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Civil War Flags Topic Of New Film

June 16, 2013
By LINDA COMINS , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Just in time for the statehood sesquicentennial celebration, the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation has released a new documentary film concerning the state's Civil War battle flag collection that is on permanent exhibit at West Virginia Independence Hall in Wheeling.

The foundation commissioned the film project to explain the important role that battle flags played in combat and to document the preservation of the West Virginia battle flags which have been called the state's "most sacred relics." Deb and Rick Warmuth of Walkabout Productions in Wheeling produced the short film titled "Waving the Flag for Liberty and the Union."

In late May, the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation held a premiere of the film for an invited audience of contributors to the flag project and public officials. The film was shown on the big-screen BluRay projection system that the foundation purchased for the hall's lower-level theater a couple of years ago. In addition to screening the flag film in the theater, the documentary will be shown continuously on a flat-screen television monitor that the foundation is buying for the Flag Discovery Room, located on the building's second floor across from the rooms housing the Civil War battle flag exhibition.

At the film premiere, Travis Henline, site manager of West Virginia Independence Hall, said some people visit the National Historic Landmark specifically to see the battle flags. He also thanked the foundation for its five decades of voluntary service, noting that "the legwork, then the on-the-ground work" for restoring the state's birthplace was done by the foundation.

Discussing the filmmaking process, Rick Warmuth said, "The context was very important to provide the first gateway into the flag exhibit." He said they wanted to explain why flags are important and "how they figure into society."

The filmmakers conducted research through various sources, including the National Park Service and the Library of Congress, he said. The film features footage shot during the 150th-anniversary battle re-enactment in Antietam, Md., and at a re-enactment of the Battle of Droop Mountain in West Virginia, as well as shots of re-enactors at other places and times. "It was a lot of fun," he remarked.

Rick Warmuth also commended the foundation for having the vision to remember this history and to preserve it for future generations.

"Please continue with that," he told the group. "Future generations will thank you."

He added, "Those who gave their lives are also the ones we need to thank and remember."

Meanwhile, a new high-definition version of West Virginia Independence Hall's original site interpretive film, "For Liberty and Union," has been completed and received at the hall.

The West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation commissioned the film, produced by the late Ellis Dungan, an internationally-recognized filmmaker from Wheeling, in the mid-1970s. Filmed on location in Wheeling, "For Liberty and Union" featured professional actors and many notable local stage veterans who told the story of the 35th state's formation.

Recently, the West Virginia Division of Culture and History paid to have the original film enhanced with the latest high-definition technology. Copies of the HD-format of "For Liberty and Union" arrived at the hall in time for this week's statehood sesquicentennial observance.

"For Liberty and Union" is shown to visitiors on a regular basis in the hall's theater.

Remember, folks, Wheeling is the place this week to party like it's 1863!

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: lcomins@theintelligencer.net