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Monday, September 23, 2013

Dear cousin,

Just when it appeared to be peaceful with the Cherokee, the British came along and stirred some of them up to attack our forts.   Our family had hurried to Martin's Fort as soon as we heard the Riddle's Fort had been attacked.  After a terrible battle, it was obvious we were outnumbered and could not win against their canon.   Imagine, a canon there in our neck of the woods where there had not even been a wagon trail five years before.  Our captain  negotiated a surrender with Col. Henry Byrd, the British commander and opened the gates. He promised protection from the Indians, but I will never forget the horror of that moment.  The Indians rushed in scalping and grabbing the babies out of mother's arms and dashing them against the posts or throwing them in the fire, such as the poor Loveless' little baby.  Major Byrd only shrugged that he couldn't control the Indians.  Most of the elderly and infants were killed and the rest of us taken prisoner.  Blood was everywhere.  Our dear friends scalps were now hanging on the Indians' belts and their bodies left stripped of clothes. Fortunately, our grandmother and all of our family were spared.  That was the beginning of the long march from our corner of  Western Virginia up to Canada.  There were over four hundred of us, but if anyone wailed too loudly, they were killed.  If any lagged behind, they were killed.  Some were taken as slaves by tribes along the way.  I had almost given up not thinking I could take another step when we were put in canoes. We went up the Licking River where David and Susannah White's canoe overturned and their little son drowned.  We went up the Ohio and the Miami Rivers going first to Cincinnati then to Detroit.  Finally, we were taken to the fort at Montreal.  Somehow my mother and father, Grandma Duncan, my older brothers and sisters and I survived as well as my little sisters.  Aunt and Uncle  Berrie and the cousins are here too.  My mother gave birth to another little girl shortly after we arrived.  Though at times we were separated on the trail, we were reunited at the fort.  Once in Canada, we were left with the British.  The nightmares never leave me.  I don't know if I will ever sleep again without waking up crying with such intense memories of that fateful day.  Father is allowed to work when he can find it.  We pray for our country to overcome against these hated British, but we don't get much news.  Mother said we also have to pray to God to help us get the hate out of our heart.  That is the bigger battle.  My brother is planning an escape.  My older sisters and I are helping him secretly to get ready.  We dare not tell father or the British will put him in prison or worse if they think he was in on it.  John is almost a man now and strong.  I know he can make it, so I'm sending this letter to you with him.  Don't give up praying for us.  We yearn to see you again and our home.  Give our love to Uncle Benjamin and Aunt Hannah Sharp.  I hope the Indian attacks have ceased for you who remain there.  War is horrible.  I long for the day this will all end.  Your loving cousin,

Polly Duncan

 

Col. Henry Byrd and his troops of English and Indian troops attacked in the summer of 1780.  A Duncan told how "My grandfather and his family, and all his friends captured in Riddles and Martin's Station, old and young, black and white, were carried as prisoners by a party of British and Canadians, and a large number of Indians, and carried to Canada...There, they were retained as prisoners until the close of the war when they were exchanged and returned to the United States through what is now northern and western New York, and through New Jersey to Philadelphia and thence to Virginia from whence they had removed four or five years before." The Sharp sister, Eleanor (Nellie) Sharp Duncan, sister of my 4th great grandfather Benjamin Sharp, and his brother John's daughter, Sarah (Sally) Sharp Berry, and their families were taken captive.  This was a piece of
our nation's history I had never heard.
 
 
John Duncan did escape with a couple of friends. They almost starved to death and even ate a polecat to survive before coming upon Washington's army.  His father was put in the stockade under suspicion for helping him escape.  They made it home but the father never fully recovered from the ordeal.
  
 
 
"When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion,
we were like men who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
Our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the Nations,
'The Lord has done great things for them.'
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy."
Psalm 126:1-3
 

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