Amateur military historian EmperorTigerstar has created a fascinating timelapse video showing the changing front lines of the American Civil War for each day of the conflict.
First, check out that stifling Union blockade. It doesn't change for the duration of the conflict, a chokehold the prevented the South from exporting resources, like cotton, and smuggling war materiel into the Confederacy. At times it was porous, but it was an important economic policy that prevented Confederate access to weapons that the industrialized North could produce for itself.
"As the war continues, it actually does look like an anaconda is squeezing the Confederacy to death like the Anaconda Plan was described," EmperorTigerstar told io9. "The lack of industrial capabilities in the south shows how once it lost New Orleans, things immediately went downhill and Atlanta's loss sealed its fate."
To which he added: "Importantly, both the battles of Antietam (1862) and Gettysburg (1863) and their respective offensive campaigns into the north barely show up more than quick blimps, and yet these are commonly referred to as turning points of the war."
The American Civil War got off to a start on April 12, 1861 when the Confederate army opened fire on the federal garrison at Fort Sumner. By the end of the year, nearly a million armed men confronted each other along a line stretching 1,200 miles from Virginia to Missouri. Several battles would take place, but the real fighting began in 1862. As noted by CivilWar.org:
Huge battles like Shiloh in Tennessee, Gaines' Mill, Second Manassas, and Fredericksburg in Virginia, and Antietam in Maryland foreshadowed even bigger campaigns and battles in subsequent years, from Gettysburg in Pennsylvania to Vicksburg on the Mississippi to Chickamauga and Atlanta in Georgia. By 1864 the original Northern goal of a limited war to restore the Union had given way to a new strategy of "total war" to destroy the Old South and its basic institution of slavery and to give the restored Union a "new birth of freedom," as President Lincoln put it in his address at Gettysburg to dedicate a cemetery for Union soldiers killed in the battle there.
For three long years, from 1862 to 1865, Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia staved off invasions and attacks by the Union Army of the Potomac commanded by a series of ineffective generals until Ulysses S. Grant came to Virginia from the Western theater to become general in chief of all Union armies in 1864. After bloody battles at places with names like The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg, Grant finally brought Lee to bay at Appomattox in April 1865. In the meantime Union armies and river fleets in the theater of war comprising the slave states west of the Appalachian Mountain chain won a long series of victories over Confederate armies commanded by hapless or unlucky Confederate generals. In 1864-1865 General William Tecumseh Sherman led his army deep into the Confederate heartland of Georgia and South Carolina, destroying their economic infrastructure while General George Thomas virtually destroyed the Confederacy's Army of Tennessee at the battle of Nashville.
By the spring 1865, all the principal Confederate armies surrendered.