Despite Lincoln’s urgings, General George McClellan’s Army remained disengaged with the enemy in mid-October 1862. Lincoln himself calculated that the Army of the Potomac had a total of over 231,000 men, of whom 144,000 plus were fit for duty. The president could not understand McClellan’s procrastination.
On Monday, October 20, 1862 President Abraham Lincoln ordered General John A. McClernand of Illinois, a close personal friend and political ally, to recruit a force from Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa which would conduct operations against Confederate held Vicksburg, Mississippi. Four days earlier General Ulysses Grant had been appointed commander of the Department of Tennessee, which gave Grant command against Vicksburg.
After Don Carlos Buell’s Union forces defeated the Confederates of Braxton Bragg at Perryville, Kentucky on October 8, 1862, Confederate forces abandoned Lexington, Kentucky. On October 16 Union forces occupied the city, with Union Major Charles B. Seidel and his command occupying Ashland. However, two days later on Saturday, October 18, 1862, in a daring daylight exploit General John Hunt Morgan and his Confederate raiders defeated Federal cavalry near Lexington, Kentucky, capturing Union Major Charles B. Seidel and his command.
Federal officials reviewed the work of Major Jonathan Letterman, head of the Army of Potomac’s medical corps, in light of Union casualties suffered at Antietam. General George McClellan had earlier tasked Letterman to improve the efficiency of the Union medical corps. Letterman responded, forming an independent ambulance corps to remove the wounded from the battlefield. Then, at sites off the battlefield a system of triage—determining casualties as lightly wounded, severely wounded, or fatally wounded—would be used.
On Tuesday, October 14, 1862, elections were held throughout the North. Democrats won 35 congressional seats previously held by Republicans and won the governor’s post in both New York and New Jersey, while taking statewide races in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. Vastly outnumbered in New England, Democrats still achieved nearly 45 percent of the vote in all state races and nearly 50 percent in the congressional contests. Even where Republicans won their vote, totals declined in comparison to their 1860 vote.
The Confederate War Department on Friday, October 10, 1862 ordered Major General John B. Magruder to command the Confederate District of Texas. Magruder’s reassignment to the western theatre of war was the result of his lackluster performance during the Seven Days Battle for Richmond.
On Monday, October 13th, President Abraham Lincoln, worried about J.E.B. Stuart’s Confederate cavalry operating north of the Potomac, requested information from General George McClellan. In a lengthy correspondence, Lincoln chided the commander of the Army of the Potomac, asking “Are you not over-cautious when you assume that you can not do what the enemy is constantly doing?”
By mid-October 1862 there was growing opposition within the Confederate nation on conscription. Common folks complained that the draft exempted planters who owned 20 or more slaves, as were certain overseers and skilled laborers such as druggists, school teachers, miners, and those deemed by the government to be in crucial industries. In addition, the law allowed affluent citizens the privilege of buying "substitutes" or paying $300 to avoid the draft.
On Thursday, October 9, 1862, at Robert E. Lee’s urging, General J.E.B. Stuart left with eighteen hundred Confederate cavalry on a ride which would take him across the Potomac, into the North, and around McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. Stuart had accomplished a similar feat in June during the Seven Days Battle for Richmond.
On Wednesday, October 8, 1862, the most significant battle fought in Kentucky occurred west of Perryville, when Union troops under General Don Carlos Buell attacked General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate forces. Both armies struggled for supremacy, with Buell unaware until late in the day that a major conflict was actually being fought.