On January 31, 1863, two Confederate gunboats attempted to break the Union blockade of Charleston. The vessels inflicted considerable damage before withdrawing. In the meantime, however, the Union stranglehold remained as tight as ever.
The Union had announced its intent to blockade Confederate ports on April 19, 1861, as part of the Anaconda Plan. At that time, attempting to close some 3,500 miles of coastline from the outside world was unprecedented in naval operations.
While most Confederate vessels were able to escape to safety, the Union blockade nonetheless played an instrumental role in winning the war. Southern cotton exports fell precipitously by 95 percent. As the war dragged on, the South encountered repeated difficulties in moving supplies to its increasingly beleaguered army.