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McNish visited Saunders Field at the Wilderness National Bat­tle­field. Courtesy | Carter McNish

Freshman Carter McNish walked along the same trenches where Hillsdale stu­dents won medals of honor for fighting in the Civil War. Looking at Hillsdale College’s Civil War Mon­ument, McNish read the names of those Hillsdale stu­dents who lost their lives serving as sol­diers in the Civil War and decided that he ought to tell their stories.

His inspi­ration first took the form of a five-part radio series. After lightly editing the radio series’ scripts, McNish self-pub­lished them in his book, “The Last Full Measure,” through Barnes and Noble at B&N Press in Feb­ruary 2021.  

“I picked a few battles that I thought were of special sig­nif­i­cance to Hillsdale stu­dents in terms of their stories,” McNish said. “The radio series and book is a history of five battles with a spe­cific emphasis of where Hills­dalians fought.” 

“The Last Full Measure” gives an overview of five Civil War battles in which Hillsdale stu­dents dis­tin­guished them­selves: The Battle of the Wilderness, Spot­syl­vania Cour­t­house and its Bloody Angle, The Penin­sular Cam­paign and the Battle of Gaines Mill, The Second Battle of Bull Run, and Antietam. For example, Hillsdale student Sgt. Moses A. Luce won the Medal of Honor for his fighting in The Battle of the Wilderness. 

A native of Maryland, McNish grew up vis­iting Civil War battle sites in the Eastern and Western the­aters. He said that having the oppor­tunity to visit the sites he talked about in the series gave him a better under­standing of the terrain for each battle. 

“I could explain in greater detail what the terrain looked like and how the units could have really moved by walking the same path as them,” McNish said. “As recently as this winter, I visited a couple of the bat­tle­fields I wrote about in the book. I walked along the trenches at The Battle of the Wilderness where there had been four or five Hillsdale stu­dents fighting.”

McNish said Lori Curtis, Hillsdale College’s archivist and special col­lec­tions librarian, pointed him in the right direction while he inves­ti­gated the lives of Hillsdale stu­dents who fought in the Civil War. Relying on per­sonal letters and other Civil War mate­rials in the archives, McNish said he could piece together where Hillsdale stu­dents served during the war.

“For almost every single Civil War battle that there was, there was at least one Hillsdale student who fought,” McNish said. “For a college of this size, that’s incredible.” 

McNish said one of the more inter­esting stu­dents he learned about was Sgt. Lafayette Young, who led troops on attacks through the woods in the Battle of the Wilderness. 

“Young’s reg­iment emerged from a set of trees about 10 feet away from Con­fed­erate sol­diers,” McNish said. “Young was killed in the exchange of fire.” 

Prior to pub­lishing “The Last Full Measure,” McNish said one of the more chal­lenging aspects of recording the radio series included finding sound effects for each of the battles that he could incor­porate into the voiceovers. McNish said he wanted to add in the sounds of gunfire and cannons to situate people in the battle. 

“The idea for me was to take my expe­rience of vis­iting the bat­tle­fields plus the story of Hillsdale College stu­dents and mix those two together to give lis­teners a similar expe­rience,” McNish said. 

Freshman Liam Moffat helped McNish record some of the voiceovers for the radio series. Orig­i­nally from New Orleans, Moffat said he learned the dif­fer­ences between accents from several Southern regions. 

“Recording the Southern accents that I know was pretty fun to do,” Moffat said. “There was one where Carter needed the char­acters to have the Georgia drawl, and I had fun doing that voice.” 

Freshman Isaac Erickson also helped McNish produce the radio series by editing the sounds. 

“I would adjust sound levels and crop out unnec­essary sounds or pauses, but I don’t have any expe­rience with recording the voices or most other similar ele­ments of the show,” Erickson said in an email. “Carter does a great job with the show.” 

McNish said both the Civil War and Hillsdale College stu­dents’ involvement in the war are worth a more thorough inves­ti­gation. In the future, McNish said he hopes to create a second edition of “The Last Full Measure” that gives a more thorough account of each of the battles. 

“I’m also hoping to cover some more well-known battles from the Civil War and more about the par­ticular lives of Hillsdale stu­dents,” McNish said. “There’s plenty of great stories from Get­tysburg.” 

Since pub­lishing “The Last Full Measure,” McNish said he has been working on a new radio series entitled “LeMay’s Inferno,” which is all about Gen. Curtis Emerson LeMay and the United States’ final year of fighting in the Pacific Theater during WWII.

McNish hopes to publish the scripts from “LeMay’s Inferno” by May or June of 2021. After working on “The Last Full Measure” and fin­ishing “LeMay’s Inferno,” McNish said he com­bined his love of history, identity as a Hillsdale student, and cre­ative urge to achieve a goal. 

“Having a reg­u­larly scheduled radio broadcast moti­vated me to keep writing,” McNish said. “I’ve been writing chapter one of books for years, and I figured it was about time to finish one.”