The Burnside Bridge

This page consists of quotes made the night before the Battle of Antietam.  It was last updated on December 21, 2011.  There are 47 quotes in this collection.

 

Confederate Quotes

 

“We are now in the land of danger, far, from home, fighting for our homes and those near our hearts.”

A soldier of the Palmetto Sharpshooters expresses this sentiment

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“were very much reduced, but they discharged their duty most heroically-Regiment after regiment, and even brigades were brought up against them; and yet they held their ground, and the bridge too, until they had fired their last cartridge.”

A Southerner observes the battle

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“Dying as a brave men should die”

David R. Jones Jones in his official report regretting the deaths of the 2nd Georgia’s Lt. Col. William R. Holmes and the 15th Georgia’s Col. W.T. Millican

From “Dying as Brave Men Should:  The Attack and Defense of Burnside’s Bridge.” by Keith B. Tomey.   The Maryland Campaign of 1862 and its Aftermath, Civil War Regiments Vol 6 No. 2. Campell CA:  Savas Publishing Company, 1998.

 

“During that long and terrible fire, not a man, except a wounded one, fell out and went to the rear-not a man.”

Henry Benning commanding Toomb’s brigade at the bridge paid this tribute

From “Dying as Brave Men Should:  The Attack and Defense of Burnside’s Bridge.” by Keith B. Tomey.   The Maryland Campaign of 1862 and its Aftermath, Civil War Regiments Vol 6 No. 2. Campell CA:  Savas Publishing Company, 1998.

 

“the creek was fordable everywhere above and below the bridge; in most places not more than knee-deep.”

Henry L. Benning’s observations about the Burnside Bridge

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“The general line of battle of our army was nearly, if not quite, three-quarters of a mile in rear, and not a soldier was between them and that line. The intervening ground for a great part of the way was a long slope facing the enemy’s batteries, and thus commanded by those batteries, so that reinforcements, if they had been sent would have been cut up by shells before they could have reached their destination…thus the two regiments were also without infantry supports, and without the expectation of receiving any re-enforcements.”

Henry L. Benning describes his situation at the bridge

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“the fire not only from their infantry, but from the artillery was incessant, the artillery being placed that it could fire over the heads of the infantry.”

Henry L. Benning describes the artillery fire against his troops

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

“During that long and terrible battle not a  man except a wounded one, fell out and went to the rear-not a man.”

Henry L. Benning describes the conduct of his men on the field

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“might have waded that day without getting their waist belts wet in any place.”

Kyd Douglas observation about the depth of the Antietam at the Burnside Bridge

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“a braver man[,] he is insensible to fear, bombs, bullets were to him a pastime. I verily believe that it was a matter of perfect indifference to him whether he was killed or not.  He would not take care when he could. It may be said of him that he was foolishly brave.”

Pvt Terrill describing his regimental commander Ltc Holmes

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“General Toomb’s small command repulsed five different assaults made by greatly superior officers, and maintained its position with distinguished gallantry.”

Robert E. Lee’s report on Toomb’s brigade performance at Sharpsburg

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“The conduct of the officers and men generally under my command in the battle of Sharpsburg was so strongly marked with the noble virtues of the patriot soldier that a narrative of this day’s deeds performed by them, however simple and unadorned

Robert Toombs describing the actions of his men at Antietam

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“so many of the men were shot down that the officers filled their places and loaded and fired their guns.”

Theodore Fogle

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“Poor Johnnie Slade, he was a splendid soldier. He did his duty well before he fell, He had nearly shot away all his cartridges & was standing up watching the effect of his last shot when a ball passed through the third finger of his right hand & into his stomach & liver. It came out at his back, he was carried to a safe place.”

Pvt Theodore Fogle describing the death of Johnny Slade

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

“I know the field & road in front of us was black with their bodies…we had driven back seven full Yankee regiments in succession & then they came by Brigades & our ammunition was exhausted & we had to leave, but only then after the Yankees had crossed the river [creek] and were advancing in line on our right. They were also in front of us in overwhelming numbers.”

Theodore Fogle in a letter describes the attack

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

“was as brave a man as I ever saw, he was perfectly cool & calm & did not seem to know what the word danger meant, he had won the confidence of the regiment.”

Theodore Fogle describes Col William Holmes of the 2nd Georgia

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

Union Quotes

 

“Benjamin’s battery, posted on yon hill which overlooks the whole space between our advance bodies and the wooded hills where the enemy lay, is belching forth a severe fire.”

A Pennsylvania soldier describes the effect of Benjamin’s battery on the Confederates

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

“seeing a rebel soldier’s haversack, rather large, overhauled it & found it full of Johnny Cakes & emptied them into his & was eating them, when [one] of our men said he could not eat anything out of a dead man’s haversack & replied, ‘Damn’ em man, the Johnny is dead, but the Johnnycakes is no Dead’ & he continued eating ahead.”

A Pennsylvania soldier. Yankees take some provisions from the rebel dead.

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“He would soon advance, and would go up the hill as far as a battery of the enemy on the left would permit.”

Ambrose Burnside to McClellan’s order to continue his attack after capturing the bridge.”

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“Our loss at this place was fearful, the enemy being posted in rifle pits and behind barricades, within easy musket range of our men, and almost entirely concealed and covered from our shots. We lost at this point some of our valuable officers.”

Ambrose Burnside reports on the casualties to the Ninth Corps

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“Gen. Burnside came to our Col. and said the stone bridge over the Antietam Creek must be taken and held until troops could be thrown over and assigned the duty to the 11th Conn.”

A soldier of the 11th Connecticut recollects the orders to attack the bridge.

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“many of our brave boys [were] killed. Our colonel was very calm and told us not to get excited.”

A soldier of the 11th Connecticut describes the composure of Colonel Kingsbury

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“Yes by God! You shall have as much as you want, if you take the bridge…if I have to send to New York to get it and pay for it out of my own purse.  Will you take it?”

Edward Ferrero in reply to Corporal Lewis Patterson of the 51st Pennsylvania

From “Dying as Brave Men Should:  The Attack and Defense of Burnside’s Bridge.” by Keith B. Tomey.   The Maryland Campaign of 1862 and its Aftermath, Civil War Regiments Vol 6 No. 2. Campell CA:  Savas Publishing Company, 1998.

 

“it was strongly covered by riflemen, protected by rifle-pits, stone fences, &c, and enfiladed by artillery. The ground in front of this line consisted of undulating hills, their crests in turn commanded by others in their rear.”

George B. McClellan in his final report describes the terrain at the Burnside bridge

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“to advance to a strong position in the immediate vicinity of the bridge and to reconnoiter the approaches to the bridge carefully.”

George B. McClellan orders to Burnside on Sep 16

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“Tell General Burnside this is the battle of the war-he must hold his ground till dark at any cost…Tell him if he cannot hold his ground, then the bridge, to the last man! always the bridge! If the bridge is lost, all is lost!”

George B. McClellan in a dispatch to Burnside regarding holding his ground

From Counter-Thrust From the Peninsula to the Antietam by Benjamin Franklin Cooling. Lincoln: University of Nebraska 2007.

 

“As soon as you shall have uncovered the upper stone bridge you will be supported, and if necessary, on your own line of attack. So far all is going well.”

George B. McClellan’s 9:10 AM orders to Burnside to attack the bridge

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“back with an order to Gen. Burnside to assault the bridge at once, and carry it at all hazards.”

George B. McClellan

McClellan’s reply to an aide who has returned from the bridge and reports slow progress

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“directed Colonel Sacket, Inspector-General, to deliver to General Burnside my positive order to push forward his troops without a moment’s delay, and, if necessary, to carry the bridge at the point of the bayonet, and I ordered Colonel Sacket to remain with General Burnside and see that the order was executed promptly.”

George B. McClellan. After a second report that the bridge had not been captured, McClellan’s response

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“to advance at once, if possible, to flank the battery or storm it, and carry the heights.”

George B. McClellan. Additional orders to Burnside upon hearing from him that a battery was delaying his advance.

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“to inform General Burnside that I desired him to push forward his troops with the utmost vigor, and carry the enemy’s position on the heights; that the movement was vital to our success.”

George B. McClellan

Upon hearing of the capture of the bridge, McClellan sent Colonel Thomas Key to Burnside with additional orders.

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“If this important movement had been consummated two hours earlier, a position would have been secured upon the heights from which our batteries might have enfiladed the greater part of the enemy’s line, and turned their right and rear. Our victory might thus have been much more decisive.”

George B. McClellan’s criticism of Burnside’s lack of initiative in not renewing the attack earlier on the afternoon of Sep 17

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“As none of our wagons came up, we had to go to bed supperless, nor did we have anything to eat since morning. The next morning my servant went to a house on neutral grounds between the lines of skirmishers. He found that the occupants had fled, but they had left a batch of bread ready to bake, and plenty of nice butter and milk in the cellar. We baked the bread, and returned with such a breakfast that none of us had tasted for many a day.”  George Crook describes getting breakfast the morning of the battle

From George Crook His Autobiography edited and arranged by Martin F. Schmitt. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1946.

 

“After the opposite of the creek, Antietam, was occupied, Gen. Cox came over for the first time I had seen him since the South Mountain fight.”

George Crook mentions that he has not seen Cox since Sep 14

From George Crook His Autobiography edited and arranged by Martin F. Schmitt. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1946.

 

“I learned afterwards that Gen. Sturgis with a division was repulsed in trying to take the bridge earlier in the morning, losing some six hundred men, principally against the bluffs where Col. Coleman lost his life. I was expected to accomplish with my brigade what a division had failed to do, and without ever getting the benefit of the knowledge he had gained in his reconnaissance. Such imbecility and incompetency was simply criminal, a great deal of which lasted until the close of the war. It was galling to have to serve under such people. But many of them, by maneuvering in politics and elsewhere, are looked upon by certain people throughout the land as some of our military luminaries.”

George Crook complaining about the command of the Ninth Corps during the battle of Antietam

From George Crook His Autobiography edited and arranged by Martin F. Schmitt. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1946.

 

“The enemy was occupying a cornfield on this second high ground. The side of this field towards us had a stone fence, behind which we took shelter. To our right a short distance was Gen. Willcox, aiming a gun in person, all his men gone. He sent out word to us to know why in hell we were not advancing. Just then Col. Scammon came up from my left. He was in temporary command of our division, and sent word back to Willcox that if he would give him written orders, he would march.”

George Crook describes the final attack toward Sharpsburg

From George Crook His Autobiography edited and arranged by Martin F. Schmitt. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1946.

 

“Gen. McClellan desires you to open your attack. As soon as you shall have uncovered the upper stone bridge [Middle Bridge] you will be supported, and if necessary, on your own line of attack. So far all is going well.”

George D. Ruggles to Burnside ordering the attack on the bridge 9:10AM

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“to march under cover of the Eleventh Connecticut and attempt to carry the bridge by assault, deploying to right and left as soon as the bridge should be carried, and taking the heights above it.”

Jacob D. Cox. Orders to Crook to capture the bridge from Jacob Cox’s report

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“What the hell you doing there? Straighten that line, there. Forward!”

Jacob Duryea to the men of the 2nd Maryland at the Burnside Bridge

From “Dying as Brave Men Should:  The Attack and Defense of Burnside’s Bridge.” by Keith B. Tomey.   The Maryland Campaign of 1862 and its Aftermath, Civil War Regiments Vol 6 No. 2. Campell CA:  Savas Publishing Company, 1998.

 

“the Rebel guns were pouring in a destructive fire…while continuous volleys from an unseen enemy in the woods were also showered upon…this ‘valley of death.’”

John Rouse, an 11th soldier describes the attack on the bridge

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“Will you give us our whiskey colonel if we take it?”

Corporal Lewis Patterson of Company I, 51st Pennsylvania to Col. Ferraro at the Burnside Bridge

From “Dying as Brave Men Should:  The Attack and Defense of Burnside’s Bridge.” by Keith B. Tomey.   The Maryland Campaign of 1862 and its Aftermath, Civil War Regiments Vol 6 No. 2. Campell CA:  Savas Publishing Company, 1998.

 

“The brave fellows reeled and fell back as if smitten at the bridge with the blast of Hell….At this bridge the murderous balls and bursting shells were appalling destruction hovered in the air, death environed it; the approaches were strewn with dead men. It spanned the Antietam, but all who attempted to cross it had found eternity.”

One federal.  The tragic fate of the 2nd Maryland

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“cheering and dropping at every step as [we] descended the plowed hill in full view of the enemy. The gravel struck up by the bullets stinging hand and face…we charged in regular order, but some of the boys could not be restrained from firing at the enemy…the shrieks of the wounded and the moans of the dying could only be faintly heard amid the din of noise and confusion.”

Private Groff describes the assault on the bridge

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“God damm you to hell sir!  Don’t you understand the English language?  I ordered you to advance in line and support the 2nd Maryland, and what in hell are you doing flanking around in this corn?”

Samuel Sturgis

Sturgis blasting Col Siegfried of the 48th Pennsylvania as Siegfried attempts to form up the 48th to support Nagles attack

From Our Boys Did Nobly Schuylkill County Pennsylvania, Soldiers at the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam by John David Hoptak.  John David Hoptak, 2009.

 

“With fixed bayonets [at] the double quick, [they] 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 to the bridge.  As the attacking party led by Colonel Griffen debouched from the field into the road, the rebels from heir 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.  Such sweeping destruction checked the advancing column, but the men sheltered themselves behind logs, fences, and whatever other cover they could find, and bravely held the ground already gained.  6th New Hampshire soldier

A soldier of the 6th NH describes action at the Burnside Bridge during attack by 6th NH

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

“It seemed as if all the noises in the world had broken out at once.”

Theodore Dimon surgeon of the 2d Maryland describing the artillery support during Nagle’s attack

From Our Boys Did Nobly Schuylkill County Pennsylvania, Soldiers at the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam by John David Hoptak.  John David Hoptak, 2009.

“seemed to melt away like a thread of solder before a blowtorch.”

a dazed survivor of the carnage

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

2 Responses

  1. My .gr. gr. uncle died at Burnside’s Bridge serving in the 51st Pennsylvania and is buried in Antietam’s cemetary. I have been trying to learn more about the 51st Pennsylvania. Reading these quotes helped me to better understand the task that the 51st Pennsylvania engaged at Antietam. Perhaps my uncle was in that first hundred to pass through the fence where so many died.

    • Sara
      Good luck on your research on the 51st Pennsylvania. It is certainly possible that he was in the attack across the bridge as you know that both the 51st Pennsylvania, and 51st New York led the attack. Thank you for looking at my blog.
      Regards
      Jim

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