CLINTON — “We thought it would be a good way to give these people’s experiences to this generation,” Tony Long says about his recently completed documentary, “The Soldiers’ Plot.”
Long noted that, for the most part, the people’s names that mark the Civil War plot in Woodlawn Cemetery were largely forgotten, the memorial itself in decay.
“Maybe this (the film) will make more people stop by and notice it.”
The film surveys three Civil War regiments from the area and their individual journeys as the war progressed. Among the most interesting, Long believes, was an incidentalencounter between Vespasian Warner and Gen. U.S. Grant.
“That’s a fascinating thing; not everybody knows that,” Long said.
Long has worked to produce the film with DeWitt County museum manager and local historian Joey Woolridge for about two years, “although I’ve been working on it on and off for about six years,” he said. A Clinton native, he spent a number of years working as a writer, director and producer for The History Channel. His credits include “Tale of the Gun,” “Mail Call,” and “Patton 360,” among others.
“What did the soldiers from here do, where did they fight, what battles were they in, where did they go,” Long said people have frequently asked. “This is an attempt to answer all of those questions,” he said.
“The Soldiers’ Plot” is much in the mood of Ken Burns’ “The Civil War” series. Like that series, Long incorporates scenic shots that accompany the many photographs, maps and documents featured in his film.
“I bought a camera and began shooting those, while I researched at the same time.”
It all began with a script, which Long said he followed pretty closely with not much deviation.
Among the sources Long used was an 1880s DeWitt County history.
“It’s a source I use a lot in my stories,” said Joey Woolridge.
Long also used the digital archive of the Library of Congress, from which he was able to obtain photos, sketches and documents that are in the public domain.
“And, we put out a call to the Genealogical Society,” Woolridge said.
In many cases, no photos existed of soldiers; Long had only the names engraved into the Civil War monument.
The society was able to help with photos of DeWitt County men who, “we really didn’t know anything about but could help represent those soldiers,” Long said. “We have photos of some of the men as older men but not as soldiers.”
The process of photography as a popular medium was only beginning at the time of the Civil War, and Woolridge also pointed out that many of the soldiers simply didn’t live long enough to have their photos taken.
Highlights of Long’s film include the Warner family service, maps from the period, Library of Congress eyewitness sketches from battles, family letters, diary entries and footage from present-day Shiloh Battlefield Park, among others.
“I have a family interest in this,” Long said.
Long’s great-great grandfather was Stephen K. Carter, a local Civil War veteran who fought in several battles, including the Battle of Shiloh, during which he was wounded in the leg.
Long’s objective was to take viewers from “the very first scoop of dirt” dug in the Civil War plot, for Edwin Gideon, to 2011, when a missing stone was replaced.
“The story of the soldier’s plot, he said.”
The film will screen on Sat. at 6:30 p.m. in the carriage house at C.H. Moore Homestead. There will be a $10 admission fee. Part of the proceeds will go to the C.H. Moore Homestead DeWitt County Museum.
The film also will be screened again on Sat., Oct. 7 at 6:30 p.m.