The Battle of Antietam was fought in Sharpsburg, Maryland, between the Potomac River and Antietam Creek. Three bridges span the creek. The southernmost bridge was the Burnside Bridge, named for Union Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside. More than 13,000 men in Burnside’s 9th Corps fought for over three hours to cross the bridge on the Rohrbach property.
In the above map, purple lines mark hiking trails. Red lines show the approximate location of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, and blue lines represent the Union Army of the Potomac.
Burnside Bridge Over Antietam Creek
Less than 500 Georgians under the command of Confederate Brig. Gen. Robert Toombs had held the federals in-check from an overlook on the west bank. A brigade of men from Ohio and Connecticut first tried to cross the bridge, but they were forced back. A brigade from Maryland and New Hampshire made the second charge, but failed. Finally, Brig. Gen. Edward Ferrero’s 51st New York and 51st Pennsylvania regiments took the bridge and Burnside’s 9th Corps crossed to the west bank to join the final attack of the day.
Witness Tree on the East Bank
A “witness tree” is a tree that is old enough to have “witnessed” something, usually something important. The National Park Service identifies the tree in the following photo as having been a sapling during the Battle of Antietam. It stands on the east bank of Antietam Creek, where Union infantry struggled to cross the bridge, only later engage Gen. Lee’s Confederates in The Final Attack.
The next photo present a Union View of the Burnside Bridge, also called the Rohrbach Bridge after the family whose property was overrun here during the battle. Three bridges span Antietam Creek in the Sharpsburg area; since this bridge is the southernmost of the three, it is also called the Lower Bridge.
View from the West Bank
Back to Landscapes