Union Navy

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The Union Navy is the label applied to the United States Navy (USN) during the American Civil War, to contrast it from its direct opponent, the Confederate States Navy (CSN). The term is sometimes used carelessly to include vessels of war used on the rivers of the interior while they were actually under the control of the United States Army, referred to in the same fashion as the Union Army.

Primary missions

The primary missions of the Union Navy were:
1. Maintain the blockade of Confederate ports by restraining all blockade runners; declared by the president on 19 April 1861 and continued until the end of the Rebellion.
2. Meet in combat the war vessels of the CSN.
3. Carry the war to places in the seceded states that were inaccessible to the Union Army, but could be reached by water.
4. Support the Army by providing both gunfire support and rapid transport and communications on the rivers of the interior.


To accomplish these, the Union Navy had to undergo a profound transformation, both technical and institutional. During the war, sailing vessels were completely supplanted by ships propelled by steam for purposes of combat. Vessels of widely differing character were built from the keel up in response to peculiar problems they would encounter. Wooden hulls were at first protected by armor plating, and soon were replaced by iron or steel throughout. Guns were reduced in number, but increased in size and range; the reduction in number was partially...
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