1301Re: [TalkAntietam] Re: was burnside at fault for antietam???
- Mar 29, 2004
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, March 29, 2004 12:37 AM
Subject: [TalkAntietam] Re: was burnside at fault for antietam???
mcclellan wrote: "..but i think his [burnside] weak mind was
turned;that he was confused in action; and that subsequently he
really did not know what had occured."
mcclellans bias against burnside was also evident after he was
removed from commander of army of potomac when he stated he gave the
order for burnside to attack at 8 am instead of 10 am which he had
previously stated. rodmans presense and walkers march to the middle
of lee's line makes this a bit of a stretch but it is clear that he
is trying to shift some of the blame.
a few political cartoons or army sketches from that time also convey
burnside as the "bungling blunder" for his actions at antietam.
it also seems more and more today that mcclellans faulty battle plan
and misuse of his troops are overlooked and more blame is but on
burnside. well, you know my views...does that clear my question up?
Read the following. then make up your own mind!
As the Army of the Potomac was advancing towards Antietam, Burnside commanded the Right Wing consisting of the First and Ninth Corps. He had performed admirably at South Mountain. However, when the orders for deployment were handed out he was placed in a quandary. The First Corps was moved to the extreme northern part of the field and the Ninth, now commanded by Cox, was placed at the extreme southern part. Which should he be with? And how could he control the Corps he was separated from? McClellan gave the answer to the first when he instructed Burnside to create a diversion at the South Bridge. But, this in itself was almost as confusing. Who would be in command of the IX Corps? Cox had only assumed command, replacing Reno who was killed on the mountain. Burnside requested Cavalry to scout for Snavely's Ford, reported to be somewhere south of the bridge. Mac informed Burnside that his engineers had already scouted the creek and found the ford. Unfortunately what they found was not Snavely's Ford but a bend in the creek that looked like it was fordable. In actuality the creek was deep at this point. Too deep for Infantry and Cannon to cross. So Ambrose was forced to look for Snavely's with Infantry. Meanwhile he would attempt to take the bridge. Since he was not ordered to mount a concerted attack on Lee's right flank, he reasoned that steady pressure on the bridge would be enough to create the expected diversion.
Opposing Burnside were 600 Georgians commanded by Politician-General Toombs and Gen. Benning. On paper the 9,000 man Ninth Corps should have been able to brush aside this puny defense. In reality Toombs outnumbered Burnside by about 60 to 1. Now before someone thinks I have forgotten how to add, look at the situation. Toombs is situated on what amounts to a 50 to 75 feet hill overlooking the bridge, actually more of a cliff than a hill facing the bridge. While not sheer it was steep enough to make climbing it a difficult task. At most Burnside's attacking force could only create a column of about 10 men across to attack the bridge. The 600 men on the hill need only worry about the 10 men in the front rank, thus the odds were 60-1 favoring the Confederates. Burnside did try crossing the creek about midway between the Middle and South bridges using Crook's Brigade. They managed to get to the middle of the creek before Confederate Artillery opened up and forced them back. Isaac Rodman's Division was sent down the creek to find Snavely's
About the time the Union attacks on the Sunken Road were winding down, McClellan decided that he no longer needed a diversion at South Bridge but now needed a breakthrough to carry the day. Thus he sent word to Burnside to carry the bridge at all costs. Now Ambrose started attacking the bridge in earnest while hoping that Rodman would find the ford. McClellan sent several messengers urging him to cross the creek. Burnside repeatedly replied that he was doing his best. Finally he ordered the brigade of Edward Ferrero to storm the bridge. Ferrero's brigade consisted of two regiments, the 51st New York and 51st Pennsylvania. Legend says that before they attacked Ferrero addressed them and told them to take the bridge. Someone called out "If we take the bridge will you give us our whiskey?" Ferrero answered, "Yes you will have your whiskey". He had withdrawn their whiskey ration as punishment. So in order to get their whiskey back they successfully stormed the bridge. While this is a nice human-interest legend in truth Benning's Brigade was nearly out of ammunition as were other elements of Toombs' Division. And Rodman was across the creek and beginning to pressure the Confederate right. Ferrero's Brigade attacked with the New Yorkers on the Left and the Pennsylvanians on the right. Straight down the hill facing the bridge, across 3oo yards of open field towards the bridge and across it. The Pennsylvanians emptied their rifles as soon as they were over the bridge, but he New Yorkers kept moving up the steep hill. Benning's me had no choice but to retreat under covering fire from confederate artillery on what is now Cemetery Hill.
Here victory was Burnside's for the taking! Nothing of any consequence stood between him and Sharpsburg but a few scattered Infantry regiments and the Artillery. Here fate seemed to again come to Lee's assistance. The lead elements of Burnside's attack were out of ammunition. They would have to be pulled back and replaced with fresh troops. Rather than leave them in position and filter the fresh troops into position Burnside decided to do things "by the book". A direct result of his treatment by McClellan. He pulled back the lead elements and sent fresh troops at the same time. The bridge became a 2-way street with the obvious bottleneck. Finally around 4 o'clock he was ready to attack.
When Jackson left Harper's Ferry he assigned A.P. Hill to issue paroles to the captured Yankees, gather as many supplies as he could then come to Sharpsburg as soon as possible. All day Hill's men were marching north in a forced march that defies description. About the time that Burnside was taking the bridge his good friend Hill was crossing the Potomac at Boteler's Ford. Burnside's delay had given Hill the time to repeat Cedar Mountain.
Initially Burnside's attacks on Lee's right flank were successful. Jones' men were being steadily pushed back. Soon Burnside would turn the Confederate right and cut off any escape rout for what remained of Lee's army. When all seemed darkest for Lee a new group of men were seen advancing through a cornfield on the Union Left. Lee could not raise his field glasses to see who they were so he asked his aide to look to see what flags they were flying. The reply was "They are flying the United States Flag" then "No they are flying the Flag of Virginia." Lee seemed to relax and said "It's Hill from Harper's Ferry". Indeed it was Hill! The farthermost Union troops were the 8th Connecticut, 4th Rhode Island and 16th Connecticut. The 8th managed to advance far enough to take one of the guns of Capt. D. G. McIntosh, but was forced back loosing 173 of their 350 men. Next came the 16th and 4th. The 16th was a totally fresh unit. They were only mustered in a scant 4 weeks earlier. They had never learned to drill. Comprised of students from a High School, they were virtually wiped out that afternoon. The 4th Rhode Island was also forced back. Burnside's left flank was crumbling. His right had some help from the Fifth Corps but he was not able to advance farther.
Burnside fell back to the heights above the bridge that will forever hold his name. Hill did not pursue. The fighting began to die down.
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