A 26-minute film made last year that thousands of visitors see when they arrive at the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park is set to be a part of a five-hour documentary on public television next year.
The film, titled "The Campaign for Chattanooga: Death Knell of the Confederacy," is one piece of a larger untold story of the Western Campaign of the war, blacks' contributions to the struggle and legendary civilian exploits.
Film producer Chris Wheeler said Friday that Great Divide Pictures filmed the short pieces for the National Park Service at battle sites here and at Shiloh, Tenn., and Kennesaw Mountain, Ga.
The whole package will be delivered to public television stations in February. It is a contracted project costing nearly $2 million, but each station decides whether to broadcast the film, Wheeler said.
Footage for the previously shot films will be added to new stories using interviews with national experts, filming of a re-enactment of the siege of Vicksburg and a trove of archival photographs from the Library of Congress.
Wheeler said putting the pieces together to tell an entertaining yet factual and comprehensive story about the Western Campaign, an often overlooked yet vitally important part of the war, was crucial to sharing the story as the nation marks the 150th anniversary of the conflict.
"Film is a wonderful medium for time travel," Wheeler said. "We put (viewers) in the midst of the battle and have people wonder, 'What would I have done in this situation?'"
Park spokeswoman Kim Coons said that the short film at the visitors center has helped "tell the more personal stories of the soldiers who fought in the campaign."
The documentary will bring the larger story of the Western theater of combat to the forefront, Coons said.
"This will be the first time that a major production will follow soldiers in this theater," she said. "The Western theater is truly where the war was won and lost, through the efforts of the soldiers not just the leaders commanding them."
Park Ranger Christopher Young, of Rossville, portrayed Union Army Lt. George W. Van Pelt, one of the officers who fought in the battle.
Wheeler said that telling an entertaining story is essential to helping people engage with the history, but everything must be also accurate.
"It was a great tragedy, but after watching this, hopefully people can at least come away from this understanding how and why this happened," Wheeler said.
Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.