23,110 luminarias will light the dark at Antietam National Battlefield

December 02, 2011
  • A line of cars tours Antietam National Battlefield, in this file photo, during the 22nd Annual Memorial Illumination, where over 23,000 luminaries represent Civil War soldiers who died on September 17, 1862.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

When dusk falls Saturday night, Antietam National Battlefield will be alight with 23,110 luminarias, each representing a casualty of the Sept. 17, 1862, Battle of Antietam.

More than 1,400 volunteers, from Boy and Girl Scouts to senior citizens, were expected to be out Saturday morning to place the luminarias on the battlefield, which saw the bloodiest single day of fighting of the Civil War. The work of lighting the candles for the Memorial Illumination was to begin at 3 p.m., according to a news release from the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The opening ceremonies for the illumination will be held at 4:15 p.m. at the Maryland Monument.

Thomas B. Riford, president and chief executive office of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, is the master of ceremonies and a speaker at the opening event. Guest speakers include U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., who recently was named honorary chairman of the annual Memorial Illumination.

At 6 p.m., vehicles will be permitted to enter the battlefield and drive the five-mile path through the illuminated area.

People are not permitted to get out of their vehicles and there are no restrooms along the way.

The CVB, which once again is a financial sponsor of the annual illumination, has chartered buses for the annual event.

"We started out by advertising we were chartering two buses again this year. However, those quickly sold out, and we had to find a third bus. That third bus is almost sold out as well," Riford said in the release.

The buses are to leave at 6 p.m. from the Downtown Hagerstown Visitor Welcome Center. A Civil War guide will be aboard each bus.


If you go

What: Memorial Illumination

When: Opening ceremony, Saturday, Dec. 3, 4:15 p.m. at the Maryland Monument. Grounds open at 6 p.m. for the driving tour.

Where: Antietam National Battlefield. Driving tour begins at entrance off Md. 34, east of Sharpsburg.

Cost: Free, donations accepted.

For information: Call 301-432-5124 or go to

More: Stopping or exiting vehicles along the route is not permitted. Motorists are asked to use parking lights only. There can be a backup up to two hours long of cars waiting to enter. There are no restrooms along the route. The visitor center closes at 3 p.m.

In case of high winds or heavy rain, the illumination will be moved to Saturday, Dec. 10.

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