2023 Memorial Illumination

On Saturday, December 2, 2023, the 33rd Annual Memorial Illumination was held at the Antietam National Battlefield to honor the 23,000 casualties from the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862.

The Memorial Illumination began in 1989 and is held every year on the first Saturday in December. The idea behind the illumination is to help visitors grasp that number of soldiers that were killed, wounded, or missing in a hauntingly beautiful way.

Preparation begins weeks before the annual Illumination, when volunteers assemble each individual luminary – a brown paper bag filled with sand to weight it down and a special long-burning candle with an extra-long wick, manufactured by Root Candles in Ohio – and pack them in boxes that are stored until the event.

The morning of the event, volunteers gather at the battlefield to get their assigned location for placing the luminaries. More than 1,100 volunteers comprised of scouts, church groups, school groups, friends, and park volunteers, go about the task of placing 23,110 luminaries on the northern portion of the battlefield.

Institute members and park volunteers helping put out luminaries.

After a short ceremony at the end of the day to recognize the hard work of the volunteers and those behind the scenes, the procession of cars begins at 6pm.

If you have not been to the Memorial Illumination, it is a must see. Be sure to add it to your “Bucket List”. Thanks to institute members, Sharon Murray, Henry Stiles, Ken Derrenbacher, and Laura Rowland for sharing some of their photos from this year’s event.