Only days after the first rebel shells crashed into Fort Sumter to begin the bloodiest war in American history, President Abraham Lincoln issued a document that would establish the basis for the first element of Union naval strategy—the Proclamation of Blockade. Essentially a de facto declaration of war against the Confederacy, the proclamation declared that "a competent force will be posted so as to prevent entrance and exit of vessels" from the ports of the states in rebellion. 1 During these early days of the war, it seemed clear to many that the president's first major war measure could reap great dividends. Capt. Samuel F. Du Pont, then commandant of the Philadelphia Navy Yard, declared, "I am anxious for the blockade to get established; that will squeeze the South more than anything." 2 The magnitude of the Union navy's challenge, however, was enormous. The start of the war saw the navy, like the army, totally unprepared for the task at hand. Of the navy's forty-two ships in service in April 1861, Secretary Gideon Welles had but twelve to call upon to enforce the blockade of a coastline stretching 3,500 miles; the remaining ships were either in ordinary (maintenance or overhaul) or in overseas squadrons. In addition, many of these ships were steam frigates: a class of ship too large, too slow and with too deep a draft for effective blockade duty. It was obvious to everyone in Washington that the existing navy was unequal to the task of effective blockade. Welles faced not only inadequate resources and the task of rapidly building a large, modern navy, but also the need to develop an organizational structure to effectively command and control the blockade. 3