Bowman and Johnson Killed, James Bunch Wounded in Powell's Valley

Bowman and Johnson Killed, James Bunch Wounded in Powell's Valley

By Emory L. Hamilton

From the unpublished manuscript, Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell and Holston Rivers, pages 42-45.

James Kincaid, son of John Kincaid, who lived across Clinch River from St. Paul, VA, and who, in the year 1779, moved with his father to Kentucky and later settled in Missouri, tells of this incident in his Revolutionary War pension statement filed in Lafayette Co., MO, in 1833.

I entered the service of the United States under the command of Captain John Dunkin (1). At this time his father lived in a settlement called Castle's Woods on Clinch River, about 25 miles north of Abingdon, Virginia, a frontier fort. Powell Valley had been settled, but the settlers had been run off by the Indians. A good many of them could not bring their plunder with them, but hid it. John Dunkin was ordered out with a company of militia in order to guard the people who had left their property behind them, to collect it together and bring it into the settlements. He (Kincaid) was one of Dunkin's company. At this time Captain Joseph Martin was stationed at the Rye Cove Fort on Clinch River in order to guard the frontiers of Virginia. He (Martin) kept two spys, who were brothers, to-wit: John and James Bunch.

When we got into the valley we met with these spys. They then returned with us down to what was called Martin's Station in said valley, but we found no one there - they had all fled. One of the settlers that was with us, who had fled from the valley by the name of Davis (called Captain Davis). Before the people fled he lived at Owen's Station, (2) ten miles below Martin's. We took up at Martin's Station. Sometime after, Davis petitioned Dunkin for a few men to go down to Owen's Station with him to collect his plunder. Five men was granted him, one of whom was James Bunch. They went to the Station and collected the plunder accordingly, as I understood, and returning back to the camp the Indians waylaid the path and fired upon them, and wounded Bunch, and killed a man by the name of (Robert) Bowman at the place, and wounded another by the name of Johnson, as Bunch related, for he returned with him (Johnson) a piece, but he (Johnson) never got in. Three of the party got in that night, two of whom was Bunch and Davis.

The next day Dunkin went down with all his force, save a few left to guard the wounded. This affiant was one that went down. We went to the place and there found Bowman dead. Davis took us to a tree where he said an Indian stood whom he shot at. We went to the place and found a great deal of blood. We then took his trail and followed them, but not a great ways, as it appeared they had scattered. We returned back and buried the dead, thence to camp (at Martin's Station). This circumstance broke up the expedition.

Bunch grew very sick and we had to take him to this company at the Rye Cove. We were then all dismissed and returned home. As well as he can recollect, he states this took place in 1776. He does not recollect the particular month, except that it was in warm weather.

Andrew Lynam in his Revolutionary War pension statement filed in Bath Co., KY, on June 23, 1833, also tells of the above killing in this manner:

In the month of June, he thinks the 1st, but cannot say as to the particular day, he entered the service of the United States under Captain John Dunkin, as a volunteer for three months in 1776. At the end of this three month tour he again volunteered in Captain Dunkin's Company of militia for three months. Was in the month of September the same year as before. We were commanded by John Dunkin as Captain, and as our tour was to prevent the Indians from committing outrages upon the defenseless inhabitants we were marched immediately to Powells Valley. At this place we had a battle with the Indians in which two of our men were killed and one wounded. We then commenced our march home to a station called Rye Cove, and as winter was now about to set in and the Indians to recede for the season our services were no longer needed.

Both James Kincaid and Andrew Lynam say the above occurred in 1776. Kincaid say in "warm weather" and Lynam says in September. Powell Valley was evacuated in June 1776 prior to the Cherokee Campaign under Col. William Christian, and remained so until the conclusion of that campaign. Surely if Captain John Dunkin took his company to guard the settlers in bringing in their personal belongings it must have been soon after the evacuation of the valley. Yet, first of all, Joseph Martin was in Powells Valley and not at Rye Cove in 1776. He went from Powell Valley to Fort Patrick Henry in the latter part of August, 1776, as can be proven by the muster roll of his troops on the Cherokee Campaign, 25th of August to 7th of November, 1776, (3) and stationed at Fort Patrick Henry from the 13th of November, 1776 to the 31st of January, 1777. (4) Then the same company is stationed at Fort Lee on the Clinch, at Rye Cove and the Bunches are on the roster, or at least John Bunch is. James Bunch does not appear on the roster till the roster of 1st of May to June 30th, 1777, at Fort Lee, (5) although he appears in the Shelby Family Papers (6) as a Scout from the 19th of March to 21st of July, along with his brother John. Neither of these appear as Scouts prior to that date and James not at all.

In a letter from Anthony Bledsoe, dated Fort Patrick Henry, 8th of April, 1777, (7) he says:

I much lament poor Bunch and could have sent the doctor, but the waters prevented till there was a particular call for him down the river. This is also born out by the letter of Col. Evan Shelby, of the 27th of April, 1777, who "laments the fate of his unhappy men", meaning Martin's men and regrets he has no shock troops to send to Martin at the time.

The Bowman who Kincaid says was killed was Robert Bowman who was a member of Martin's Company at the time. Since these troops, for the most part, were from Pittsylvania Co. (as was Martin) they would not show in the local records. Who Johnson was is hard to say, but he, too, was perhaps a Pittsylvania man.

The Bunch brothers, John and James, who were Indian Scouts under Martin while he was stationed at the Rye Cove, both moved to Tennessee. James was made a Captain of Militia in Hawkins Co., TN in 1790, and John was made an Ensign in 1793, and a Captain in 1794 in Knox Co., KY. This was while Tennessee was still a territorial government.

(1) The same John Dunkin who was captured by Indians at Riddle's Station in KY 1779.
(2) Owen's Station was located near the present Rose Hill in Lee Co., VA
(3) Draper Mss 1 XX 31
(4) Ibid, 1 XX 19
(5) Ibid, 1 XX 24
(6) Shelby Family Papers, Library of Congress, Vol. 1, Item 464
(7) Draper Mss 1 XX 21

This file contributed by: Rhonda Robertson

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