When the Civil War began, Union Lieutenant General Winfield Scott, commander in chief of the armies, developed a quick and simple plan to crush the Confederacy: blockade its saltwater ports to cut off its foreign trade, and then take control of the Mississippi Valley to cut the Confederacy in two. Scott's plan was eagerly accepted by President Abraham Lincoln, who had grown up in the upper Mississippi basin and understood firsthand its commercial importance (Lincoln in his earlier years had worked for a time on the Ohio and the Mississippi, and had even once sailed past Vicksburg to New Orleans). When the first attack on New Orleans was being planned, Lincoln said to one of his admirals, "The Mississippi is the backbone of the Rebellion ; it is the key to the whole situation. While the Confederates hold it, they can obtain supplies of all kinds, and it is a barrier against our forces."
Lincoln was most anxious for his forces to move quickly to seize the entire Mississippi line, especially Vicksburg. At a strategy meeting in early 1862 he stated, "It is not only necessary to have troops enough to hold New Orleans, but we must be able to proceed at once toward Vicksburg, which is the key to all that country watered by the Mississippi and its tributaries. If the Confederates once fortify the neighboring hills, they will be able to hold that point for an indefinite time, and it will require a large force to dislodge them....I am acquainted with that region and know what I am talking about. We may take all the northern parts of the Confederacy and they can still defy us from