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J.B. Elliott, Scott’s Great Snake (Anaconda Plan), 1861

Use this primary source imagery to analyze major events in history.

Suggested Sequencing


Few families did not have a member who was an enlisted soldier during the Civil War. Maps helped family members locate their loved ones serving far from home, and commercial publishers, especially in the North, issued maps in large quantities during the war. In 1861, J. B. Elliott of Cincinnati published the following cartoon map entitled Scott’s Great Snake. The map references General Winfield Scott’s plan to blockade the Confederacy’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts and launch a major offensive down the Mississippi River to divide the South in two. Elliott’s map compares Scott’s scheme to an anaconda, a large South American snake that squeezes and crushes its prey. The comparison implies that the plan would take time to work, yet Scott’s strategy, in fact, contribute to an eventual Northern victory.

Sourcing Questions

  1. What was going on at the time this map was published?
  2. Why were maps issued in large quantities during the Civil War? How is J. B. Elliott’s map different from a typical map used for this purpose?

Figure 1: J. B. Elliott’s map, titled Scott’s Great Snake, 1861.

Comprehension Questions

  1. (Figure 1) What is the focal point of this map? What are you immediately drawn to?
  2. (Figure 1) What is not represented in this map? Why might that be?
  3. (Figure 1) List two things that seem to be the most important images on the map. Why are they important?

Historical Reasoning Questions

  1. Does this map portray Scott’s plan in a positive or negative light? Explain your position.

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