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Senior Hailey Morgan created a Civil War exhibit at Mossey Library. Hailey Morgan | Courtesy

More than 400 stu­dents left Hillsdale to fight for the Union — a higher per­centage than any other western college. Of those, three became gen­erals, four were awarded Con­gres­sional Medals of Honor, and almost 60 died for the cause of the Union.

Thanks to senior Hailey Morgan, vis­itors to the library can now access this infor­mation and other Civil War mem­o­ra­bilia that tells an important story about Hillsdale College’s history. Morgan’s exhibit, “Hillsdale and the Civil War,” memo­ri­alizes the valor the men of the college and the com­munity showed during one of the bloodiest wars in American history.

“I always antic­i­pated that you had to go away from campus to learn about the country’s history,” Morgan said. “This project helped me realize just how much Hillsdale College has con­tributed.”

Morgan said she began thinking about public history while working as a guide with the National Park Service at the Fred­er­icksburg and Spot­syl­vania National Mil­itary Park over the last two summers, which she calls “the front­lines of Civil War history.”

Morgan’s project was also inspired in part by Intro­duction to Public History, a one-credit seminar offered by Pro­fessor of History David Stewart which dis­cussed museum curation, living history, archival science, his­toric sites, and more.

Linda Moore, public service librarian, helped Morgan put together the exhibit.

“I look at my role as a facil­i­tator,” Moore said. “I can help stu­dents find the mate­rials they need to use in the college’s archives.”

After the provost’s office secured a cabinet for the display, Morgan set to work col­lecting the arti­facts she needed for the exhibit. Most of them came from the Hillsdale College archives, although some arti­facts — including Captain William Whitney’s saber, which sits on the top shelf of the cabinet — are on loan from the Hillsdale His­torical Society.

“In the future, we’d like to coor­dinate with local public history groups to find intern­ships for stu­dents inter­ested in public history,” Stewart said. “There’s more than 40 local history orga­ni­za­tions within a 30-minute drive from campus, and they all could have great oppor­tu­nities.”

In coming semesters, Moore and Stewart said they hope other stu­dents inter­ested in public history will put together exhibits to show on campus.

“A lot of people have stopped by Hailey’s display, but I think even more people should,” Moore said. “She set a nice standard for future exhibits on campus.”

Morgan’s display revolves around four primary themes — cause, courage, sac­rifice, and remem­brance.

“Can­non­balls are mighty mis­siles, but ideas in the pos­session of a skillful writer or when hurled by the logic of an orator are mightier still,” said John Pat­terson, a student at Hillsdale during the time of the Civil War who is quoted  in one of Morgan’s display cards. “An ideal, when properly aimed, shakes the whole world from center to cir­cum­ference … Ideas are the great lever by which the world is moved.”

Sophomore Josh Bailey, who is pur­suing a career in the Marine Corps after grad­u­ation, said he and many other Hillsdale stu­dents going into the mil­itary share the same moti­vation as the Civil War vet­erans.

“I think the Pat­terson quote really sums up why a lot of Hillsdale stu­dents serve in the mil­itary, both then and now,” he said. “Hillsdale teaches us great ideas, and it is our duty to defend that her­itage.”

In the years leading up to the war, Hillsdale was a seat of abo­li­tionist activity, hosting anti­slavery speakers like Fred­erick Dou­glass, who will soon be honored with a statue on the campus’s Freedom Walk.

“When Dou­glass came to campus, he really expressed the true sen­ti­ments of the people here,” Morgan said. “His presence really speaks to our legacy as an insti­tution — we’ve always stood firm in our prin­ciples, from his time to our own.”

Hillsdale College stu­dents fought pri­marily in the 4th and 11th Michigan Infantries, and saw action in a number of pivotal battles, including engage­ments at Get­tysburg and Chat­tanooga.

One story recounted in Morgan’s exhibit describes Asher LaFleur and Moses Luce, class­mates from the college serving in the Michigan 4th. In May 1864, LaFleur was shot charging Con­fed­erate posi­tions in the Battle of Spot­syl­vania Cour­t­house. As LaFleur went down, Luce ran into enemy fire to rescue his friend. The wounds Luce sus­tained during this act of heroism cost him his leg. But, for his bravery, Luce was awarded the Medal of Honor.

In an 1861 lecture titled “The Decision of the Hour,”  Fred­erick Dou­glass wrote, “All progress towards per­fection ever made by mankind, and all the blessings which are now enjoyed, are ascribable to some brave and good man, who, catching the illu­mi­nation of a heaven-born truth, has counted it a joy, pre­cious and unspeakable, to toil, suffer, and often to die for the glo­rious real­ization of that heaven-born truth.”

Morgan said her display aims to honor the men of Hillsdale College and that “heaven-born truth” for which they fought.

“I think it’s a great way to bring to life the ideas and events we learn about in Con­sti­tution 101 and American Her­itage,” junior Adrienne Carrier said. “I think we need more of this here at Hillsdale. It really gives context to the things we learn about in those classes.”