The Antietam Battlefield Illumination
If you haven't seen this in person, I will guarantee you that it will be well worth your while to do so. Once a year, on the first Saturday in December, the Antietam Battlefield is illuminated with one candle for every casualty at the battle. The candles are placed in small paper bags with sand in the bottom for weight. The Battlefield is toured by car in total darkness except for the candles.
Let me try to explain my feelings on my first trip there. As you enter the park you turn your lights off and slowly, ever so slowly, creep along. Then you can see a row of candles beside the road, then another, then another, and as you top the hill more of the battlefield comes into view, suddenly, as far as the eye can see there are rows, upon rows of candles. Slowly you move along and the candles seem to be never ending. I thought, "Was this what 23,000 casualties meant? Would almost ever spot on the battlefield be covered ?" "My God!!" Then an old song about the war started to creep into my head. I just couldn't get rid of the haunting words, "All that was that was left was the dead and dying. The Blue lying 'long side the Gray." Then, it seemed, almost as suddenly as it began, I was out of the park. I thought only a very few minutes had passed until I looked at the clock. I had been on this "blood soaked" battlefield for more than a half an hour! Then I remembered, even in the darkness, I had seen the "Bloody Lane, the Mumma Farm, the Dunkard Church", all pass before me. These were objects that I was thoroughly familiar with and had seen many times, but had never viewed them with so many "casualties" before. My friends if you are fortunate enough to live where you can make this once a year tour, don't miss it. It is a sight to behold!
"The Memorial Illumination of Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland is dedicated to those brave soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that you and I could enjoy the freedoms of today. We light these candles tonight to honor those 23,110 soldiers, of both Blue and Gray, who were casualties of the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862.
The luminaries were lighted and placed on the Battlefield today by over 800 volunteers. "
This page last updated 12/17/03