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Field of Gettysburg, July 1st, 2nd & 3rd, 1863 Prepared by T. Ditterline.

[Detail] Field of Gettysburg, July 1st, 2nd & 3rd, 1863

The War at Sea

The use of ships for battle, blockade, and transport was a major factor in the course of the Civil War. For example, at the start of the war, President Lincoln issued a Proclamation of Blockade against Southern ports. Throughout the war this blockade limited the ability of the South to stay well-supplied in its war against the industrialized North. The Union also used ships along the Mississippi River to take New Orleans, the South's greatest seaport. On the Confederate side, in March of 1862, the Ironclad Merrimack sank two wooden Union ships, changing Naval warfare forever, as wooden ships were now obsolete.

Students can search on ship, harbor, river, navy, nautical, or naval to find depictions of the Union blockade and locations of navy yards. Students can conduct further research on New Orleans and naval battles and then search the collection on the names of battle sites. Students can search on navy in Civil War Photographs, 1861-1865 to see images of the vessels used during the war.

  • Where were the major naval battles of the Civil War? How were battles fought at sea? What types of ammunition were used?
  • Did the Union blockade of the South cover the entire coast? If not, which ports were blockaded and why?
  • From where was the South attempting to import supplies? Were they at all successful?