From New Orleans, Louisiana, on October 23, 1863 Commodore Henry Bell, commander of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, informed Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles by letter that Union General Nathaniel Banks had requested transports to convey himself and a force of Union troops to the mouth of the Rio Grande River in Texas, with the express purpose of occupying the island of Brazos Santiago at the mouth of the river.
On Saturday, October 24, 1863 General Ulysses Grant ordered a supply line to be opened at Brown’s Ferry on the Tennessee River. If successful, Union bases in Alabama could more directly supply Chattanooga rather than using the lengthy, more difficult mountain trails north of the Tennessee River.
On Friday, October 23 and Saturday, October 24, 1863 both the Confederate and Union leadership made important command decisions. While on a tour of the western states, President Jefferson Davis at Meridian, Mississippi relieved General Leonidas Polk from command of a corps in the Confederate Army of Tennessee.
Polk, who had quarreled openly with General Braxton Bragg, was assigned to organizational work in Mississippi, replacing General William Hardee; Polk, a personal friend of Jefferson Davis, later in 1864 would be restored to command but killed outside of Atlanta.
On Tuesday, October 20, 1863 after conferring with Union Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, Ulysses Grant left Louisville, Kentucky for Chattanooga, Tennessee. At Stevenson, Alabama Grant conferred with William Rosecrans who Grant had replaced in command at Chattanooga and continued on his way toward that city.
The mountain roads on which he traveled were almost impassable due to their muddy condition, and Grant clearly suffered from an injury to his leg which occurred earlier in New Orleans when his horse fell on him.
As Lee retreated from the Manassas area, Jeb Stuart and his cavalry ambushed and routed Union General Judson Kilpatrick and the Federal cavalry at Buckland Mills, Virginia on Monday, October 19, 1863.
The Federal cavalry was driven back some five miles, in what Confederates derisively called "The Buckland Races." The following day, when Stuart’s cavalry retired across the Rappahannock River, Lee’s short campaign against Washington, D.C. officially ended.
On Friday, October 16, 1863 Abraham Lincoln telegraphed General Henry Halleck, stoically noting: “If Gen. Meade can now attack him [Lee] on a field no worse than equal for us, and will do so with all the skill and courage, which he, his officers and men possess, the honor will be his if he succeeds, and the blame will be mine if he fails.”
On Friday, October 16, 1863 the Union War Department created the Military Division of the Mississippi, combining the former Departments of the Ohio, Cumberland, and the Tennessee, under the command of General Ullyses Grant, the conqueror of Vicksburg, Mississippi.
On Thursday, October 15, 1863 in the harbor of Charlestown, South Carolina the H.L. Hunley, destined to change the nature of naval warfare, sank for a second time during a practice dive. Just two months earlier in August, the ship had sunk during a training exercise, killing five members of her crew.
After raising the ship, Confederate authorities had requested that the ship’s inventor H.L. Hunley assist in the training of the crew. Unfortunately H.L. Hunley was one of eight men killed during her second sinking.
By Wednesday, October 14, 1863 Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia, using a pattern similar to that of the Second Battle of Manassas in 1862, closed in on Manassas and Washington, D.C. George Meade, now aware of Lee’s position, moved his Union forces quickly to interdict Lee.
On Tuesday, October 13, 1863 Abraham Lincoln was pleased to learn that voters in the North had rejected the Peace Democrats and Northern Copperheads. Especially satisfying for Lincoln was the defeat of Clement Vallandigham, the notorious Copperhead who ran for governor of Ohio, despite having campaigned by mail while in exile in Canada.