In April 1861 General Winfield Scott came up with the plan, which was basically to blockade the saltwater ports of the South and to stop all commerce on the Mississippi River so no cotton could be exported and no war supplies could be imported.
The strategy was devised to weaken the south without invading it. It was nicknamed the Anaconda Plan because it would strangle the Confederacy the way the anaconda snake constricts its victim.
Lincoln had doubts about the plan, and rather than wait for a slow strangulation of the Confederacy to occur, he chose to do battle with the Confederacy in ground campaigns. Yet elements of the Anaconda Plan, such as the naval blockade, did become a reality.