Monday, June 27, 2011

150 Years Ago: the Blockade Strategy Board

On Thursday, June 27, 1861, the Blockade Strategy Board met for the first time in Washington.  This was a forerunner of the present-day joint staff system, with members of various branches of the armed forces meeting to discuss ways to work together to implement war aims.

In this case, the board was put together by the Department of the Navy to develop a preliminary strategy for enforcing the blockade of the Southern States.  It consisted of two Navy men, Captain Samuel Du Pont, who acted as chairman, and Commander Charles Henry Davis, the recording secretary, Major John Barnard of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Alexander Bache of the U.S. Coast Survey.

The board's first report on July 5 recommended seizing Fernandina, Florida, and using it as the southern anchor of the Atlantic blockading line.  That action was postponed until after the capture of Hatteras Inlet and Port Royal.

The board developed strategies for enforcing the blockade and identified points on the Confederate coast that could be captured and used as coaling stations and bases.  The Navy Department followed the board's recommendations closely throughout the war.  After solving the most pressing problems the Navy had in 1861, the board disbanded and never met again.

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