Antietam Battlefield: 


Burnside Bridge as it appeared around the time of the Battle of Antietam
Image: Courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration 
Washington, DC 20408 and located at
 Burnside Bridge, formally known as Lower Bridge or Rohrback Bridge, has been deemed as one of the battlefield's most famous landmarks. Ambrose Burnside attempted to move his troops across, but were held off by 400 Georgia riflemen. The battlefield's most intense fighting occurred here, in turn, naming the bridge after the famous General Burnside. Union general Burnside did eventually cross the bridge, but his men were eventually forced to retreat by 3000 rebel soldiers who made a timely arrival from Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.

General McClellan later claimed that he had urged Burnside to storm the bridge in order to command the surrounding heights and inflict heavy losses on the retreating General Lee. Burnside countered with the claim that the order to move his 50 cannons and 12,000 men came too late to send the rebels packing. It took Burnside two attempts over three hours for his men to defeat the Georgia sharpshooters and 2000 additional Confederate riflemen and take the bridge. The Rebels had been strengthened by the forces of A.P. Hill, who had trekked the 17 miles from Harper's Ferry in seven hours.
Burnside Bridge as it appears today (1997)



McClellan showed his usual timidity in engaging Lee's forces after the debacle at Burnside Bridge. He fretted that a Union loss at Sharpsburg would open up Baltimore and the Union capital, Washington, DC, to Confederate capture. After the massive losses that took place at the Sunken Road, from thence called Bloody Lane, McClellan would have to wait to bring an end to the power of Lee's Army of Virginia as they slipped back across the Potomac River into Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

The battle represented the South's last chance at a meaningful offensive against the Army of the Potomac. History will hold the Battle of Antietam, and the fighting at Burnside Bridge, as the crest of the South's threat against the Union.

Burnside Bridge is 1 of the 14 stone-arch bridges built between 1823-1863. This very narrow bridge rest over the Antietam Creek. Burnside Bridge was constructed under the Washington County Government for $2,390.

Thumbnail: Burnside bridge Sketch by Ben B.
The sketch at left was submitted by Ben B., a senior at NHHS. Click on the thumbnail to see a 178 KB close-up of Ben's work. Use your browser's "back" button to return to this page.


Antietam National Battlefield lies north and east of Sharpsburg, along Md. 34 and 65. Both routes intersect either U.S. 40 and 40A and Int.70. The visitors center is open daily except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, and New Years. Most tour routes are wheelchair accessible. While touring the park, be alert to all traffic. If riding a bike, you should use caution when descending from a hill. Please use trails to avoid contact with snakes, stinging nettles, and ticks. Do not climb on cannons, monuments, fences or trees. Do not spoil your visit with an accident.


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