I can't help but thinking that the role of the Union Navy might have been one of the most decisive in attaining victory for the North. To support that position, I maintain that the key to northern victory was the conquest and control of the western riverine system in 1861 to 1863, in which the Union accomplished key objectives of reaching into the Confederate heartland, capturing and controlling important southern transportation and commercial hubs, and splitting apart the trans-Mississippi region. While federal armies and commanders carried out much of the hard work (and received the lion share of credit), it was the Navy that enabled the land forces to do so. The creation of the Western Gunboat Flotilla and the US Ram Fleet (notwithstanding the fact that the army had technical control), were instrumental in opening up the Mississippi from Island No. 10 in the North to Memphis, and in supporting army operations at Belmont, Fort Donelson, and Vicksburg. Concurrently, the blue-water navy was mainly responsible for running Fts. Jackson and St. Philip, thereby achieving the seizure of New Orleans. Beyond the western riverine system and along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, naval operations (sometimes with army cooperation), established beachheads at Hatteras Inlet, Roanoke Island, Port Royal, Fernandina, and Ship Island. Not only did these landings assist the blockading fleet by providing it with necessary coal and supply depots, but inroads (particularly in North Carolina), were effective in pinning down scarce Confederate manpower and threatening further advances inland. While the Navy had renowned commanders (Farragut, Porter, Foote, Walke), it sometimes seems as if the army gets most of the attention. But without the Navy, the outcome of the war might have been very different.