Sharp fighting on Sunday, Oct. 13, near Henrytown, Missouri, resulted in the dispersal of a Confederate scouting party intent on raiding Federal communications between St. Louis and Springfield. Another skirmish occurred at Cotton Hill in western Virginia. Brig. Gen. Thomas Williams superceded Brig. Gen. Joseph K.F. Mansfield in Federal command in North Carolina. The next day, citizens of Chincoteague Island, Accomack County, Virginia, took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States before Federal naval officers. “We are united as one man in our abhorrence of secession heresies,” the residents of the island stated.
Out west, Col. James H. Carleton assumed command on Oct. 14 of the Federal District of Southern California; Gen. Braxton Bragg was given command of the Confederate Department of Alabama & West Florida. In Washington, President Lincoln authorized Gen. Winfield Scott to suspend the writ of habeas corpus anywhere between Bangor, Maine, and Washington, if necessary, because of suspected subversion. In Missouri, Missouri State Guard pro-secessionist Jeff Thompson proclaimed in the southeastern part of the state that he had come to Jefferson, St. Genevieve, St. Francois, Washington, and Iron Counties to help residents throw off the yoke of the North. He called on them to “drive the invaders from your soil or die among your native hills.”
On Tuesday, Oct. 15, a band of Jeff Thompson’s raiders captured a party of Union troops and burned the Big River bridge near Potosi, Missouri, as a part of the increased activities of the Missourians. A skirmish was fought in Fairfax County, Va., on the Little River Turnpike. In order to overtake the ship carrying Commissioners John Slidell and James Mason to Europe to secure recognition for the Confederacy, three Union gunboats left New York in search of the C.S.S. Nashville, despite the fact that the commissioners were sailing for their first stop in Cuba aboard the merchant vessel Theodora. The following day, a party of Union troops seized 21,000 bushels of wheat stored in a mill near Harper’ Ferry, Virginia, but on their return, encountered a band of Confederates. A sharp, brisk fight occurred before the Federals were able to return to Harper’s Ferry.
In Richmond the same day, President Davis was having difficulty with state-conscious soldiers in the Army, and was trying to maintain the state regiments as well as create strong army corps. He refused permission of one Kentucky regiment to leave the Army in the east and return to defend their state. Public interest prevented him from granting such requests.
On Oct. 17, there was speculation North and South about where a Federal coastal invasion, now under way, would strike. Flag Officer Samuel DuPont declared that Port Royal, S.C., was the most useful as a Federal naval and coaling station. During October, the Federal blockade was tightened and there were numerous captures off the south Atlantic coast. In Washington, President Lincoln asked that jobs be given to two young men whose mother said, “she has two sons who want to work.” He added, “wanting to work is so rare a merit that it should be encouraged.”
In Washington the next day, a Cabinet meeting discussed the aging Gen. Winfield Scott’s possible voluntary retirement. There was some fighting in northern Virginia and a Federal gunboat reconnaissance on the Mississippi River as well as in Missouri between Jeff Thompson’s troops and Federal troops in the Ironton vicinity. On Oct. 19, the U.S.S. Massachusetts exchanged fire with the C.S.S. Florida in an inconclusive engagement near Ship Island off the Mississippi gulf coast. In western Virginia, there were considerable military operations taking place in the Kanawha and New River valleys.
On Sunday Oct. 20, the military focus turned to Leesburg, Virginia. Federal troops under Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks occupied the area from Washington to Harper’s Ferry, and pickets guarded the north bank of the Potomac River to guard against a Confederate invasion into Maryland. Demonstrations on both sides in the Leesburg area took place, and the Federals occupied Dranesville, Va. The stage was being set for one of the most controversial lesser events of the War.