The importance of the operations of the Federal
navy on inland waters can hardly be exaggerated in reviewing the military as well as the naval history of the Civil War
. The absolute control of the great Mississippi
and its network of navigable tributaries was as necessary to the final outcome as the defeat of the Army of Northern Virginia--in fact, more so. It was second only in importance to the successful maintenance of the coast blockade.
The necessity of supreme control of the Mississippi
and adjacent waters was early perceived by the military leaders of both North and South.
The latter, at the very outbreak of hostilities, had made strenuous efforts to control the highways by the erection of forts and batteries, and under the superintendence and advice of able engineers, had seized the most important points from which to dispute the passage of river craft in either direction.
The authorities at Washington
, on the other hand, immediately began the consideration of plans to close the great artery to the Confederacy
From Cairo, Illinois
, to the delta of the Mississippi
, following the winding course of the river, the distance is about eleven hundred miles, although on a straight line drawn north and south it is but four hundred and eighty.
The great valley was destined to be marked throughout its length by a continuous succession of military and naval actions, of protracted siege, heroic defenses ashore and daring ventures afloat.
The conflict was hardly a month old when the War Department, which, perforce, had to call upon the navy in such matters, borrowed the services of Commander John Rodgers
, who, proceeding to Cincinnati
, purchased for the Government