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This study investigates the impact of Confederate naval mine warfare against the operations of the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. Mine warfare was a cost effective method for the Confederacy to defend its long coastline and inland waterways. A wide variety of fixed, moored, and drifting mines were deployed and used with effect at locations along the Atlantic coast, the Gulf coast, and along rivers, including those in the Mississippi basin.
Despite loss and damage to thirty five Union naval vessels, mine use had virtually no strategic impact upon the course of the war. At the operational level, effects were apparent. Federal naval operations at Charleston and on the Roanoke River were frustrated, in large part because of the mine threat. The impact of mines was great at the tactical level. These cost effective weapons caused delays in Union operations, resulted in involved countermine operations, and caused fear and apprehension in crews.
The lessons from the mine warfare experience of the Civil War are still applicable in today’s warfare environment. Naval mines are a preferred weapon of minor naval powers and the U.S. Navy will be required to deal with this threat when operating along the World’s coastal regions.