The “Burnside” Bridge
So let’s use our imagination for a second.
It is September 17, 1862 and you are a member of the Union 9th Corps standing on a bridge over Antietam Creek in Maryland. A general engagement has been going on down the line as Confederate and Union forces have been duking it out. You and your fellow soldiers find yourself on the far left of the Union line and in a position to roll up the Confederate flank. That is what your commander, General Burnside has been ordered to do.
There is just one problem.
See that ridge up there?
Now imagine that it contains over 300 Confederate soldiers, dug into rifle pits and covered by artillery.
So not only do you have to take the bridge, but create enough of a “beachhead” to allow your men to cross and THEN you still have to drive the Confederates from those heights. That does not sound like anything close to an easy task.
And it wasn’t.
The Confederates, again about 300, prevented the entire 9th Corp from crossing the bridge for three hours that day. Then, even though very outnumbered, they held their side of the bank for an additional two hours. That is five hours that the Union army basically was fought to a standstill on this part of the battlefield. In the end, over 500 Union soldiers meet their end here, many staring up at that same spot that you see in the picture.
The Union won the battle in the end and it was based on this victory that President Lincoln felt secure enough to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. More on that later…