October 1861

Military planning continued as more people began calling for action. The Confederates were continuing to strengthen their presence in Kentucky and Missouri, while the Federals were strengthening the Army of the Potomac and their presence on the Gulf Coast. There had been little action since Bull Run in July, but increased fighting seemed imminent.

Confederates Talk Strategy in Northern Virginia

1 Oct – Confederate President Jefferson Davis met with General Joseph E. Johnston, commanding the Confederate Army of the Potomac, and Johnston’s two corps commanders to discuss military strategy at Centreville in northern Virginia.

Engagement at Greenbrier River

3 Oct – In western Virginia, Brigadier General Joseph J. Reynolds’s 5,000 Federals abandoned their supply base at Cheat Mountain to attack about 1,800 Confederates under Brigadier General Henry R. Jackson on the southern fork of the Greenbrier River.

The Chicamacomico Races

4 Oct – As Confederates scrambled to defend the North Carolina coast, Colonel A.E. Wright devised a plan to take back Forts Clark and Hatteras.

Kentucky Disorder Continues

6 Oct – Military and political turmoil continued in Kentucky, both within and among the various opposing factions.

Fremont Finally Confronts Price

7 Oct – Major General John C. Fremont left St. Louis to lead his Federal Army of the West against the pro-secession Missouri State Guards under General Sterling “Pap” Price.

The Invasion of Santa Rosa Island

9 Oct – A Confederate assault failed to dislodge Federals from Fort Pickens on Florida’s Gulf coast.

Mason and Slidell Escape

11 Oct – Confederate envoys James M. Mason and John Slidell boarded a steamship in the hopes of eluding the Federal blockade and reaching Europe to gain Confederate recognition.

C.S.S. Manassas: The First Ironclad

12 Oct – The Confederacy unveiled a new metal-sheathed ram named the C.S.S. Manassas to try breaking the Federal blockade where the Mississippi River met the Gulf of Mexico.

Thompson’s Guards in Missouri

12 Oct – Brigadier General M. Jeff Thompson led 3,000 secessionist Missourians in disrupting Federal operations and engaging in several skirmishes in southeastern Missouri.

Affairs in Europe and Mexico

16 Oct – The European powers entertained the possibility of recognizing Confederate independence, while France capitalized on the war by invading Mexico.

The Leesburg Campaign

18 Oct – Federal forces converged on an isolated Confederate force at Leesburg, a Virginia town up the Potomac River from Washington, and prepared to attack.

The Battle of Ball’s Bluff

21 Oct – Federal forces suffered another horrific defeat when they were driven off a cliff overlooking the Potomac River.

The Ball’s Bluff Aftermath

23 Oct – The Federal defeat at Ball’s Bluff outraged northerners, sent the Lincolns into mourning, and increased calls for Major General George B. McClellan to wage “all-out war” against the Confederates.

Lincoln Fires Fremont

24 Oct – President Lincoln issued formal orders replacing John C. Fremont with David Hunter. However, complications in executing the order would arise.

Federals Reclaim Lexington and Springfield

25 Oct – Major General John C. Fremont touted the Federal recapture of Lexington and Springfield as great victories, but they did little to change the military situation in Missouri.

The New Mexico Territory: October 1861

25 Oct – Colonel John R. Baylor, commanding the proclaimed Confederate Territory of Arizona at Mesilla, expressed concern that Federals were working to drive him out of the region.

The Missouri Secession

28 Oct – Remnants of the popularly elected Missouri legislature gathered at Neosho to consider leaving the Union, even though a new Unionist government claimed to be the legitimate governing body over Missouri.

The Port Royal Campaign

29 Oct – A massive Federal army-navy expedition left Hampton Roads to capture Port Royal, South Carolina, located between Charleston and Savannah.

Confederate Tensions Rise in Northern Virginia

30 Oct – Confederate officials reorganized the army forces in northern Virginia while President Jefferson Davis took issue with General P.G.T. Beauregard.

Winfield Scott Resigns

31 Oct – The legendary General-in-Chief Winfield Scott submitted his formal letter of resignation from the U.S. army after 53 years of service.

Lee Returns to Richmond

31 Oct – General Robert E. Lee returned to Richmond after this three-month campaign in western Virginia that many southerners considered a failure.

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Last Updated: 4/9/2017

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