Edwin High's house in Metamora. From the collection of Dr. James Senefeld.
Edwin High's house in Metamora. From the collection of Dr. James Senefeld.

Although not a native of Franklin County, Edwin High and his family quickly embraced the people and community of Metamora when they moved to a farm just outside of the town in 1852. John and Emeline High came from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Edwin having been born there on July 20, 1841.

Edwin W. High – Metamora resident, Civil War veteran, lawyer, and author. A high profile, yet modest individual, his contemporaries noted that Edwin had a warm friendliness about him, and was one of Franklin County's “sterling citizens.” His friends said that all of Edwin's leisure time was spent studying “in his fine library,” and newspaper accounts stated he was a vigorous writer.

The name Edwin High will be familiar to any Civil War enthusiast as well as to anyone who knows Metamora history. High's most recognized accomplishment is that of the 400-plus page History of the Sixty-eighth Regiment Indiana Volunteer Infantry, 1862-1865. Franklin County had more men in this regiment than in any other. Three companies C, G, and H, were comprised of Franklin County residents who were officers and privates.
According to Civil War Archive, the Sixty-eighth Regiment of the Indiana Infantry was organized at Indianapolis, and mustered into service in 1862.

The regiment left for Louisville, just before midnight on Aug. 19 of that year. Practically all of this regiment's service was in the South. In addition to Kentucky, the regiment also served in Tennessee, at the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia, and served as defense for Decatur, Alabama. The regiment was finally mustered out of service after moving back to Nashville, Tennessee, June 20, 1865. Overall, it's said that during service the regiment lost a total of 150 men. There were four officers, and thirty-five enlisted men who were killed or mortally wounded, and 111 enlisted men killed by disease.

High's book was published in 1902 and covered every phase of the career of this regiment. According to the History of Franklin County, High was “asked by the Sixty-eighth Indiana Veterans Association to write the history.” Over one hundred years ago, as well as today, “This volume has the reputation of being one of the best regimental histories ever published in the state and reflects great honor upon its author.”

Edwin and his brother, Jenks High, enlisted to serve during the Civil War, and both were in Company C of the Sixty-eighth Regiment. It's said that Jenks received a sunstroke while in the army, and never fully recovered from the effects of the attack. Edwin, however, fared much better.

In August 1862, Edwin was a private. He rose through the ranks, being appointed first as an orderly sergeant, then commissary sergeant of the regiment. In 1864, he was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant and adjutant of the regiment (a military officer who acts as an administrative assistant to a senior officer). Eventually Edwin was placed on detached duty as a clerk at Chattanooga, and served there until March 1865. Later he was detailed for duty as a clerk in the war department at Washington D.C. He was later assigned to duty as a clerk in charge of court martial records for the district of Etowah. In 1866, he accepted a position as inspector and gauger (a collector of excise taxes, or the like) in the United States internal revenue department. In 1867, he went to Louisville, where he was employed in the quartermaster's department and in the disbursing office of the Freedmen's bureau. While in Louisville, High pursued the study of law under the Honorable James Speed who was a respected member of the local bar, and who had served as attorney general of the United States under President Lincoln.

At about this same time, High was also a correspondent for the New York Tribune. While working for this publication, he furnished the facts relating to certain counties in Kentucky where slavery had not yet been abolished as late as 1868. He also wrote about gross outrages that were being committed by the KKK on the freed slaves of the South. High had also been a writer for the Louisville Courier-Journal during the early 1870s.

In November 1871, Edwin married Mary Banes of Metamora. For a short time in 1873, he was involved in the mercantile business in Tampico, Illinois. Here he opened a dry goods store, but did not find this pursuit to his liking, so he gave it up and in 1877, the Highs returned to Metamora permanently. Once back in Franklin County he actively engaged in the practice of law and did so until his death.

High's law business took off with remarkable success. He was well read in the different branches of law, but made his specialty of insolvency of business, and was well versed in the laws and arguments necessary for the completion of insolvent estates. In his later years, Edwin was also a partner with the real estate firm of Green & High of Brookville.

The photo of the house accompanying this article came from Dr. James Senefeld of Tennessee. It was labeled as Edwin High's house, and was taken by the Metamora photographer, J.J. Rubottom. The house no longer stands, but from examining fire insurance maps and county plat books for the town of Metamora, it appears that the Highs’ house was located just northwest of the Banes' house, which does still stand at 19062 Main St. Though no more written details accompanied the photo, it is assumed that this was the house in which Edwin and Mary lived – not a house that Edwin lived in as a child.

The Indianapolis News of July 2, 1904, said that Edwin High was currently engaged in the preparation of another massive history — this one regarding Indiana in the Civil War. The article noted that he had already written the History of the Sixty-eighth Regiment, and something called The Story of the Flag, which was supposed to be a history of our national flag.

High's new endeavor was to “comprise six volumes of about 500 pages each,” and was to address the social and political character of the state at the outbreak of the Civil War. In addition, it was also to give a history of Indiana during the struggle for the Union; an outline of each military organization sent out to the field with a roster of officers; and a history of every great battle where the soldiers of Indiana shed their blood. This book was to be a collaborative effort between Colonel Richard L. Leeson, of Elwood, Indiana and Edwin High. Leeson had been a soldier during the Civil War as well – a captain with the Sixty-eighth. Obviously, Leeson and High had been friends for the past forty years.

Interesting that I cannot find anything called The Story of the Flag by Edwin High. Moreover, what happened to his six-volume project regarding Indiana during the Civil War? I can find no evidence of it ever being completed. Perhaps it never was, since Leeson died in September of 1906 and Edwin High died in February of 1907. Surely, a massive project such as a multi-volume history of at least three thousand pages would have taken many years to complete. Leeson was probably the backer of the project, since he was a benefactor and well-established businessman of Elwood, and High was more than likely the sole researcher-writer. Was the project started but both men died in the middle of it? Did someone else finish the project and leave High's name off as an author? On the other hand, did High complete a good portion of this second history before he died and someone in Franklin County has a rare copy of his unfinished manuscript in their collection or barn? Needless to say, if you find old papers, letters or manuscripts at home, and you don't know what they are and don't want them – DO NOT throw them away – the library will be glad to take them. You never know what treasure or piece of unique history is hiding in your unwanted belongings.

Are you one of the very few lucky enough to have an original copy of High's Sixty-eighth Regiment history book? It's not been determined how they were distributed, or how many were originally printed, perhaps only 500 or 1,000 at the most. An item in the June 17, 1902 Indianapolis Journal praised the book and stated, “Those desiring copies should write to Edwin High, Metamora, Ind., or to Colonel Richard L. Leeson, Elwood, Ind.” I never found any advertisements or notices in the local newspapers stating it was for sale, so perhaps solely High and Leeson did all distributions of this specialized history book.

If you don't have your own copy of this book and would like to see one, we have a reproduction in the Local History & Genealogy Dept. of the Brookville Library. Alternatively, you can peruse a copy at your leisure on Google Books where it has been scanned in its entirety.

Julie Schlesselman Local History & Genealogy Dept. Manager Franklin County Public Library District