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M-435: Cunningham, Jane

SCOPE: Letter from Jane Cunningham to her cousin in response to a request for genealogical information. Cunningham discusses her father, uncles, and brother, with significant detail on their involvement in the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill in North Carolina (June 20, 1780) and conflict with Native Americans in Tennessee.

HOLDINGS: One Letter, one sheet with script front and back. Folded to create four pages. Dated October 9th, 1848, Putnam Co. Indiana.


Mr. James Cunningham

Gettesburg adams County



Indiana           Putnam Co           Oct 9, 1848

Respected friend and cousin, I must inform you that I am just returned from a visate to some of our friends in the ohio my husband has two sisters in butler County and we have both brothers and sisters there and one of his sisters agnefs cuningham showed me a letter which you had sent to my brother francises son francis Alexander Cuningham when he was at washenton Citty and to see if she could git any information that would enable him to give a satisfactory answer I told her all I could and he possibly have written but I could not satisfy my mind with the hope of his writing

I wanted to be shure it was done tho I do not know wheather I can do it so as to be any satisfaction to you but when a person does the best they can it releves their mind in some measure and I will tell you first my father had three brothers john francis and Robert my father paul cuningham was I think the oldest his brother john was deprived of sight I think from a sore spell of sicknefs he had my father and his brother francis both moved to north Carolina my fathers wife died eather on the road or very shortly after his ariveal there her name was Ann Cattemore before he maried her she had one daughter only a few weeks old when she died then he maried my mother Sarah Curruth and had nine children by her six boys and three girls

my sister sarah the first wifes child maried a robert posten in north carolina and had eight children but they are both dead and some of the children and the rest moved of to some place I cant find out where my oldest brother john was wounded by the British at a mill called ramsours my father was there with him the battle was in the evening and my father spared no pains in hunting both among the dead and liveing but never found him till somewhere about day he thought of going to where they tied there horses and there he was almost gone with the loss of blood

I was so small at that time that I can remember nothing of only as I heard my father tell it but I can remember of seeing my mother wash and probe into the wound and take bits of bone out of his hench bone but after mothers death he got out of patience and wanted to go to Dr Russel in Carolina father being moved at this time to tenesee and father consented and he went but never returned

my brother james followed school teaching till after he maried and then settled in tenesee and lived there for sometime and his wife died and he moved to alabama and maried again but had no children by her she died several years before him he died two years ago

brother alexander the next oldest was all thro the war but got along without being materialy injured till nearly the heels of the war when my father moved down to the frontiers of tenesee and the indians broke out and him and brother francis joined what was called the minute men when there was any one or any mischife done the were ordered in diferent directions and were not both togather

the company that brother alexander was in met with the indian and he got shot in the head and somehow both partys took the alarm and both sides thought they were whipt and both got off the ground as quick as possible and brother said when he waked up he looked about to see what had become of the men but he could see no liveing man on the ground but himself so he thought of weher they had tied there horses and he started and found them and after he got home in dresing the wound there was several flakes of the skull bone came out he went back to carolina maried and lived there till he had a good many children then moved to alabama and died there twenty years ago this faul

brother francis maried in carrolina and died there about forty five years ago and left six children and this was the youngest that you wrote to at washenton city my next brother robert was a very sickly boy and did not live to any grait age I do not know what age he when he died his compaint was the rose

my next brother paul when he was about eighteen joined the minute men and had several brushes with the indians and when he was twenty I think he maried and he was ordered out on a scout and followed the indians into there town and had a smart scirmish with them and he had shot his gun and was loading her and there came a bullet and knocked the muselpiece off his gun and smashed the bullet all to little bits and he fetched home peaceses of it in his hands that festered and came out and father tried to git him to quit and not go no more but he said some one must go while the indians keept cameing to kill people so and there was a whole family killed just below us and he was ordered out and the second evening they came on there trail and followed some time but it came on rain and they lost theyere trail and the indians got behind them and came upon them while they were makeing a fire to dry themselves and got there guns and them that got theyr guns fought till they were near all killed or wound the next morning there was (ill.) of the whites that did not git started with the first that followed and came on the dead

they said my brother was shot in three places one just above his eye another in his throat and another in the left side of his breast and he had two crowns and the had taken two scalps and stript him naked and they didn’t strip any other but him and the men just gathered them up and threw them in a sinkhole and that was all the honors he receved at his burial but that will do him no harm when he is called up in the morning

the next mothers children was sister ann she maried thomas anderson and lives in three miles of knoxville in tenesee he has been dead six years and she is giting very frail my next sister died when she was twelve or thirteen and I am youngest of the nine

my mother died when I was three years old and now I am in my seventieth I maried afold andrew cuninghams son david and we have had eleven children there is four dead and father maried a third wife and she had a son and a daughter but she died when she was but three years old and my half brother samuel went to texes with his family and I can hear nothing from him nor brother james nor alexanders children the all there that is alive somewhere

uncle francises children is scattered some in carolina some in mesuria and I cant find out where

dear cousen if you ever get this you will have to exercise all patience you can and where of have left out words try to suply with something that will make sense and I want you if you ever git to write back as quick as possible for I do not expect to be long in this side of the clod

that is if you think you can git sense enough out of it to answer it by and if you will direct to russelvill putnam county I think I have show have told you the name david cuningham so I must conclude by wishing you well here and hereafter

your friend and cousen

david and jane cuningham           

HISTORY: Jane Cunningham (1779-1859) was born to Scotch immigrant Paul Cunningham or Conynham in Tennessee. She married David Logan Cunningham and the two moved to Indiana by 1817. In this letter, she writes to her cousin about their shared family history and the events that her family had experienced, including the Battle of Ramsour's Mill and an Indian captivity.

The Battle of Ramsour's Mill (June 20, 1780) occured during the British campaign to gain control of the southern colonies in the American Revolutionary War. The site of the battle is in present-day Lincolnton, North Carolina. Military forces recruited help for the battle from local neighbors, friends, and families, both sides spurred by reports that the other side might outnumber each other. Neither side wore uniforms, and weapons were often used as blunt-force clubs due to lack of ammunition. The fighting resulted in numerous reports of fratricide. The battle ultimately resulted in a Patriot victory, causing the Loyalists forces to suffer a significant blow to morale and southern support.

Conflicts with Native Americans, such as those described by Cunningham about her brother in Tennessee, were common as settlers encroached upon Native American territories. The Minutemen that Cunningham references are likely a reference to an informal local citizen's militia, for which the phrase was a general term at the time. Captivity narratives became a popular North American story convention in the 18th and 19th centuries. This letter, a less formal retelling of a captivity story than some published accounts, is one of many examples of the genre housed within the Special Collections.

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