IF YOU GO
* What: Sesquicentennial battlefield film
* When: Monday, 5:45 p.m. and 7 p.m.
• A reception begins at 5:15 p.m. and the 5:45 showing will be introduced with comments from special guests.
* Where: Majestic Theater, 215 Broad Street, Chattanooga
* Cost: $15 for adults, $10 for students. Tickets may be purchased online at www.chickchatt.org or with cash or check on the night of the event.
Source: Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park
Joshua Callaway was a young Alabama schoolteacher who left his home and classroom in March 1862 to join the 28th Alabama Infantry Regiment of the Confederate Army.
George Van Pelt had been a constable in Michigan before he enlisted in the Union Army. During the Battle of Chickamauga, he lost his life just after shouting to oncoming Confederates not to touch the guns of the 1st Michigan Light Artillery.
The two men give life to a new $440,000 interpretive film that during the Civil War sesquicentennial will welcome visitors to the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.
The 26-minute film — The Campaign for Chattanooga: Death Knell of the Confederacy — is set on the authentic battlefields and puts flesh on the facts and dates of history. It replaces a 22-year-old interpretive movie that had become outmoded.
The film will premier in two showings Monday at the Majestic Theater.
Kim Coons, chief of interpretation and resource education at the park, said the park historians, scriptwriters and the movie-makers of Great Divide Pictures used diaries and historical records to tell the new story of local battles.
"We used the experience of the living historians who were on the field," she said. "And we tried to choose people who were the right size and likeness of them."
In many cases, the actors were descendants of the people they portrayed.
"For those guys to be on the ground where their ancestors fought and often died was really something -- sort of surreal," Coons said.
With the haunting backgrounds and soldiers' letters and writings to tell their stories, the film brings to life the massive struggle for the Gateway to the Deep South.
Christopher Young, a park ranger from Rossville who played the part of George Van Pelt, termed the experience "bone chilling."
Young, though not a descendant of Van Pelt, bears a strong resemblance to the war veteran.
"It's really an honor to be asked to play the part of somebody who made a major sacrifice on the battlefield, yet not many people know him."
Unlike the well-known generals who often commanded troops from the safety of a distant hilltop, Van Pelt held to his cannons and was overrun by the enemy as he had to stand and watch them coming.
"He is said to have yelled before the Confederates ran over him: 'Don't you dare touch these guns,'" Young said. "His story is one of 4,000 who died here."
The film's cost was paid for with park entrance fees from across the nation, Coons said.
The premiere will mark the beginning of a yearlong commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War actions in Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia.
Monday's showings will be the only time it will be seen outside of the Chickamauga Battlefield Visitor Center.
Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...