October 1863 saw further fighting in and around Chattanooga. During the American Civil War, both sides were hindered by something that they had no control over - poor winter weather. Manoeuvring and mobilising men and equipment became very difficult and on occasions impossible when the rain took a hold. October 1863 saw an early start to the winter.
October 1st: Rosecrans’ supply route after the Battle of Chickamauga was a tortuous 28-mile mountain road that followed along the side of the Tennessee River. It would have been impossible to supply 50,000 men throughout the winter using just this route. Rosecrans ordered the building of flat-bottomed boats that would be able to navigate the Tennessee River.
October 2nd: The first reinforcements for the Army of the Cumberland arrived in Chattanooga. Their journey of over 1100 miles took just over a week, showing the importance of controlling the railways during the war.
October 4th: Union engineers completed the first of the flat-bottomed steamboats that they hoped to use to help supply the Army of the Cumberland.
October 6th: The weather in Chattanooga took a turn for the worse. Persistent heavy rain made living conditions difficult at best especially as all the wooden homes in the town had been destroyed as they were used in strengthening trenches and redoubts. The town’s 2,500 citizens crammed themselves into a few stone buildings.
October 8th: The lack of food in Chattanooga started to take a hold with many Union soldiers falling ill due to malnourishment. The soldiers in the town had slaughtered most of their animals in an effort to feed themselves but by now even these had run out.
October 9th: Confederate cavalry attacked a major Union supply column bound for Chattanooga. Hundreds of supply wagons – along with their contents – were lost.
October 10th: Despite the victory at Chickamauga, senior Confederate officers under Bragg’s command expressed to Jefferson Davis their discontent with regards to his leadership. They all agreed that his skills “would be better employed elsewhere”. As a friend of Bragg, Davis was angered by their lack of support for him.
October 11th: General Longstreet, who played such an important role in the victory at Chickamauga, again asked Davis to replace Bragg. Once again, Davis refused.
October 16th: The North introduced a major reorganisation of its armies. The armies of the Cumberland, Tennessee and Ohio were all combined into the Military Division of the Mississippi and put under the command of General U Grant.
October 18th: Rosecrans was relieved of his command, which was handed over to Major-General George Thomas. Rosecrans was never given another meaningful command.
October 20th: Since their victory at Gettysburg, the Army of the Potomac had followed Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Neither was in a position to launch a major attack against the other but numerous skirmishes had occurred up to this date when Lee crossed the Rappahannock River to return to his old base. Meade had no intention of following him across the river. The skirmishes that had occurred since Gettysburg had cost Meade 2292 killed and wounded while Lee lost 1381 men.
October 23rd: General Grant arrived at Chattanooga. The plight of the Unionists in the town was aided somewhat by the continuing infighting that Bragg was still experiencing among his senior officers.
October 24th: President Lincoln expressed his disappointment that Meade had not crossed the Rappahannock River in pursuit of Lee. However, as a politician, he still failed to fully understand the impact Gettysburg had on both armies even though it was some four months after the battle. In fact, Lincoln assumed that as four months had passed the Army of the Potomac should have been in a position to pursue Lee’s army.
October 25th: The first of the flat-bottomed supply ships was launched in Chattanooga.
October 26th: The Tennessee River had to be made safe for the Unionists if the supply-boat was to succeed. General Thomas ordered the capture of Brown’s Ferry, across the neck of Moccasin Point, which was the old high-water route.
October 27th: At 05.00, 1,800 Unionist soldiers attacked Brown’s Ferry, having been moved along the Tennessee River by pontoons. By 10.00 some 4,000 Unionist soldiers had control of both sides of the river. The supply ship could now sail from Chattanooga passed Moccasin Point in relative safety.
October 28th: The South attempted to re-capture Brown’s Ferry. The night attack lasted until early October 29th. However, it was now that the infighting among the senior Confederates officers hit home. Bragg would have been aware that General Longstreet had asked Jefferson Davis to remove Bragg from his post. Bragg and Davis had known each other as good friends for over 20 years so it is inconceivable that Davis had not informed Bragg of what Longstreet had requested. The Confederate attack at Brown’s Ferry was to be led by Longstreet. Without telling Longstreet, Bragg removed from the attack some of the units that Longstreet had chosen to use. Instead of having 8,000 men in the attack, Longstreet had 4,000 and they were up against the Union force that now numbered 5,000.The North lost 77 men killed while Longstreet lost over 300 men killed. The Union remained in control of Brown’s Ferry. The failure of Longstreet to succeed at Brown’s Ferry - information that was swiftly conveyed to Davis – was sufficient to convince Davis that his decision to keep Bragg was the correct one.
October 30th: The flat-bottomed steam ship returned to Chattanooga at night towing several barges full of 40,000 rations. It arrived just in time as the soldiers in the town only had half a breakfast ration left. The citizens in the town only had four boxes of hard bread left for all of them.