Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Scenes From Antietam: Burnside Bridge

The Burnside Bridge

The position of Toomb's Georgians looking down on Antietam Creek. The foliage was much less on the day of the battle and the sharpshooters had a clear view up and down the creek.

The Burnside Bridge. This would have been the view of Union soldiers as they attempted to cross the creek. You can see the imposing heights just beyond.

As the battle passed south through the afternoon, General Ambrose Burnside was ordered to take a bridge over the creek. He delayed however due to his observation that the opposite bank rose in a steep rise bristling with Confederates. Eventually after much prodding by his superior General George McClellan, Burnside moved his troops forward. They immediately came under a hail of fire from the heights including a brigade of Georgians under the command of Georgia's General Robert Toombs. Repulsed several times with staggering losses, the Union forces eventually gained the far bank and reinforcements began to push towards the town. At this critical moment, the division of A.P. Hill after a 17 mile forced march arrived from Harpers Ferry and pushed the Union forces back across the creek.

As dusk fell the battle staggered to an end with both forces back in nearly the same position as dawn that morning. No tactical gain had been achieved, but the following evening Lee retreated into Virginia and with the failure of the southern forces to penetrate northern soil, the respite gave President Abraham Lincoln the opportunity to present the Emancipation Proclamation.

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