War of the Rebellion: Serial 027 Page 0424 OPERATIONS IN N. VA., W. VA., MD., AND PA. Chapter XXXI.

Search Civil War Official Records

rott guns: the left front to be occupied by Rodman's division, supported in rear by Ewing's brigade, of the Kanawha Division, the whole of the latter division being under the command of Colonel E. P. scammon. The columns were conducted to their positions by staff officers of the personal staff of General Burnside. The artillery of the command, except Benjamin's battery held in reserve.

Shortly after daybreak on the 17th the enemy's batteries opened upon the batteries of our line, and a brisk artillery fight began, in which Benjamin's battery and Durell's battery (the latter sent forward a little to the right of our position, under charge of Captain Rawolle, by General Sturgis) took an active part, co-operating with batteries of other corps on our right. Two of the enemy's caissons were exploded, and many of their guns silenced. The shot and shell fell thickly in our bivouac, but little damage was done us.

About 7 o'clock orders were received from General Burnside to move forward the corps to the ridge nearest the Antietam, and hold it, in readiness to cross the stream, carrying the bridge and the heights above it by assault. The command was moved forward in column as it had been formed the previous night, and promptly took position as directed, and the light artillery was ordered to cover the movement; McMullin's Durell's, Clark's, Muhlenberg's and Cook's batteries being placed on the heights to right and left and somewhat to the front of Benjamin's battery, to which a section of 20-pounders from Simmonds' battery was also temporarily attached. Willcox's division was also brought up and held as a reserve.

About 9 o'clock the order was received to cross the stream. Immediately the Eleventh Connecticut infantry, Colonel Kingsbury commanding, was detailed from Rodman's division to deploy as skirmishers and drive the enemy from the head of the bridge. The column on the right (Crook's brigade, of the Kanawha Division, supported by Sturgis' division) was ordered 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. The column on the left (Rodman's division, supported by Ewing's brigade, of the Kanawha Division) was ordered to cross, if possible, by a ford about one-third of a mile below the bridge, take the heights above it, and join the column crossing the bridge.

The bridge itself is a stone structure of three arches, with stone parapet above, this parapet to some extent flanking the approach to the bridge at either end. The valley in which the stream runs is quite narrow, the steep slope on the right bank approaching quite to the water's edge. On this slope the roadway is scarped, running both ways from the bridge end, and passing to the higher lend above by ascending through ravines above and below; the other ravine being some 600 yards above the bridge, the turn about half that distance below. On the hillside immediately above the bridge was a strong stone fence running parallel to the stream. The turns of the roadway were covered by rifle-pits and breastworks, made of rails and stone, all of which defenses, as well as the woods which covered the slope, were filled with the enemy's infantry and sharpshooters. Besides the infantry defenses, batteries were placed to enfilade the bridge and all its approaches. The crest of the first hill above the bridge is curved toward the stream at the extremes, forming a sort of natural tete-de-pont. The next ridge beyond rises somewhat higher, though with less regularity the depression between the two being but slight, and the distance varying in places from 300 to 700 yards.