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The 51st Pennsylvania Volunteers
51st pennsylvania.jpg

Commanded by Col. John Hartranft, the 51st Pennsylvania and the 51st New York were ordered to take the Rohrbach Bridge (later known as Burnside’s Bridge) after two earlier Federal attacks had failed.

An interesting side note was that Colonel Edward Ferraro was a teetotaler – he had disciplined the 51st Pennsylvania by taking away their whiskey ration just recently. It was well after noon when he addressed the 51st New York and the 51st Pennsylvania Regiments:

“It is General Burnside’s special request that the two 51st’s take that bridge. Will you do it?”

A Pennsylvania soldier called out:
“Will you give us our whiskey, Colonel, if we make it?”

“Yes, by God!”

The two 51st’s, New York on the left and Pennsylvania on the right,
…”charged up the road in column with fixed bayonets, and in scarcely more time than it takes to tell it the bridge was passed.”

Don Troiani’s “Burnside Bridge”

Charging down the wooded hillside, the 51st Pennsylvania was immediately taken under fire by the Georgians dug in on the far bank. Breaking through and over a fenceline skirting the road near the bridge, the 51st , carrying this flag, charged over the span as bullets struck home. Col. Hartranft led his men across the bridge and to the far bank where they were able to scatter the remaining Confederate defenders. Once resupplied, the 51st Pennsylvania took part in the final Union attacks near the town of Sharpsburg. The 51st Pennsylvania lost 21 killed and 99 wounded during the Battle of Antietam.

They got their whiskey.