Saturday, May 11, 2013

Burnside Bridge / Antietam

  Lee had continually shifted men from his right to re-enforce his left at Antietam until there were only 500 confederates facing General Ambrose Burnside's entire IX Corps. Burnside as it turned out was one of the North's worse Generals. However he was an inventor of the Burnside rifle and his side whiskers became known as Burnside's which at some point in time was turned into the term sideburns. The reason 500 Confederates could hold off a whole Union Corps is because they defended the high boulder strewn bluff on the west bank of Antietam Creek. The Yankee's were trying to cross the narrow stone structure called the Rohrbach Bridge under heavy fire. Antietam Creek was not fordable at that point and Burnside could have forded it about a half mile downstream but he wasted three hours and at least that many attacks trying to cross over on the bridge. Lee shifted several artillery batteries to fight Burnside but Burnside was finally able to establish a bridgehead on the west bank. There was nothing standing between him and the Confederate rear but he wasted another two hours getting all of his men across and forming his attack.

  Confederate General A.P. Hill forced marched his three thousand man Division the seventeen miles from Harper's Ferry just in time to meet Burnside's attack at 2:30 in the afternoon. Burnside was so rattled he retreated back to the west bank of Antietam Creek and remained there for the rest of the day. This was the end of the Battle of Antietam. There had been 13,000 Union Casualties and 10,000 Confederate. More Americans died in one day at Antietam than any other battle in history. Lee remained where he was the next day waiting for an attack that never came. That night he began recrossing the Potomac back into Virginia. Although Antietam had been a tactical draw it was a strategic victory for the Union because it ended Lee's invasion of the North. It was also the turning point of the war because Lincoln was able to issue his Emancipation Proclamation that changed the war from not just a fight to preserve the Union but a fight for human freedom. The Emancipation Proclamation virtually ended any thought of intervention by England or France on the side of the Confederacy. This was because of the support of the common man in Europe for the end of slavery in America. The Rohrbach bridge would forever be known from that point on as the Burnside Bridge.

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