Would have a less successful Union blockade have allowed the Confederacy to win the War?

major bill

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The Union naval blockade is often given as one of reasons the Union won the Civil War. This makes me wonder if the Union naval blockade was less successful or the blockade runners more successful, if the Confederacy would have won the Civil War?
 

wausaubob

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The Union naval blockade is often given as one of reasons the Union won the Civil War. This makes me wonder if the Union naval blockade was less successful or the blockade runners more successful, if the Confederacy would have won the Civil War?
Yes. Based on events that followed, closing Mobile Bay and Wilmington, NC to blockade runners was critical to ending the war. If those operations had not occurred the war would have been extended into the summer of 1865 and the US would have agreed to an armistice.
 

leftyhunter

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Yes. Based on events that followed, closing Mobile Bay and Wilmington, NC to blockade runners was critical to ending the war. If those operations had not occurred the war would have been extended into the summer of 1865 and the US would have agreed to an armistice.
We can't know the answer to a hypothetical question. By 1865 there was so much rampant Confedrate desertion and self liberating slaves the Confedracy was collapsing on its own. Blockade runners could only carry so much cargo and less slaves were available to grow and harvest cotton.
Leftyhunter
 

leftyhunter

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Yes. Based on events that followed, closing Mobile Bay and Wilmington, NC to blockade runners was critical to ending the war. If those operations had not occurred the war would have been extended into the summer of 1865 and the US would have agreed to an armistice.
We can't know the answer to a hypothetical question. By 1865 there was so much rampant Confedrate desertion and self liberating slaves the Confedracy was collapsing on its own. Blockade runners could only carry so much cargo and less slaves were available to grow and harvest cotton.
The Union naval blockade is often given as one of reasons the Union won the Civil War. This makes me wonder if the Union naval blockade was less successful or the blockade runners more successful, if the Confederacy would have won the Civil War?
In the long term the Union Army captured all the important Confedrate ports but did relinquish Brownsville and Gavelston. On the other hand after the fall of Vicksburg Texas was isolated so not as important.
Leftyhunter
 

thomas aagaard

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The Union naval blockade is often given as one of reasons the Union won the Civil War. This makes me wonder if the Union naval blockade was less successful or the blockade runners more successful, if the Confederacy would have won the Civil War?
no. The war was not lost by the csa because of lack of guns, uniforms or ammo.
(the ability to move the items from ports/arsenals to the troops was generally a bigger issue... and the same with food)

Just having a legal blockade in effect did a lot of the "work" since that stopped ordinary merchant ships from moving things in and out of the CSA ports.
 
no. The war was not lost by the csa because of lack of guns, uniforms or ammo.
(the ability to move the items from ports/arsenals to the troops was generally a bigger issue... and the same with food)

Just having a legal blockade in effect did a lot of the "work" since that stopped ordinary merchant ships from moving things in and out of the CSA ports.

I don't believe that had a blockade not been implemented, cigars, brandies and molasses -- the top 3 items imported by the Southern states before the war --- would make a difference in their war effort or outcome of the war. On the other hand, it would have allowed more of the needed medicines to treat the wounded and sick soldiers.

edited to add the last sentence.
 

wausaubob

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We can't know the answer to a hypothetical question. By 1865 there was so much rampant Confedrate desertion and self liberating slaves the Confedracy was collapsing on its own. Blockade runners could only carry so much cargo and less slaves were available to grow and harvest cotton.
Leftyhunter
Its not hypothetical. In July 1864 the US was enforcing a tight but incomplete blockade. By mid January 1865 the blockade was complete. The war ended in less than three months. Grant was there. He wrote, that had the war continued into the summer of 1865 there was a substantial risk that the finances of the US would not be sustainable and the US would have had to agree to an armistice. Grant's view is supported by the speed and urgency the US demonstrated in demobilizing.
 

wausaubob

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no. The war was not lost by the csa because of lack of guns, uniforms or ammo.
(the ability to move the items from ports/arsenals to the troops was generally a bigger issue... and the same with food)

Just having a legal blockade in effect did a lot of the "work" since that stopped ordinary merchant ships from moving things in and out of the CSA ports.
I think General Lee commented at the time that each blockade runner that made it through was an important logistical event by the fall of 1864. We don't know what was making it through the blockade. But percussion caps, nitre, gunpowder and salted pork are leading suspects.
We also know that the US spent naval resources and lives to close Mobile Bay. Then Cushing's suicidal mission to torpedo the Albermerle took place. Then when Butler dilly dallied in front of Fort Fisher at Wilmington, Lincoln relieved him, and Terry was sent to support Porter's second attempt at Fort Fisher, which succeeded. My guess is the US knew how important it was to close off access to Wilmington.
 
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wausaubob

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The blockade question raises the collateral question, although the Confederacy seemed to have enough munitions for the battles they fought, by later 1864 and into 1865, when did the Confederacy not fight battles, because they did not have enough gunpowder and percussion caps? The pattern was that by October 1864, Confederate artillery was ineffective.
 

Joshism

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How much less effective are we talking about? 5% fewer blockade ships isn't going to be a drastic difference. Not taking New Orleans in 1862 could be. (Taking Wilmington in 1863 would have been.)

Generally, I think a weaker blockade could lengthen the war, especially by slowing the collapse of Confederate morale. But it really depends how much weaker and how the Confederacy exploits that. 25% more medicine and Enfield rifles coming in with 25% more cotton getting successful shipped to England could make an impact.

To win the war the blockade running increase would need to somehow tip a major battle the other way, or perhaps the blockade would need to be weak enough that the British government was unwilling to officially respect it. That's a tall order.
 

wausaubob

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The first major effect of the blockade was to cut off direct shipments of supplies from New York to the south. Indirect shipments through Halifax continued. As soon as that happened costs for everything went up, and credit went down. Smugglers demand cash.
The second major effect was to blockade, then capture New Orleans, and then finally reconnected New Orleans to St. Louis and Louisville. Without New Orleans, cotton shipments out of the Confederacy were going to be reduced and less efficient. Those two changes alone imposed hardship on the Confederacy that would have been enough in a cold war, long term attempt to force surrender and reunification.
But to win in 1864 and 1865 the US was imposing siege conditions on the five Atlantic Confederate states plus Alabama. The siege had to be air tight. The war did not end until that was achieved.
 

DaveBrt

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The North could have lost the war only if Grant and Sherman could have been stopped. If Sherman takes Atlanta and marches to Savannah and Grant pushes Lee into the trenches, the war will be won. For the blockade to have been the decisive factor, one must show how it could have prevented the success of Grant and Sherman.

In addition to the capture of all of its useful ports, the South had the problem of not having enough cotton available in the runner ports to pay for the goods that did make it through the blockade. If more cargoes made it in, the need for cotton from Alabama and western Georgia would have been greater, but the railroads did not have the rolling stock to move the cargo as it was.
 

jackt62

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How is one to define "less successful blockade." The fact of the matter is that it took a few years until the blockade became really effective, and even in its early days, the Confederacy squandered opportunities to restrict imports to necessary war goods, rather than persona and "luxury" items. In reality, it was the Union capture of key southern ports that probably made more of a difference in cutting off supplies, rather than the interception of blockade runners. Northern efforts to occupy or neutralize southern ports were successful in many cases (New Orleans, Savannah, Wilmington, Mobile) although it took until 1865 to actually accomplish that goal.
 

leftyhunter

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Yes. Based on events that followed, closing Mobile Bay and Wilmington, NC to blockade runners was critical to ending the war. If those operations had not occurred the war would have been extended into the summer of 1865 and the US would have agreed to an armistice.
We can't know the answer to a hypothetical question. By 1865 there was so much rampant Confedrate desertion and self liberating slaves the Confedracy was collapsing on its own. Blockade runners could only carry so much cargo and less slaves were available to grow and harvest cotton.
The Union naval blockade is often given as one of reasons the Union won the Civil War. This makes me wonder if the Union naval blockade was less successful or the blockade runners more successful, if the Confederacy would have won the Civil War?
In the long term the Union Army captured all the important Confedrate ports but did relinquish Brownsville and Gavelston. On the other hand after the fall of Vicksburg Texas was isolated so not as important.
Its not hypothetical. In July 1864 the US was enforcing a tight but incomplete blockade. By mid January 1865 the blockade was complete. The war ended in less than three months. Grant was there. He wrote, that had the war continued into the summer of 1865 there was a substantial risk that the finances of the US would not be sustainable and the US would have had to agree to an armistice. Grant's view is supported by the speed and urgency the US demonstrated in demobilizing.
True but by that time the Union Army had closed all the major Confedrate ports except in Texas. The USN could now concentrate on the Texas ports.
Leftyhunter
 
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I'd have to know what criteria we're using to define a successful blockade.

Irrespective of any data on ship interception or shipments lost, the mere presence of Union vessels off the coast kept thousands of troops tied down far away from other fronts and created real pressure on local authorites to keep war materiel at home instead of forwarding it along.
 

Bruce Allardice

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David Surdam's book on the blockade makes it clear that while the blockade could be evaded by specialized blockade runners, these specialized vessels had a low cargo capacity. Just the fact of the blockade cut cotton exports so much that the CSA could never have accumulated enough income from the exports to pay for any significant increase in imports. Plus, the blockade interrupted the Southern state's vital sea lanes with each other--a huge part of the prewar transportation infrastructure.
It's not just CSA to Europe that needs to be considered, but also one part of the CSA to another.
 

wausaubob

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The North could have lost the war only if Grant and Sherman could have been stopped. If Sherman takes Atlanta and marches to Savannah and Grant pushes Lee into the trenches, the war will be won. For the blockade to have been the decisive factor, one must show how it could have prevented the success of Grant and Sherman.

In addition to the capture of all of its useful ports, the South had the problem of not having enough cotton available in the runner ports to pay for the goods that did make it through the blockade. If more cargoes made it in, the need for cotton from Alabama and western Georgia would have been greater, but the railroads did not have the rolling stock to move the cargo as it was.
Wasn't capturing the major ports and redirecting all traffic to obscure landing sites part of the blockade? Seems to me that as the US closes more ports, the blockade can stack up on the remaining open ports and the blockade becomes more effective. To me, as the ports were closed, and the arrivals declined and disappeared, Generals Lee and Johnston had to be very careful about what fights, if any, they chose to fight.
 

wausaubob

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There was only one trial of this experiment. The US was unable to capture either major Confederate army without an airtight blockade.
The administration decided it had to be done. The blockade was made total. The war ended. I think they knew better than we possibly can, what conditions in the Confederacy were like. They probably had a lot more agents in the Confederacy than they ever disclosed.
 
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