Highland Shaw Warner was born in 1835 in Cattaraugus County, New York, or perhaps in 1833 in Ohio, the son of James (1811-1855) and Sarah (Shaw or James, 1812-1869). (The 1860 census lists New York as Highland’s birthplace and his age as 24, whereas the 1850 census lists his age as 17 and his birthplace as Ohio.)
Highland’s father was born in Vermont and his mother was born in Massachusetts and they were married in either New York or Vermont in 1834. (James was the grandson of Col. Seth Warner of Vermont.) In any case, the family eventually settled in New York or perhaps in Ohio where they resided for some years but by the mid-1840s had moved to Michigan. By 1850 James had settled his family on a farm in Algoma, Kent County where Highland worked as a laborer and resided with his parents. In 1860 Highland was working as a farmer living with his mother on the family farm in Algoma. Next door lived the Hamblin brothers, three of whom would serve in the Third Michigan during the war – and who would all die during the war. On the other side of the Hamblins lived Henry Magoon and his parents; Henry too would serve in the Third Michigan.
Highland stood 5’10” with brown eyes and hair and a light complexion, and was 25 years old and probably still living in Kent County when he enlisted in Company C on May 13, 1861. (His younger sister Mary was married to Andrew Myers who would join Company F later in the War; Andrew’s older brother Peter joined Company C, probably with Highland.)
He was present for duty with the regiment during the Pensinsula campaign in Virginia in the spring and summer of 1862. From camp near Fair Oaks, Virginia, he wrote on June 17, to his mother then living in Sparta, Kent County.
I have just received this afternoon another letter from you dated June 10th. I received one a few days ago & answered it yesterday; it was dated June 2nd. It is evening now & I am writing by candlelight in my little tent. I don’t know as I can write much tonight, but I thought I would try & write a little so that you might know that I am all right yet. My health is first rate now & I enjoy myself pretty well considering all the circumstances. We have a great deal of rain here this Spring which makes it quite unpleasant some of the time & rather bad for the movement of the army; we have not had any more regular battle since the last of May & first of June that our regiment or brigade has been in, but we are preparing for it every day, but how soon the great decisive battle will be I don’t know; but perhaps the day is not far distant when we will march triumphantly into Richmond the Confederate Capitol; when it is taken I think the rebels will have to give up & the rebellion crushed forever, as Richmond is their only hope of salvation now; but we expect that they will fight desperately to save their capitol; but if the lose that they might as well give up the ghost for the U.S.troops have got every other place of importance in our possession now; we have the whole length of the Miss. River & pretty much of the whole of the Atlantic coast.
I suppose you have heard about all the news before this time by the papers of the particulars of the battle that we was in here at Fair Oaks, or Seven Pines as it is sometimes called. I don’t know as I wrote much about it in my last letters, so I will write a little about it in this.
Well the battle began about noon the 31st of May & Gen. Casey’s division was camped at the front and was attacked first by the rebels with overwhelming numbers & was driven back out of their camp with great loss. Our regiment & brigade was lying back about a mile & we was sent in after the rebels had got possession of Gen. Casey’s camps & the ground this side; then our regt., the 3rd, was ordered up double quick to meet the enemy in front.
The rebels had then got possession of a piece of woods & slashings & was concealed from our view until we had got within ten rods of them when they opened a deadly volley of musketry upon us & we had to form our line of battle under a tremendous fire from the enemy & a great many of our men fell before our line was formed which was done in a hurry & then we poured in the deadly volleys into them. Although they had the advantage of us by being formed in the woods & slashing & getting the first fire, but soon we gave them all they wanted. It was said by some prisoners that we took that our regt. (the 3rd) stood the firing of a whole brigade of the enemy five regts. strong for nearly an hour when the 5th [Michigan] regt & 2nd Mich. & NY 37th [the rest of the brigade] come up to help us, the rest of our brigade. But our regt had got the rebels started back on the retreat before any aid came to our relief, and when the rest of this brigade come up we made the rebels fly what did not lay down to bite the dust. Our brigade drove the rebels clear back beyond Gen. Casey’s camps.
I will give you a description of our regt. & brigade & division so that you will understand when I speak of it or how situated. The commanding generals have changed since we was on the upper Potomac. Our brigade is under the command of Gen. Berry; that is the 2nd, 3rd & 5th Mich & NY 37th regts which form our brigade, called Berry’s brigade, and this brigade is in Gen. Kearney’s division; a division is formed of several brigades. Now when you hear of Kearney’s division & Berry’s brigade a doing anything in battle you may consider that the 3rd is doing their part. This brigade has won a great name in the fight of the late battle on account of their gallant bravery manifested in the great battle.
The first of June the enemy renewed the attack and Generals Richardson’s & Sumner’s divisions repulsed them & drove them back covering the ground with their dead. It is reported that the enemy attacked us with about eight thousand and was whipped by four or five of small divisions of McClellan’s army. There was a rebel general taken prisoner, said that there was men enough started from Richmond to eat up all the forces that we had this side of the Chickihominy River; he was asked why they did not do it; but said he, the devil himself could not do it. He said he never saw men fight so desperately as we did. He said that the Mich. men was perfect tigers.
I can’t write any more this time for the mail is ready to go out now.
Highland was reported sick in the hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from December 14, 1862 (when he was dropped from the company rolls at Camp Pitcher) through January of 1863, and in fact he probably remained absent in the hospital until he was discharged on May 25, 1863, at West’s building hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, for arthrosia (degenerative affliction of a joint), following seven months of hospitalization.
His problem was serious indeed and would grow worse with each passing year. Highland returned to his home in Kent County, and was living in Sparta, Kent County by late June of 1863 when he was examined for his pension application by Dr. E. R. Ellis of Grand Rapids. Dr. Ellis wrote in his report that “Applicant is unable to walk without the aid of one or two canes or crutches. The rheumatic trouble is confined mostly to his knee and wrist joints. He also has a bad cough. . . .” Highland lived the rest of his life in Algoma Township, Kent County.
Highland married Michigan native Mary Smith (b. 1848) on October 12, 1864, probably in Kent County, and they had at least ten children: Carrie (b. 1865), Darius or Dan (b. 1867), James R. (b. 1870), John A. (b. 1871), Highland S. (1873-74), Andrew B. (1874-1876), Willard O. (b. 1877), Gilbert S. (1880), Blanch G. (1881) and Chauncy Henry (b. 1883).
In late 1869 he was again examined, this time by Dr. G. K. Johnson in Grand Rapids. Dr. Johnson wrote on December 20 that “At present the left arm and the left leg are considerably wasted and weakened. The left wrist joint is nearly stiff and the fingers of that hand are partly stiffened and weakened. The left knee is swollen, painful and stiffened. The limb is contracted or bent so that a crutch is necessary in walking. The disability is ‘equivalent to the loss of a hand or foot’ and it is probable that it will be permanent.”
In 1873 Warner was examined by former Third Michigan Regimental Surgeon, Dr. Zenas Bliss. Now serving on the pension board, Bliss wrote in his examination report that Warner was “suffering from chronic rheumatism involving several joints -- particularly the left knee joint which is almost completely anchylosed. Also both wrist joints -- which are considerably stiffened from the disease. Suffers from pain in the several joints.”
He was still living in Sparta in 1874 when he was again examined by Dr. Bliss, who wrote in his annual examination report that Warner’s rheumatism involved “nearly all the joints of the body” and that the “Tissues about both shoulders, ankle and hip joints, [were] considerably thickened.” Bliss also noted that Warner was now much emaciated.
He was living in Sparta when his pension was increased to $24.00 in May of 1874, and on September 25, 1874, Dr. E. J. Emmons testified that he had been treating Warner for some time and that he was “suffering intensely, with his joints all stiffened and so completely helpless that he cannot even raise his hand to his head or feed himself, or even turn over in bed. I believe that his condition is chronic and lasting. He requires the constant care and attention of another person and I believe he will continue to require such attention.” It was also noted that from the “progressive changes in the tissues”
Highland was unable to perform any labor whatsoever and as the disease progressed he was increasingly unable to take care of himself. Indeed, the pension examining board wrote in March of 1875 that Warner was “unable to dress himself, get up from bed, sit down in chair, without help. Unable to get either hand to mouth without help. Requires the constant presence of an attendant. From existing structural changes at all joints, we think his condition will never greatly improve. His present condition is not at all caused or influenced by vicious habits.” That same year his pension was increased to $50.00. per month.
By 1877, the board noted, he required constant attendance as he was entirely helpless. “Partial anchylosis of shoulders, hips, knees, ankles and neck -- also of phalangeal joints.” Following his 1880 annual examination, the board wrote that Warner was “moderately well nourished. Muscles flabby. All joints more or less anchylosed. No motion at wrist -- slight in fingers and elbow -- moderate at shoulders. Unable to carry hands near mouth -- in fact arms are useless for all ordinary purposes. Joints of lower extremities all more or less anchylosed, rendering him unable to move with crutches.”
By 1880 Highland was working as a farmer and living with his wife and children in Algoma, Kent County. In 1883 and 1884 Highland was living in Six Corners, Ottawa County, and probably in Ravenna, Muskegon County in 1885. His arthrosia continued to worsen as the years went by, and his “rheumatism” was, in the words of one doctor, the worse case he had ever seen. His attending physician, Dr. F. D. Smith of Coopersville, Ottawa County, testified on August 29, 1885, that “the soldier’s rheumatism affected both heart and lungs and was the immediate cause of his death. Was the worst case affiant ever saw. Soldier was totally helpless, nearly every joint in his body was affected and some of them anchylosed, and that his habits were good and temperate.”
Highland was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association, and he received pension no. 19,769, dated November of 1863, drawing $8.00 in 1863, $15.00 in 1870, $18.00 in 1872, and $72.00 in 1883.
He died in Ravenna, Muskegon County on July 14, 1885, of rheumatism and was buried in Myers cemetery in Sparta.
His widow applied for and received pension no. 217,616.
His widow Mary married a William Smith on December 9, 1885, and was living in Fremont, Newaygo County in 1886. In any case, a pension application was filed and granted on behalf of a minor child (no. 237258).
Highland’s remarried widow was probably living in Conklin, Ottawa County in 1890.