Highland v. Crow
All court documents were captured, via Digital Camera, from Highland
v. Crow case files from the Coles County Circut Court Case Files.
Illinois Regional Archives Depostitory, Highland v. Crow, (January
Highland v. Crow involves a draft
substitute during the Civil War. Debt is one of the most common issues
addressed by the different cases within the Coles County legal history database.
In 1865, the clerk of Coles County filed an interesting case involving debt.
William Highland (plaintiff) sued Philip A. Crow (defendant) because he claimed
that Crow was in unlawful possession of a promissory note written by John McCoy.
Crow hired Highland in October 1864 to serve in the U.S. Army for one year in
place of Jackson Harsh. At the time, Crow gave William Highland $550 substitute
for Jackson Harsh. Highland them loaned McCoy $400 for "safe keeping"
until after he returned from the war. After agreeing to serve for Harsh, Highland
was drafted by his home State of Ohio. Thus, he was unable to substitute for
Harsh, who was a citizen of Illinois, and Crow had to hire another substitute.
Both Crow and Highland claim that the promissory note held by John McCoy had
different purposes. William Highland claims that the note was given to Phillip
Crow without his authorization. Therefore, the note was to be repaid to him
because he loaned the money to McCoy. Highland claimed that Crow was attempting
to get the money he originally paid Highland to serve in the military. In turn,
Crow asserted that a deal had been struck between himself and Highland about
the possibility of him being drafted by his home state of Ohio. Crow claims
that the money loaned by William Highland to John McCoy was to ensure that if
he was drafted by his home state McCoy would serve in his place for Jackson
Harsh. Crow went on to say that Highland owed him a sum of one hundred dollars.
This was due to the fact that McCoy was paid four hundred to serve as a substitute
for Jackson Harsh in the event that Highland could not fulfill his duties. In
turn, the one hundred and fifty dollars that was over paid to Highland became
Crow's grievance during the trial.
In the end, the case boiled down to the particulars. Both Highland and Crow
had strong cases, which were grounded in speculation about the agreement between
the parties. Neither John McCoy nor Jackson Harsh gave a written testimony during
the trial. This makes it difficult to speculate as to whose story was right.
William Highland had the strongest case, because he had five witnesses that
vouched for his version of the story. Phillip Crow's only testimony was that
of his own. When the trial concluded though, it was deemed that Phillip Crow
was not guilty and as a result, he was not forced to pay the four hundred and
fifty dollars back to William Highland.
This case has larger implications about the changes brought about during the
Civil War. This case accomplishes this by revealing legal problems and social
issues, as the United States instituted conscription for the first time during
the Civil War. Highland v. Crow gives historians and students a good understanding
of some of the challenges brought on by the radical changes legal and social
areas took on during this era.
The courthouse as pictured in Adin Baber's drawing of the affair.
Courthouse Photo, was obtained from Shick, Nancy Easter., Douglas
K. Meyer eds. Pictorial Landscape History of Charleston, Illinois.
(Rardin Graphics: Charleston, 1985), 25-26.
Highland v. Crow, File Date March 20th 1865. Booth Library Archives, Illinois
Regional Archives Depository, Box 2/C/1. and Coles
County Legal History Project, Case, no. 634.
Case number 634 offers insight into the legal history of Coles County during
the Civil War. Highland sued Crow because he claimed that Crow was in unlawful
possession of a promissory note written by John McCoy to him. Despite the fact
that Highland might have owed Crow money he still sued Crow for withholding
the promissory note written by McCoy. This case raises important questions
of possible legal problems faced by the United States as it instituted conscription
for the first time.
last updated May 13, 2003
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Coles County Legal History