the rohrbach bridge more commonly known as the burnside bridge is one of the most famous structures in the battle of antietam. union general ambrose burnside was ordered to cross this bridge and attack the confederate southern flank. the bridge was defended by 2 nd and 20 th georgia brigades commanded by general robert toombs. from 9:00 to 10:00 am burnsides forces tried to take the bridge but were repulsed by the georgians. after several attempts to take the bridge the 51 st new york and the 51 st pennsylvania regiments under the command of general edward ferreo attacked the georgians. at the same time the forces of general isaac p. rodman were crossing antietam creek at snavely's ford. toombs knowing that he was about to be overrun by the union withdrew from the bridge. even though the bridge was taken toombs' three hour defence of the bridge gave general lee time to reinforce his southern flank. robert toombs was an interesting character in american history. prior to the civil war he was a u. s. senator and was the first secretary of the confederate states. toombs had a falling out with president jefferson davis over the attack on fort sumter and resigned as secretary of state. he joined the confederate army and was wounded during the battle of antietam. robert toombs' home in washington georgia was jefferson davis' last residence before his capture by the union in 1865. burnside bridge is stop number 9 on the battlefield auto tour.
after general burnside captured rohrbach bridge the bridge became a bottleneck for soldiers, artillery, and wagons which caused another two hour delay in his attack on general lee's line. by 2:30 pm general a. p. hill had arrived from harpers ferry with 3,000 reinforcements. burnside's initial assault on the confederate line was led by the 79 th new york "cameron highlanders". the 79 th new york pushed back by general d. r. jones forces past cemetery hill on the eastern edge of sharpsburg. at the same time the 9 th new york zouaves came under heavy artillery fire mounted on a ridge southeast of sharpsburg. after the confederates routed the 16 th connecticut and the 4 th rhode island at otto farm burnside's IX corps withdrew back east to antietam creek. general lee withdrew back into sharpsburg which was the conclusion of the bloody one day battle of antietam. the final attack is stop number 10 on the battlefield auto tour.
located between stops 6 and 7 on the battlefield auto tour is the vermont monument. this simple granite monument honors:
general w. t. h. brooks
2 nd division, sixth corps
major james h. walbridge
2 nd regiment
major thomas d. seaver
3 rd regiment
colonel charles b. stoughton
4 th regiment
colonel lewis a. grant
5 th regiment
major oscar s. tuttle
clara barton is best known as the founder of the american red cross after the civil war. it was thought that clara barton tended to the wounded at joseph poffenberger farm during the battle of antietam. recent research suggests that barton actually served as a nurse at the samuel poffenberger farm 3/4 mile to the southwest of this location.
while the cornfield remained a bloody statemate union advances a few hundred yards to the west were more successful. general john gibbon's 4 th brigade, (iron brigade) began advancing down hagerstown turnpike in the direction of dunker church. they were halted by a charge of 1,150 men of starke's louisiana brigade. starke was mortally wounded and hooker's corps continued their advance into the west woods. later thomas "stonewall" jackson's line was reinforced by james hood's division of 2,300 men and pushed the union back into the cornfield. after twenty minutes 2,200 union troops were killed or wounded in the west woods. west woods is stop number 5 on the battlefield auto tour.
as union forces emerged from the north woods south into miller's cornfield, an artillery duel erupted. confederate fire from j. e. b. stuart's horse artillery batteries from the west and colonel s. d. lee from dunker church to the south converged on the cornfield. union return fire was returned from nine batteries on a ridge behind north woods and four batteries two miles east of antietam creek. after the artillery duel fierce hand to hand combat raged through the cornfield and men beat each other with rifle butts and stabbed each other with bayonets. union generals hooker and ricketts were wounded during the battle. the cornfield is stop number 4 on the battlefield auto tour.
near the visitor center and dunker church are serveral large monuments. this massive monument is the state of new york monument. troops from the state of new york were commanded by generals fitz john porter and edwin sumner. the state of new york monument is at stop number 1 on the battlefield auto tour.
antietam national cemetery was established in 1865 and was dedicated in 1867 for the reinternment of union dead in the battle of antietam. there are over 4,000 graves in the cemetery of which over 1,800 are unknown. the focal point of the cemetery is the massive statue of "old simon" who represents the average union soldier. confederate dead were reinterned at hagerstown, and frederick maryland and in shepherdstown west virginia. antietam national cemetery is stop number 11 on the battlefield auto tour.
john otto was a farmer and a pastor at dunker church. after general burnside's capture of rohrbach bridge the forces of maxcy gregg's south carolina brigade attacked the 16 th connecticut brigade in otto's field. the otto farm is located between stops 9 and 10 on the battlefield auto tour.
after the capture of rohrback bridge general burnside's forces began to move west towards general lee's defensive line on harpers ferry road. the sherrick farm was located in the center of burnsides troop movements. sherrick farm is located between stops number 9 and 10 on the battlefield auto tour.
william mc kinley enlisted in the union army as a private at the outbreak of the civil war. at the battle of antietam mc kinley was a sargent in the 23 rd ohio regiment commanded by future president rutherford b. hayes. by the end of the civil war mc kinley had risen to the rank of major. this monument was dedicated in 1903 two years after president mc kinley was assassinated. mc kinley was the last u. s. president to fight in the civil war. the mc kinley monument is at stop 9 on the battlefield auto tour.
the irish brigade was formed in november 1861. the brigade was largely recruited in massachusetts, new york, and pennsylvania. the brigade fought in all of the major campaigns of the army of the potomac. the irish brigade lost over 4,000 men during the war. eleven members of the irish brigade were awarded the congressional medal of honor. this monument was dedicated in 1997 and is the last monument to be erected in the park. the irish monument is located at stop number 8 on the battlefield auto tour.
the observation tower was built by the war department in 1896 in order to create an open air military classroom at antietam. the war department also built roads and placed cannons around the battlefield. the war department established five national military parks in the 1890's, antietam, gettysburg, chickamauga-chattanooga, shiloh, and vickburg. in 1933 the administration of these parks were transfered to the national park service. the observation tower in located at stop number 8 on the battlefield auto tour.
this is a very unusual monument because it honors both union and confederate regiments. maryland was a boarder state during the civil war and many residents chose different sides to fight on. this monument honors,
baltimore light infantry CSA
purnell legion USA
first maryland light infantry USA
fifth maryland infantry USA
first maryland battery CSA
third maryland infantry USA
second regiment maryland USA
the maryland state monument is located at stop number 1 on the battlefield auto tour.
this monument honors the troops of the 20 th regiment new york volunteer infantry also known as turner's rifles. the regiments casualties were 38 killed, 96 wounded, and 11 missing.
the 20th new york regiment monument is located at stop number 1 on the battlefield auto tour.