On September 17, 1862, a small, stone-arch bridge that spans Antietam Creek outside Sharpsburg, Maryland, became one of the most hotly contested structures in American history. During the Battle of Antietam, an entire Union corps spent most of the bloodiest single day of the Civil War waiting to cross the creek over that bridge, opposed by a contingent of Georgia riflemen. Finally, late in the day, when the Georgians began to run out of ammunition, Union troops rushed across the bridge. The rest of the Union IX Corps followed, but by day’s end, a Confederate flank attack sent the corps back across the river. Over 23,000 men–both Union and Confederate–were killed or wounded on September 17. The next day, Robert E. Lee began his retreat back across the Potomac River.
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