Courtesy of Andersonville National Historic Site
A century and a half after they perished from disease, deprivation, or battle wounds, Andersonville’s fallen are finally getting a funeral. In the culminating weekend of more than a year of programming marking the Civil War prison’s 150th anniversary, the national historic site is staging a series of events history buffs will not want to miss.
Memorial Illumination: On September 18 and 19, volunteers will place nearly 13,000 luminaries on the prison site, each a lighted tribute to a Union soldier who died during the fourteen months the prison operated. From 7 to 10 p.m. both nights, visitors can drive the prison loop road for a sight that is sure to be beautiful, somber, and unforgettable. The event is free, but the park asks each vehicle to donate a canned good upon entrance. The cans will in turn be donated to a local food pantry in honor of the soldiers who starved to death at Andersonville.
Funeral for Thirteen Thousand: On Saturday, September 19, Andersonville National Cemetery will host a ceremony for those who made the ultimate sacrifice at the prison. The service will include a keynote speech by Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey; remarks by Georgia poet laureate Judson Mitcham and guest historian Dr. Lesley Gordon of University of Akron; honor guard from the Army, Navy, and Marines; and to stand in for the burial, a ceremonial casket filled with 13,000 paper stars decorated by children and community members. Music for the free event begins at 12:45 p.m.
The third Friday in September is also National Prisoner of War / Missing in Action Recognition Day. Beginning Wednesday, September 16, former POWs from across the nation and their families will convene in nearby Americus for an annual convocation called the Ride Home. They will be present for many of the weekend activities at Andersonville. For more information, visit the organization’s Facebook page.