John Hinkson moved to Kentucky in Spring of '80, four or five boats came with him with about half a dozen families, stopped at Limestone about a week, built a block-house, the first erected there, and sent a message to his old station (better known as Ruddell's) to get help to aid in moving the families over, and while waiting at Limestone the Indians stole all the horses belonging to the company - some 20 in all - At the old station there was not a sufficiency of men to share, and advised a continuation to the Falls of Ohio.
"Went down there in his boats - got horses to transport some of the property leaving the family at the Falls, and he had been at Ruddell's but three or four days when Bird came."
It is likely that William McCune was in the Hinkson party that dropped the families off at the Falls of the Ohio--the newly formed village of Louisville--and continued on to John Hinkson's former settlement, now built up and fortified by Captain Isaac Ruddell. It is in this place that William McCune enters into Revolutionary War history as one of the "defender's of Ruddle's Fort" against the British and the Indians. While a full account of the taking of Ruddle's fort by the British and their Indian allies is not possible in this short essay, it is important to provide a summary of the events leading up to, and including, the capture of the fort. Maude Lafferty, in her article on the taking of Ruddle's and Martin's forts, provides an excellent summary of the events:
"One of the outstanding events of the Revolutionary War in the West was the invasion of Kentucky by the British officer, Captain Henry Bird, of the Eighth Regiment of his Majesty's forces, and the destruction of Ruddle's and Martin's Forts. Coming in the summer of 1780 with an army of more than a thousand British regulars, Canadian volunteers, Indians and Tories, and bringing the first cannon ever used against the log forts of the wilderness, he captured 470 men, women and children, loaded them down with the plunder from their own cabin homes and drove them on foot from Central Kentucky to Detroit, a distance of 600 miles. There they were divided among their captors and some of them were taken 800 miles farther to Mackinac and to Montreal. The story of their capture, of the separation of families, of the hardships endured during the six-weeks journey and of the conditions under which they lived during the fourteen years of their captivity is one of the most shocking in the pioneer period of Kentucky's history.
"The invasion was planned by British officers at Detroit, their object being not only to exterminate the pioneer forts, but to force our western frontier back to the Alleghany Mountains, thus bringing out in bold relief the policy of Great Britain in the Revolutionary War-to prevent the westward growth of the American Colonies.
"In executing their plan they waged the War of the American Revolution on Kentucky soil, for they came under the command of a British officer flying the British flag, demanding surrender in the name of his Britannic Majesty, King George III, and made official report of the expedition to Sir Frederick Haldimand, the British Lieutenant General, who was then Governor of Canada."
The actual taking of Ruddle's fort is described in graphic detail by Daniel Trabue, a brother of one of the captives, James Trabue:
"The land office was opened this spring at Wilson's Station for entering land warrents. James Trabue and I went their to make some entries, but their was so many people their we had to cast lots. And according to lot he (James Trabue) made some few entries, and it would be several days before he could make any more. And it would be several days before I could make my entries as my warrents was not on the first day.
"So we went home and James Trabue told me he would make my entries for me when he made his, if I would stay at home and attend to howing our corn planted. I agreed to it and gave him my warrents and a memorandum where my land was to be laid. It was 2,000 acres and choice land. James Trabue said he would go to licking on his commessary business. He was very much [needed] their and could be back to Wilson's Station in time to lay our warrents.
"So he went to Licking and got Ruddle's Station at night. And when morning [June 24, 1780] came their fort was surrounded by Indians; and Col. Byrd, a british officer from Detroyt, soon arrived with a cannon. He (Byrd) sent in a flag to the fort, demanding them to surrender to him as prisoners of war, etc., to which they refused. The cannon was twise fired. Done no damage except knocked one cabin log so it was moved in about six inches.
"Capt. Ruddle insisted it would be best to cappitulate. Capt. Hinkston and James Trabue insisted to defend the fort. At length Capt. Ruddle got a majority on his side and petitioned Col. Byrd to capitula[te]. The flag was sent back and forward several times before they agreed and the articles was sighned and agreed to. James Trabue was the man that did wright in behalf of Ruddle and the people in the fort. The terms of cappitulation was that Col. Byrd and his white soldiers should protect the people that was in the fort and march thim to Detroyt as prisoners, and that the Indians should have nothing to do with them, that the peoples cloathing and papers should be sicure to themselves with some little exceptions.
"The fort gate was opined. The Indeans came rushing in and plundered the people, and they evin striped their cloaths of[f] them and dividing the prisoners among the indians. In a few minuts the man did not know where his wife or child was, nor the wife know where her husband or either of her children was, no the children where ther parrents or brothers and sisters weare, all contrary to the cappitulation. Nor they had no chance of seeing Col. Byrd, as the Indians kept them to themselves. They went and took Martain's station also."
Though it does not really fit into this biography of William McCune, I cannot resist telling one last tale concerning his half-brother, John Hinkson. It is one of the most colorful tales of this tragic affair and has entered into the folk-lore of this period. The story is taken from an early newspaper article written by John Bradford, October 20, 1826. Though it suffers somewhat from the encrustation of folk-legend, it is, nevertheless, a wonderful story:
"Immediately after it was decided not to go forward to Bryan's Station, the army commenced their retreat to the forks of Licking, where they had left their boats, and with all possible dispatch got their artillery and military stores on board, and moved off. At this place the Indians separated from Byrd, and took with them the whole of the prisoners taken at Ruddle's Station. Among the prisoners were Capt. John Hinkston, a brave man and an experienced hunter and woodsman. The second night after leaving the forks of Licking, the Indians encamped near the river; every thing was very wet, in consequence of which it was difficult to kindle a fire, and before a fire could be made it was quite dark. A guard was placed over the prisoners, and whilst part of them were employed-in kindling the fire, Hinkston sprang from among them and was immediately out of sight. An alarm was instantly given, and the Indians ran in every direction, not being able to ascertain what course he had taken. Hinkston ran but a short distance before he lay down by the side of a log under the dark shade of a large beach tree, where he remained until the stir occasioned by his escape had subsided, when he moved off as silently as possible. The night was cloudy, and very dark, so that he had no mark to steer by, and after travelling some time towards Lexington, as he thought, he found himself close to the camp from which he had just before made his escape. In this dilemma he was obliged to tax his skill as a woodsman, to devise a method by which he should be enabled to stear his course without light enough to see the moss on the trees, or without the aid of sun, moon or stars. Captain Hinkston ultimately adopted this expedient: he dipped his hand in the water, (which almost covered the whole country) and holding it upright above his head, he instantly felt one side of his hand cold; he immediately knew, that from that point the wind came-he therefore steered the ballance of the night to the cold side of his hand, that being from the west he knew, and the course best suited to his purpose. After travelling several hours he sat down at the root of a tree and fell asleep.
"A few hours before day, there came on a very heavy dense fog, so that a man could not be seen at twenty yards distance. This circumstance was of infinite advantage to Hinkston, for as soon as day light appeared, the howling of wolves, the gobling of turkeys, the bleating of fawns, the cry of owls, and every other wild animal, was heard in almost every direction. Hinkston was too well acquainted with the customs of the Indians, not to know that it was Indians, and not beasts or birds that made these sounds-he therefore avoided approaching the places where he heard them, and notwithstanding he was several times within a few yards of them, with the aid of the fog he escaped, and arrived safe at Lexington. It was the 8th day after Ruddle's Station was taken, when Hinkston arrived in Lexington, and brought the first news of that event."