Final Attack Trail-Stop 1

Burnside Bridge with fall colors
General James Longstreet
Confederate Gen. James Longstreet, Commander of the Confederate Right Wing at the Battle of Antietam

Stop 1 - The Burnside Bridge

In this part of the battle, which lasted from 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., there were five times as many casualties than there were in the action at the Burnside Bridge. Two Generals were killed and Colonel Harrison Fairchild’s Brigade of Union soldiers suffered the highest percentage of casualties for any brigade in the Union army at the Battle of Antietam. These final two and a half hours of combat concluded the twelve-hour struggle that still ranks as the bloodiest one day battle in American history.

As you stand at the start of the trail imagine that it is September 17, 1862 and about 3:00 in the afternoon as you look west into the afternoon sun. There had been a three-hour struggle for possession of the crucial Antietam Creek crossing behind you. Finally, the Confederates retreated from this high ground defending the bridge.

Portrait of General Ambrose Burnside
Union Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside commanded the IX Corps at the Battle of Antietam who fought on this southern end of the battlefield.

For two hours thousands of sweat stained, clanking, blue clad soldiers tramped by to your left and right in preparation for the final advance to drive Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army from Maryland. Approximately 8,000 Union soldiers would resupply and reorganize into a mile-wide line of battle and advance across the ground that you will walk.

Things have quieted down on the north end of the battlefield, but the artillery in front of and behind you is still banging away as another battery of guns rumbles past with horses straining to pull their heavy load. Ahead is unknown, but you are sure the enemy is still there, and this might be your last day.

The trail starts on the other side of the parking lot from the Burnside Bridge and heads west.


Last updated: February 24, 2021

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