Marvin Lurie

At Burnside’s Bridge

It was a September afternoon,
cloudy, mild and humid.
Leaves had started to fall.
This slow flat creek, waist deep,
only a pistol shot across.
This stone bridge, with three arches,
solid and reliable, could deflect bullets.

I was killed here that afternoon.
My body floated downstream to the Potomac,
was never found.
You won't find my name either
on any of the lists of 23,000 casualties
because I wasn't an officer. I was just a Yankee private
in the 51st New York Regiment with Colonel Potter.
I could fire my Springfield Musket three times a minute,
kill Johnny Reb from 300 yards.
But that day we were just across from each other,
Johnny Reb on that rocky bank over there.
Us on the road along this side.
They killed us all afternoon from behind those rocks
until we rolled a howitzer onto the bridge,
blew them away with double canister
and charged across.
That's when I got hit and fell into the water.

There's no plaque or marker right here.
That's why I telling you about the day I was killed
on the bridge over Antietam Creek.

It was no longer alone the boom of the batteries, but a rattle of musketry--at first like pattering drops upon a roof; then a roll, crash, roar, and rush, like a mighty ocean billow upon the shore, chafing the pebbles, wave on wave, with deep and heavy explosions of the batteries, like the crashing of the thunderbolts.

Charles Carleton Coffin, Army Correspondent


 (Antietam was the bloodiest day in US history before or since. It was Lee's first attempt to invade the North. There was no clear victor, but Lee chose to withdraw from Maryland across the Potomac to Virginia. In military terms he had conceded the field of battle, so it was considered a Union victory. This gave Lincoln the political space to issue the Emancipation Proclamation and ended the agitation in England and France to recognize the Confederacy as an independent country.)


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