Union Advance Trail Guide-Stop 4

Brig. Gen. James Nagle
Brig. Gen. James Nagle who wrote in his official report that “The position was a strong one for the enemy, as he was posted in strong force on the bank of Antietam Creek, on the wooded banks of this stream, with precipitous banks that afforded them shelter from our artillery and infantry.”

Stop 4 - Fence Opening

After the attacks of Crook’s Brigade and the 11th Connecticut failed, Brigadier General James Nagle was selected to lead the next assault on the bridge. Because of the difficult nature of the terrain, Nagle realized that he could not utilize his entire brigade in the attack. He thus chose two regiments—the 2nd Maryland & 6th New Hampshire—to charge toward the bridge using the Rohrersville Road (the restored gravel road from here to the bridge). His other two regiments—the 48th Pennsylvania & 9th New Hampshire—were to provide covering fire from the high bluff where you just walked. At 11:00 a.m., Nagle ordered the attack.

Captain Lyman Jackman of the 6th NH wrote that upon receiving the order, the soldiers “fixed bayonets, and, moving at the double quick, passed through a narrow opening in a strong chestnut fence—which there was no time to remove—and charged in the most gallant manner directly up the road toward the bridge.” As the 2nd MD & 6th NH rushed toward the bridge, “the rebels, from their entrenched position, redoubled the fury of their fire, sweeping the head of the column with murderous effect. Of the first hundred men who passed through the opening in the fence, at least nine-tenths were either killed or wounded.” Nagle’s attacking column soon melted away, and the roadside and creek bank were thickly strewn with dead and wounded soldiers. Another Union attempt to carry the bridge had failed.

Finally Across

Around 1:00 p.m., Ferrero’s men, who had scrambled down the hillside and halted along fences and stone wall, continued to fire across the creek. On the opposite bank, the Confederate firepower was dwindling. A Georgia soldier remembered how “their ammunition gave out, they took the cartridges from their dead and wounded comrades and shot it away at the enemy, and then were clamorous for more.”
Edwin Forbes sketch of Union soldiers charging across Burnside Bridge
Edwin Forbes sketch of Union soldiers charging across Burnside Bridge
The final blow to the Confederate position was Isaac Rodman’s Union soldiers who finally crossed Antietam Creek downstream. This, Toombs wrote, enabled the 9th Corps “to attack my small force in front, right flank, and rear…” In addition, Toombs reported to D.R. Jones that “my two regiments having been constantly engaged from early in the morning up to 1 o’clock with a vastly superior force of the enemy,…and the ammunition of both regiments being nearly exhausted,…I deemed it my duty, in pursuance of your original order, to withdraw my command….”

Red, white and blue flags led the Union charge across the bridge. Finally, after three hours of life and death struggle, the bridge was won. Toombs’ men fell back to join the rest of D.R. Jones’s command for the final stand to save Lee’s army.

Last updated: February 27, 2021

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 158
Sharpsburg, MD 21782


301 432-5124

Contact Us