Flickering candles covering farm fields as far as the eye can see in all directions is an unusual site. The first time you encounter it driving along the narrow dark farm lanes near Sharpsburg Maryland, you can only wonder when it will end. The effect is surreal.
$5,000 Challenge pledge from NY Times best selling author Jeff Shaara made at Antietam Press Conference
For the past five years we have been documenting the “behind the scenes” of the Annual Antietam National Battlefield Memorial Illumination and what it takes to create the points of light that transport your imagination and emotions to another time in that place. We've been doing the documenting on our own time and have personally funded the work.
Author Jeff Shaara has made a $5,000 matching "challenge pledge" that will double your donation for the next week. See:
The story has been picked up by media outlets around the U.S.
The illumination is a unique event made possible by over a thousand volunteers each year, many of them Boy Scouts or students, that provides a dignified remembrance at the location where over 100,000 human lives collided in the fiery cauldron of battle 150 years ago.
The individual sacrifices on the rolling hills around Sharpsburg would collectively begin to create freedom and expand personal rights for millions of people through the actions of President Lincoln five days after the most ferocious day of battle the young nation had ever experienced.
We begin with the story of one young woman’s idea to place lighted candles on that battlefield, 25 years ago as a proper and fitting tribute to each casualty and how that concept was embraced by enough people that it came to life on a freezing snowy day in December 1989.
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Beyond the stories of the people that create the nation’s largest illumination, our documentary will also focus on some of the individuals that fought at Antietam that are represented by those glowing candles…about what their beliefs were, where they came from, who their families were and why they marched into battle. We will also look at the pacifist sect who lived there and held services at the plain little white church that became an icon of the battle. We'll look at how military medicine changed there and how one woman's brave actions led to the creation of the Red Cross. Our narrative will investigate some of the ironies of the battle, such as the fact that the slaves were freed just across the river in Virginia by the Emancipation Proclamation, but not in Maryland where the fighting occurred.
The battle is most commonly known as the “bloodiest day in American history”, which is factual and worth remembering. However we believe that if that is the dominant impression that most Americans have of September 17,1862, that does a dis-service to the magnitude of the personal sacrifice there. It was a day of epic proportions that altered the course of how we had lived on this continent since the early 1600’s when slave labor was first imported from Africa. Beyond allowing President Lincoln the opportunity to take advantage of the executive order that he had drafted, those sacrifices paved the way for not only the freedom of the slaves, but also for every other expansion of the interpretation of legal freedom and human rights we have gained in America. We see Antietam as the fiery birthplace of the expansion of the freedoms that began with our Declaration of Independence and are still continuing today.
Since the beginning of the Antietam Illumination over a half million candles have been placed on those sacred fields and lighted in memorial. In my heart I have come to believe that it is a tribute to not only those who fell there, but to all of the warriors of all times and all places that have fought under many flags for many different reasons on our planet.
Antietam is a special place for me. I’ve been going there since a family outing when I was 5. The place just keeps calling me back. My thoughts, feelings and understanding have evolved from those of a young boy who wanted to sit on the cannon and who was amazed by the very old people with the little shack that sold cokes by Bloody Lane …to the adult that is working to relate what he has learned over 55 years and feels about the annual memorial that has resonated with him for a quarter of a century.
Lighting thousands of candles in fields year after year is the beginning of a story about remembrance, dedication, honor, duty, courage, love and ultimate sacrifice that began a pathway to freedoms and rights for millions of Americans that is still extending 150 years later. Those 23,110 flickering candles represent souls whose actions on that day affected and continue to affect all Americans. I think that many of them had a sense that the day wasn’t “normal”. But I don’t believe that any of them had any sense of how far reaching the effects would be and that they would be honored in a such a fashion by people who never knew them, but whose lives they have directly touched.
We are at the point where we need to ask for additional support that will allow us to spend the time to do the final research, interviews, b-roll and editing required to fulfill our vision and distribute it to the public. I am supported and aided in this work by people like novelist Jeff Shaara, singer/songwriter Jennie Avila, film maker/author Jay Wertz, historic photographer Rob Gibson, Illumination photographer Judi Quelland, NPS historian Ted Alexander, blogger John Banks, friends and collaborators Rick Hemphill and John Seburn and Illumination creator and chairperson Georgene Charles. About 20,000 people ride through the Illumination every year. We want to share this story with the world and we are thankful that a process like Kick Starter now exists to help make that possible.
Risks and challenges
I have been shooting, editing and producing videos as my profession since the early 1980's. Most of them have been for corporations, government agencies and non profits. I have worked on literally hundreds of productions. History, especially the American Civil War has always been a hobby. 25 years ago I turned the hobby into a part of our business by producing documentaries of Civil War re-enactments. The Antietam 125th was our first. The Antietam 140th was the last re-enactment video that I directed and edited, titled "Clash of Freedoms." Pulitzer Prize winning author James McPherson was our on camera expert historian. That DVD is one of our rewards.There are samples of our work on our You Tube channel linked to our website at www.TheWickleinGroup.com There are also endorsement letters on the website and links to our facebook and flickr page. The help of my many collaborators and your kind assistance will make the fulfillment of this project possible.
A signed copy of the "Antietam Illuminated" DVD and a candle lighted at the 25th Annual Illumination at Antietam on Dec. 7, 2013 in your name or in the name of an ancestor or other person that you desire.
A signed copy of Jeff Shaara's NY Times best selling novel,"Gods & Generals" along with a signed copy of the "Antietam Illuminated" DVD, the cd, "Love & Lore of the Civil War" and the DVD, "Antietam, Clash of Freedoms".
A signed framed 16x20 photo of the Illumination by official photographer Judi Quelland, a signed copy of Producer Rick Hemphill's alternative history "Disloyal Union, the slavery conspiracy" and all of the items in reward #7.
The Time Machine. Have your photograph taken on tin or glass by Rob Gibson, our wet plate photo expert on the field at Antietam or in his 1860's studio/gallery in Gettysburg.By appointment with the photographer.Mr. Gibson can supply Civil War uniforms or other Victorian clothing. Includes one framed 8x10 print.Also includes the rewards in #8.
Grip for a day. Join our documentary crews at Antietam on Dec. 7. 2013 and help us make the film. You'll carry things and experience the whole process that creates the Illumination. Includes lunch with the crew and Grip credit in the film and an invitation to the premier.Also includes all the rewards in #8.
Associate Producer. Join our documentary crews at Antietam on Dec. 7, 2013 and help us make the film. You'll ask questions during some of the interviews and generally assist with production.Lunch with the director and producer.You also get to light a candle at the sunset ceremony at the Maryland Monument. You'll receive Associate Producer credit, an invitation for 2 to the premier and all of the rewards in #9
Associate Editor. Join Mike Wicklein in his editing room in Baltimore for a day as he creates the final film. You'll learn how the edit is put together. You can consult on choices and do some hands on editing. Includes lunch and dinner with the editor and credit as Associate Editor. By appointment from September of 2013 to January of 2014. Also includes the rewards in #9 and an invitation for 2 to the premier.
Associate Music Producer. Sit in on music recording sessions in the studio or in the field for a day in the Sharpsburg area. You can do some hands on recording and consult on the process and choices. Lunch with the director and credit as Associate Music Producer. By appointment from May 2013 to December 2013. Also includes the rewards in #9 and an invitation for 2 to the premier.
Producer. Join the production company for up to 4 days while we are shooting, editing,music recording or doing research by agreement with the director.Includes dinner with the director and producer and all of the rewards in #9. Dates by appointment from June 2013 to Jan. 2014. You can light a candle at the sunset ceremony at the Maryland Monument on Dec. 7,2013. You'll receive an invitation for 4 to the premier. You'll be introduced at the event as a Producer and receive credit in the opening titles.