With the vastly superior sea power built up by Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, the Union established a blockade of the Southern coast, which, though by no means completely effective, nevertheless limited the South's foreign trade to the uncertain prospects of blockade-running. In cooperation with the army the Union navy also attacked along the coasts. The forts guarding New Orleans, the largest Confederate port, fell (Apr. 28, 1862) to a fleet under David G. Farragut, and the city was occupied by troops commanded by Benjamin F. Butler (1818–93). The introduction of the ironclad warship (see Monitor and Merrimack) had revolutionized naval warfare, to the ultimate advantage of the industrial North. On the other hand, Confederate cruisers, built or bought in England (see Alabama claims) and captained by men such as Raphael Semmes, destroyed or chased from the seas much of the U.S. merchant marine.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.