Back on Feb 13 we took a look at a nifty little bridge by Safari Ltd that I bought at a Michael's Craft Store. While smaller, you can tell it's not a cheap knock-ff of Marx's iconic bridge from their Civil War playsets because the detailing is totally different. Today however we will cover the Marx bridge. The bridge has come to be called the 'Burnside Bridge' in reference to the bridge over Antietam Creek over which the Union's forces led by General Ambrose Burnside were repulsed by Confederate sharpshooters. That's a quick and dirty summation of just one of the actions taking place during the Battle of Antietam, the single bloodiest day in American military history, Sep 17, 1862 with over 22,000 casualties suffered.
Our toy bridge is one of two Civil War toy bridges on the market during the same general time frame: early '60s. The other one is by MPC and it was a two-piece design with spring mechanism causing the bridge to 'blow up' when hit. The Marx version we see today is a one-piece casting and measures 9 7/8" (25.1cm) L x 5 1/8" (13cm) W x 2 1/2" (6.4cm) H. I don't know when collector's started to refer to this as the 'Burnside Bridge' because in every ad I've seen for Marx Civil War playsets, it's simply listed as common accessory along with all the other accessories. In addition, the original bridge over Antietam Creek was a triple-arch bridge while this one and the MPC bridge are both double-arch bridges. HOWEVER, I did come across this 1862 sketch by Edwin Forbes in the Library of Congress:
Library of Congress
It's a terrific sketch but incorrectly shows a double-arch bridge. It could almost have been used as a model by Marx but probably wasn't. Marx simply made a bridge as a scenic element to be included in their playsets that fit the time period and a small bridge fit the bill nicely. The bridges came in gray and brown and originals are still available today for a reasonable cost and nicely done, low-cost repos can be acquired from a number of on-line hobby shops.
Comparison shots of the Marx and Safari Ltd bridges