20th Annual Fredericksburg National Cemetery Luminaria. Photo copyright Susan Larson.

By Susan Larson

Thousands of people walked the grounds of Fredericksburg National Cemetery Saturday evening, May 23, 2015, for the 20th annual Memorial Day Luminaria. As Taps was played every 30 minutes from 8 until 11 p.m., everyone stopped and fell silent.

The tradition began in 1995, when representatives of local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts presented to National Park Service staff the idea of starting an annual luminaria program to honor United States soldiers who had died in service to their county. Hundreds of scouts participate each year, assembling the luminaria bags, placing them beside the graves and lighting them as evening falls.

Most of those buried in Fredericksburg National Cemetery are Union soldiers from the Civil War. Some 80 percent of them were never identified. Many of the graves contain more than one body.

There are a fewer number of plots for soldiers of the Spanish American War, World War I and World War II. The National Cemetery was closed in 1940 to new internments.

The annual luminaria program includes a historical walking tour guided by National Park Service staff and volunteers.

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