BY GRACE VERHEY
Civil War battlefields in the Washington, D.C., area beckon visitors to escape the frenzied pace of city life and catch a glimpse of a bygone age and a war that defined America.
The bloodiest single-day battle of American history will be remembered this Saturday at the 18th annual Memorial Illumination at the Antietam National Battlefield, near Sharpsburg, Md.
During the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 16, 1862, 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or recorded as missing. During the Illumination, volunteers will light 23,000 candles and place them throughout the battlefield in memory of the fallen men.
Another key stop on any Civil War tour is the quiet Pennsylvania farming community of Gettysburg. The battle there began on July 1, 1863, and ended three bloody days later on Independence Day. Visitors can experience the breadth of the battle while on a battlefield walking or driving tour.
For more information about the Memorial Illumination, please visit: http://www.nps.gov/anti/planyourvisit/luminary.htm
Battlefields with driving time from downtown Washington:
Manassas/Bull Run – 1 hour http://www.nps.gov/mana/index.htm
Antietam – 1.5 hours http://www.nps.gov/anti
Harper’s Ferry – 2 hours http://www.nps.gov/hafe/index.htm
Gettysburg – 2.5 hours http://www.nps.gov/gett/
Editor’s note: Col. Kavin Coughenour (Ret.), contributed to this report. He is a licensed battlefield guide at Gettysburg National Military Park.