 21st. During the American Civil War this coast played a vital role in the Norths military strategy of strangling the South by means of the Anaconda Plan. By cutting off the coast, the northern navy effectively stopped or severely hampered Confederate naval operations throughout the South, along with cutting trade to the outside world further weakening the Confederacy as a new nation. But besides the grande scale of the blockade and its military importance to the Northern leadership, I ask what effect did it have on the civilians living along the blockaded or occupied southern coast.
To have a better in-depth look into this topic, the broad picture must be refined to a specific area. Early on in the Civil War the city of New Orleans was taken and occupied after May 1, 1862 by Union forces starting their trek up the mighty Mississippi. Southern Louisiana became a battleground and civilians living in that region quickly felt the pains of a disrupted life. New Orleans at the wars beginning was alive with military parades and cheering crowds but soon after its occupation the population was under new military authority. The civilians both poor and wealthy then faced life under a conquering force, that to many of New Orleans residents had come down to Dixie for one purpose, to destroy their southern way of life. For New Orleans its time in Dixie had ended and was governed by a man they called the devil or in most cases “the Beast” for his mistreatment of southerners in the city. Major General Benjamin Butler became the commander of Union forces in the city, and during the time he was in command of the city he had William Munford, a local citizen executed for cutting down a U.S. flag before the cities capture. This was on the drastic end of what southern citizens could have experienced.
Heavy handed laws and oppressive authority may have been the norm for occupied New Orleans but the region around it felt the sting of invasion and blockade differently. the blockade created shortages of food and supplies that crippled coastal populations. Even the food staples of the poor south, ham and corn became harder to find and starvation spread as the Confederacy slowly rolled back against a tide of blue. This happens to be the time period when chicory coffee became a substitute for the real thing in the deep south. And lets say it has an acquired taste.
In short the Anaconda Plan blockaded all trade and supplies to the Confederate coast. The people living along the shore found themselves locked away from the sea, a vital source of food from fishing and from the wealth of commerce. Still it was the poorer side of society that was hardest hit. New Orleans had to endure a tyrannical general and bad coffee, but around the seashore others starved.
[1. Masur, Louis P. The Civil War: A Concise History. Oxford University Press. 2011p. 26]
[2. Foote, Shelby The Civil War: A Narrative Fort Sumter to Perryville vol. 1. Vintage Books A Division of Random House, New York. 1986. p.354]
[3. Hills, Albert Gaius. Edited by Gary L. Dyson. 2013. A Civil War Correspondent in New Orleans: The journals and Reports of Albert Gaius Hills of the Boston Journal. Published by McFarland and Company, Inc.]