Antietam by the numbers: A look at the Memorial Illumination

December 03, 2009|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

SHARPSBURG -- On Saturday, Antietam National Battlefield will offer a somber reminder of the how much was sacrificed to keep the United States united by setting tens of thousands of candles aglow.

Each year, the national park hosts the Memorial Illumination, where luminarias - candle-lit paper bags - represent the thousands of soldiers who were killed, wounded or missing during the Civil War's Battle of Antietam.

Here's a by-the-numbers look at this year's Memorial Illumination, which enters its 21st year on Saturday, Dec. 5. Park superintendent John W. Howard provided the data. -- Tiffany Arnold


The date on which Northern and Southern armies struggled for possession of the Miller farm cornfield in the hills of Sharpsburg during the Civil War. It is regarded as the single, bloodiest day of war in American history.



The number of luminarias placed on the field. A luminaria is a paper bag partially filled with sand; the bag gently glows when a candle is set into the sand and lit. Each luminaria represents a soldier who was killed, wounded or missing at the Battle of Antietam.


The cost in dollars of the candles for the 2008 Memorial Illumination. The "Antietam Candle" is produced by a company in Ohio.


The number of volunteer bag-fillers who filled luminarias with sand this year.

5 to 6

The number of hours it takes volunteers to assemble the luminarias.


The tons of sand needed to fill the luminarias. The sand is stored at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center south of Hagerstown and must be turned every day so that it remains dry.


The number of tractor trailers needed to transport the assembled luminarias to the park. The luminarias are placed in numbered boxes that correspond with the field in which the luminarias will be placed.


The number of luminaria-covered fields at Antietam National Battlefield.


The number of acres visible on the driving tour.


The time Saturday morning when volunteers will begin setting luminarias in place.


The approximate number of volunteers who will place the luminarias on the battlefield.

20 to 30

The approximate number of volunteers needed to cover a 20-acre plot with luminarias.


The time in the afternoon Saturday when the park closes to the public. Volunteers use this time to light the luminarias; all should be lit by 3:45 p.m.


The time Saturday evening when the driving tour opens to the public. Allow at least 35 to 45 minutes to complete the tour. The tour ends at midnight.


The average number of visitors to the Memorial Illumination.


The distance in miles of the driving tour.

12 to 16

The number of hours a single candle will burn, depending on the weather. Candles are left to burn until they naturally extinguish themselves.


The time Sunday morning when clean-up efforts begin. It will take until 10 or 11 a.m. to completely clean up the park. The remaining refuse is placed in a Dumpster.


The number of volunteers on clean-up duty.


Total donations in dollars generated by Antietam National Battlefield in 2008 to cover the cost of that year's event.


The cost of admission to the Antietam Memorial Illumination. Antietam relies on donations to cover the cost of the event.

If you go ...

WHAT: 21st annual Memorial Illumination, a driving tour honoring the soldiers who fought at the Battle of Antietam

WHEN: 6 p.m. through midnight Saturday, Dec. 5. Opening ceremony is 4:15 p.m. at the Maryland Monument. Rain date is Saturday, Dec. 12.

WHERE: Antietam National Battlefield, near Sharpsburg. Use the Richardson Avenue entrance, off Shepherdstown Pike (Md. 34) east of Sharpsburg. The line forms in the westbound shoulder of Md. 34.

COST: Free admission; donations will be accepted

Contact: Call park headquarters, 301-432-7648. For driving directions go to

A few things to know:

Stopping or exiting vehicles along the route is prohibited.

Drivers are asked to turn off headlights and use parking lights, if possible.

There are no bathrooms along the route.

The Visitor Center closes at 3 p.m.

While the tour itself can take 35 to 45 minutes to complete, waiting in the line of cars before entering the park can take as long as two hours.

Walking the route is highly discouraged.

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