On March 5, 1833 an old man named John Duncan walked into the Franklin County, Illinois courthouse and applied for a Revolutionary War pension. His father, he said, had been killed by Indians in Washington County, Virginia, when he was nine or ten years old. He recorded his own 20-year story of virtually nonstop Indian fighting, including the famous Vincennes campaign led by General George Rogers Clark (younger brother of 8th Virginia Captain Jonathan Clark). “He never was regularly mustered into or out of service," he said. "He never was discharged regularly. He received some little pay, but does not now recollect how much. He is unacquainted with the names of any Regular or Continental officers or companies, nor ever served with any.... He never was regularly enrolled in any company or corps, unless it might be Genl Clark’s or Col Hays’s. He belonged to none at home. He has no documentary evidence of his service; he knows of no living witness who can testify personally as to his service....”
Duncan’s life of fighting, colorful as it was, did not qualify him for a pension. Most of it happened after the war was over (he was about 18 at the time of the victory at Yorktown). The pension affidavit, however, is great reading for anyone interested in early frontier history. It was transcribed by C. Leon Harris and is one of thousands Harris and his partners at RevWarApps.com have transcribed and put online. These affidavits have long been largely ignored by historians, who have been suspicious of them as the late memories of old men eager for money. Viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism, however, they are a great resource to my research—especially when they corroborate each other or fill in blanks in the record. Duncan’s affidavit can be read here. (Though he lived for a time in an area that recruited men for the 8th Virginia, Duncan was never connected with the regiment.)
is researching the history of the Revolutionary War's 8th Virginia Regiment. Its ten companies formed on the frontier, from the Cumberland Gap to Pittsburgh.
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