October 1862 saw Robert E Lee move his army away from Washington and for the time being the capital was safe. At the end of October 1862, the armies of McClellan and Lee were only two miles apart near the Blue Ridge Mountains.
October 1st: The Confederate press portrayed Lincoln’s emancipation declaration as a recipe for slave insurrection.
October 4th: The Confederates launched a major attack on Corinth. It was not a success as the Unionists were well dug in and the Confederates lost many men – 1,423 killed, 5,692 wounded and 2,248 missing. The North lost 315 dead, 1,812 wounded and 232 missing.
October 5th: As the Confederates withdrew from Corinth, their rearguard clashed with a Unionist force at Metamora by the Big Hatchie River. In this action, the Union lost over 500 men while the South lost about 400.
October 8th: A battle at Perryville in Kentucky led to heavy casualties on both sides. The North lost 916 killed, 2943 wounded and 489 missing while the South lost 500 killed, 2635 wounded and 251 missing out of their total of 16,000 men.
October 10th: Jefferson Davis requested to the Confederate Congress that 4500 African Americans be drafted in to build defences around Richmond.
October 11th: The Confederate Congress agreed with Davis but stipulated that anyone who owned twenty slaves or more was exempt from this call-up. This decision was not well received and the less well-off slave owners in the Confederacy started to comment that it was “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight”.
October 13th: Lincoln wrote again to McClellan to urge him to do something. “You remember my speaking to you of what I called your over-cautiousness. Are you not over-cautious when you assume that you cannot do what the enemy is constantly doing? Should you not claim to be at least his equal in prowess, and act upon that claim? If we do not beat the enemy where he now is, we never can, he again being within the entrenchments of Richmond.”
October 14th: While the Confederates had failed in Kentucky, they had taken vast amounts of booty that was vital to their supplies. While the Confederate press almost certainly exaggerated what was taken – the claim was that the wagon train was over 40 miles long – large amounts of barrelled pork and bacon were taken along with an estimated 1500 horses and 8000 cattle.
October 19th: In New Orleans, where the Unionists held power, General Butler passed two important pieces of legislation. The first was to raise three regiments of “free coloured men” and the second was to introduce the legal precedent that ‘blacks were equal to whites’ in the eyes of the law.
October 25th: Lincoln once again expressed his concern that McClellan appeared to be doing nothing.
October 26th: McClellan marched the Army of the Potomac back into Virginia. Whether this was part of a plan he already had or if it was in a direct response to Lincoln’s criticisms is not known.
October 28th: To avoid getting encircled by the Army of the Potomac, Robert E Lee moved his Army of Virginia further south and, therefore, further away from Washington DC. Lee’s army numbered 70,000 men while McClellan could call on 130,000 men – so it was a wise move. Sections of Lee’s army were ordered to maintain a close observation of McClellan’s men and for two days both sides were less than 2 miles apart but separated by the Blue Ridge Mountains.