The Last Full Measure

Written by Ann Rinaldi

It is 1863, and fourteen-year-old Tacy and her family are caught up in the Battle of Gettysburg, trying to survive the shelling of their town, to save their free black friends from being captured and sold into slavery, and to help wounded soldiers.

I really wanted to like this book as I have enjoyed other Ann Rinaldi novels. But The Last Full Measure was a disappointment. First, the plot was fast-paced, but almost too fast. Important plot events took place one right after another with little commentary in between. Also, the choice of which events merited Tacy’s reflection seemed odd to me. Tacy commented little on the deaths of family members and friends, but quite a bit on family tensions, her fight with a friend, and her horse being stolen. Then there was the scene in which Tacy begged to go to the battlefield to help bury the dead. I understand that it is hard to do historical fiction with girls as the main character as oftentimes girls’ lives were so restricted. But I just didn’t buy Tacy wanting to see the carnage of Gettysburg, her family letting her go, and her being so little affected by it especially when it was described in Rinaldi’s wonderfully detailed manner as absolutely gruesome.

Also, problematic to me was the climax of the book when Tacy’s brother gives his “last full measure” to the battle. David’s act was described as honorable, but it felt senseless as the battle was over at that point and even Tacy understood David’s motivations as stubbornness rather than principled. Finally, at one point in the story the Sanitation Commission cleans the roads for fear of germs. Given that germ theory was not widely accepted until a generation later, this bit seemed anachronistic.