Lt. George W. Whitman, 51st New York Infantry
At 10:00 a.m., as the fighting raged as the Sunken Road, Ninth Corps commander Gen. Ambrose Burnside received orders to begin his attack against the Lower Bridge and the right flank of Lee's army. Recognizing the great difficulty in successfully carrying the bridge by a direct, frontal attack, Burnside sent Gen. Isaac Rodman with 3,200 soldiers downstream. These troops were to cross Antietam Creek and outflank the Confederate troops in position on the high bluffs on the west side of Antietam Creek.
While Rodman's men moved south, smaller attacks were sent against the bridge. Over the course of the next three hours, at least three separate attacks were launched against the bridge, each one resulting in heavy loss.
(1) The first attack on the bridge started at 10:00 a.m. and was led by the 11th Connecticut Infantry followed by Crook's Brigade. Col. Crook advanced his men and mistakenly ended 300 yards upstream pinned down by Confederate fire. This uncoordinated first assault was just one example of how confusion, difficult terrain, and Confederate firepower broke down the Union attacks.
(2) Closely following Crook's attempt, Gen. Nagle's Brigade was ordered forward at 11:00 a.m. They too were pinned down by the well concealed Confederates.
(3) The third, and eventually successful, attack on the bridge was made by Gen. Ferrero's veteran brigade. The 51st New York and the 51st Pennsylvania Infantry Regiments, with about 650 men, charged down the hill directly toward the bridge. At first the Confederate resistance was still strong enough to force them to a halt, but with ammunition running low and Rodman's men finally crossing downstream, Toombs' men retreated and Union soldiers finally captured this crucial Antietam crossing at about 1:00 p.m.