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.”