29 November 2006
If you’re within the sound of my voice, so to speak – in driving distance of Antietam National Battlefield – you owe it to yourself to experience the annual Memorial Illumination, or see it again. This may be the nation’s premier Civil War event, and is not to be missed.
Awesome is an overused word, but the Illumination is truely awe inspiring. More than 1,000 volunteers place 23,000 candle luminaries across the fields and lanes of the battlefield, each one representing a casualty of 17 September 1862. After sunset, visitors drive through the park lit only by the candles.
You really should be there. If nothing else, the enormity of the loss of that day will be made more real for you than any statistics or words can express. Unless you’re made of wood, the emotional pull will be nearly overwhelming.
This year’s event is this Saturday, 2 December, beginning at 6 pm.
- cars line up for some hours ahead of the start, so get there early. Last year, visitors were reported in the “tens of thousands”
- don’t be in a hurry – between the waiting in line and the slow roll through the Park, this can take hours; be patient and just take it all in. Take friends or loved ones to share the time
- voluntary contributions will be accepted at the entrance: pitch in if you can
- once rolling, you musn’t get out of the car
- there won’t be any bathrooms available at the Park after the Visitor’s Center closes at 3 pm
- the ANB Park staff have provided directions to the Battlefield and a map of the driving path for this event
Added 1 Dec 06: more details from the 2003 Illumination announcement, but probably also applicable this year.
9:00 AM Volunteers begin placement of luminaries
12 Noon Placement of luminaries completed.
3:00 PM Battlefield closes to Public, volunteers begin lighting luminaries.
4:00 PM Lighting Completed.
4:15 PM Opening Ceremony at Maryland Monument.
5:00 PM Opening Ceremony Concludes.
5:15 PM Volunteer Procession Through Illumination.
6:00 PM Memorial Illumination Opens to Public, over 20,000 people expected to tour Illumination from 6:00pm to 2:00am.
A luminary is a paper bag filled with sand, containing a plastic cup and one candle. The candle used is the ?žAntietam¨ý candle developed by the A.E. [sic] Root Candle Company for this event. The candle burns from 12 to 16 hours. Over 1300 volunteers participate in this event, including Scouts, military units, and church, social and family organizations. Some volunteer groups have participated for all 15 Illuminations. The driving tour through the National Battlefield is approximately five miles long. Vehicles are asked to use their parking lights only, and continue through the event without stopping. The line of vehicles waiting to enter the event may be three to five miles long, and visitors may wait two hours or more to enter. There are no restrooms along the tour route.
No press passes are issued, but press ID will gain admittance to the Visitor Center where media personnel are asked to check in with the Command Post. Transportation will be arranged to areas across the field for photo opportunities. News Media may contact Superintendent J.W. Howard in advance by calling 301-432-7648.
A decision to cancel the event due to inclement weather is made no later than 10:00 AM on December . If the weather is heavy rain/snow or sustained winds above 20 mph, news media may call 301-432-5124 after 10:30 am for confirmation.