Saturday, September 24, 2016

Burnside Bridge: TLC and lots of work go into preservation of Antietam landmark

Stones on walls were marked for guide when they are reinstalled (NPS photos)

Extensive work on the famous Burnside Bridge at Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland is nearing the one-year mark, and officials expect it to continue until the end of the year.

The $1.7 million preservation project is bringing repairs and stabilization to the stone structure, which was built in 1836.

Park Superintendent Susan Trail responded Friday to the Picket’s questions about the bridge project. She said the project is going “very well.”

Temporary dams were built for work on eroded pier bases. 

Q.  You said the piers would be repointed and the voids filled with grouts. Has that been completed? Was that the extent of the work on the piers?

A. All of the pier work was completed in late winter. The work was extensive, as concrete ribbon footers had to be poured for each due to extensive erosion.

Q. I saw some Facebook photos (above) last week of work on top of the bridge. What's that work? Looks like maybe some wall reconstruction and a new walking surface?

A. Most of the work on the stone bridge involved dismantling substantial sections and rebuilding them. This is the work that is going on right now. The wall sections were photographed and mapped, so that the stones could be returned to their exact locations prior to the dismantling. The repaving will happen later this fall when the stone work is complete.

Q. Can you briefly summarize what all has been addressed in this restoration/preservation effort?

A. The project addressed substantial voids and erosion in the two piers and the two abutments. It also addressed unstable parapet and spandrel walls that had deteriorated over the years, due primarily to water infiltration. It also will include new wood coping and asphalt paving, which will be done this fall.

East bridge abutment

Q. What do you hope will be the long-term benefit of the work?

A. This project will keep the bridge standing in good condition for decades to come.

Q. Anything unexpected come up during the construction/repairs?

A. The biggest unforeseen condition was the severe erosion of the pier bases, as this could not be seen before the project started.

On Sept. 17, 1862, America's bloodiest single day, a small force of Confederates on high ground for three hours defended the critical crossing against troops belonging to Ambrose E. Burnside's 9th Corps.

Portion of bridge that bulged, needed repairs

Critics say Burnside did not do adequate reconnaissance before the attack, which cost him about 500 casualties. 

"After taking the bridge at about 1 p.m., Burnside reorganized for two hours before moving forward across the arduous terrain -- a critical delay. Finally, the advance started -- only to be turned back by Confederate General A.P. Hill’s reinforcements that arrived in the late afternoon from Harpers Ferry," according to the NPS.

After the battle, the bridge was actively used for traffic until as recently as 1966, according to the NPS. The last significant work occurred in the late 1980s.

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