My Genealogy Hound

Below is a family biography included in Portrait and Biographical Album of Greene and Clark Counties, Ohio published by Chapman Bros., in 1890.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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AMOS E. DUNCAN, M.D., who occupies the Chair of Physiology in Antioch College, Yellow Springs, is a plain, unassuming gentleman, possessing great ability in his specialty, and broad culture in other branches of knowledge, as will be seen in reading his life history. He became connected with Antioch College as a Trustee in 1870, becoming Assistant Treasurer in 1874. In the winter of 1886, the Chair of Physiology was endowed by Dr. C. N. Hoagland, of Brooklyn, N.Y., and the professorship bestowed upon Dr. Duncan. The two physicians had been intimately associated during the Civil War, in the capacity of army surgeons, sharing together many trying scenes. The friendship begun at that time, has grown wider and deeper for a period of more than a quarter of a century, not a shadow of doubt or distrust having marred it. The great want of a more thorough knowledge of sanitary science was observed by the friends, and has proved a topic of consideration by them on many occasions. When Dr. Hoagland saw his way to the endowment of a chair which would to some extent fill the long felt need, nothing was more natural than that he should wish his friend, whose ability and interest he so well knew, to become its incumbent.

The Duncan family is of Scotch blood, and connected with many interesting events in the history of “Auld Scotia.” Samuel Duncan, the grandfather of our subject, was born near Dundee, and upon emigrating to America, made his first settlement in Virginia. He afterward removed to South Carolina, his son Isaac being born near Charleston in 1796. His next location was at Jonesboro, Penn., whence in 1803, they came to Ohio, settling temporarily at Oldtown, Greene County, and making their permanent location, and future home, in Miami County, near Ludlow’s Falls, where grandfather Duncan died in 1833. The religious faith of the family was that of the Society of Friends.

Upon reaching man’s estate, Isaac Duncan married Elizabeth Dickson, of Miami County, whose mother was a cousin of Gen. Anthony Wayne. Her father, Robert Dickson, who was born at sea on ship-board, was a Revolutionary soldier, and during the war received a sabre wound in his left elbow, which crippled him for life. Two of her brothers — William and Nicholas — served in the War of 1812, the latter holding the rank of captain. Mrs. Elizabeth Duncan was born in 1800, near Charleston, S. C., and breathed her last in 1874, having survived her husband many years. His death had taken place in 1847, being occasioned by the accidental upsetting of a wagon-load of hay. They were the parents of ten children, five of whom are now living.

The natal day of our subject was November 7, 1834, and his birthplace Miami County, in which his childhood and youth were spent, his elementary education being obtained in the district schools. After his father’s death he remained upon the farm with his mother until his studies were sufficiently advanced to enter Farmers’ College, at College Hill, near Cincinnati. His teachers in that institution were the same to whom President Harrison had recited the previous year. After an attendance of a year at Farmers’ College, our subject began teaching in 1856, at the same time reading medicine, to which study his taste led him to determine to devote his talents. He continued his labors as a pedagogue until 1859, proving a successful instructor, and while teaching others, fixing the knowledge he had obtained more firmly in his own mind. In 1859-60, he attended the Medical College at Cincinnati, in the fall of the latter year beginning to practice medicine at Bartonia, Ind. Beginning there empty handed, having to borrow money to buy his first supply of medicine, he progressed so rapidly, that within thirty days he had a living practice.

After the outbreak of the war, he closed his office October 10, 1861, and was enrolled as a private in Company B, Seventy-first Ohio Infantry. Within two months he was appointed Hospital Steward, and also served as an Assistant Surgeon, performing a surgeon’s duties in both camp and hospital.

On February 18, 1864, he was promoted to the position of Surgeon to the Ninth Tennessee Cavalry, with which regiment he remained until after the close of the war. No more important or dangerous duties belong to army life, than those performed by the medical fraternity, and nowhere is greater bravery and self-control needed than in the care of the wounded.

Dr. Duncan was present at twenty-one battles, including some of the most important conflicts of the war. He was on the bloody field of Shiloh two days, during the first day’s engagement having charge of the ambulance train, and being on the front line, whence he brought off the wounded Lieut. Col. Kyle, of Troy. At Ft. Donelson he participated in the second and third engagements, and he was also present at the battle of Greenville, E. Tenn., September 4, 1 864, and in Bristol, (Tenn.); Marion, Mt. Ayr, and Wytheville, (Va.); and at the capture of the forts of Saltville.

The dead body of Gen. Morgan was examined by Dr. Duncan, news of the whereabouts of the General having been brought to the command by a young boy who was going to the mill. During that battle Dr. Duncan was signaled by Mrs. Col. Frye, and told that he was in danger of being shot by sharpshooters. He faced the enemy, organized a little party of one hospital steward, an ambulance driver, and two orderlies, and reaching the house where the sharpshooters were, captured three of them, a Lieutenant and two privates. For this valourous deed, he received great praise from the fighting Governor, Parson Brownlow, of Tennessee. After being present at the surrender of Gen. Joe Johnston, in North Carolina, and the closing scenes of the war in that part of the country, Dr. Duncan was with his command, which was employed in scouring the country, collecting war material, and paroling Confederate troops until September 9, 1865, when he was mustered out at Knoxville, Tenn.

The following letter in relation to the services of Dr. Duncan during war times, will explain itself:
Washington, D. C., May 24, 1890.

J. M. Harris, P. C.
Yellow Springs, Ohio,
Dear Sir; — In reply to your letter asking me to give a sketch of the services of Dr. A. E. Duncan, a member of Burkholder Post, No. 115, Department of Ohio, G. A. R., and Assistant Surgeon of the regiment I had the honor to command during the greater portion of its service, I have the honor to reply:

While encamped at Nashville, several hundred miles from the homes of my Regiment of East Tennessee Loyal Mountaineers, there was a vacancy in the office of Assistant Surgeon of my regiment, and the Surgeon himself being physically disqualified for efficient service because of long imprisonment and brutal treatment by the rebels, there was pressing need of a medical officer. Under this state of affairs it happened fortunately for our regiment, that Dr. Duncan was encamped conveniently to us and was willing to accept the vacant post. He was ordered before the Medical Examining Board at Nashville, and his examination having been most creditable, he was immediately commissioned by Military Governor Andrew Johnson, as Assistant Surgeon of the Ninth Tennessee Cavalry.

The zeal, ability and untiring energy with which he devoted himself to his duties, speedily secured for him the respect of every officer and soldier of the regiment, including a small number who had rather objected to the appointment of an unknown Ohio stranger instead of an old acquaintance and neighbor of their own section. In a very short time after joining our regiment, Dr. Duncan became Acting Surgeon, and from that time during nearly the whole of the war, he performed the double duty of Assistant Surgeon and Regimental Surgeon. In the numerous raids made by our regiment, he was always Acting Surgeon, and sometimes the only medical officer with the regiment. I never knew a medical officer to perform so much hard work as he did. Indeed few men in any branch of the service would have done the work of others as well as his own, and done it uncomplainingly. His work was done so cheerfully, zealously, and efficiently, that it secured for him the respect and affection not only of his regiment, but of the other regiments of the brigade, which benefited by his counsels and labors.

In our engagements Dr. Duncan was always at the front, personally superintending the removal of the wounded and watching over them in the hospital as devotedly as it was possible for any surgeon to do. Our brigade had a memorable engagement on the 4th of September, 1864. At about 10 p. m., on September 3 of that year, we broke camp with that portion of our brigade whose horses had not been completely broken down by weeks of hard marching and hard fighting. We had about eleven hundred men in the saddle, and two small Parrott guns. We left camp in the midst of a furious storm, such a storm as is characteristic of the mountain region in which we were serving. It literally rained in torrents, and the night was so dark that we would sometimes only know the deviations we had made from the path we intended pursuing, by the flashes of lightning. The roads were so bad, and the darkness so intense, that it took us between seven and eight hours to travel eighteen miles, going as rapidly as darkness and the condition of the roads would permit.

Just as the day began to dawn, after having captured his pickets, most of whom were sleeping in the town of Greenville, Tenn., the home of the late President Andrew Johnson, we surprised and attacked a command of the famous rebel cavalryman and raider, John H. Morgan, with his men numbering about twenty-two hundred, or double our own force, with six pieces of artillery. We killed Morgan, and captured two pieces of his artillery, and killed and wounded from seventy-five to one hundred of his men, with a loss of only three killed, and about fifteen wounded on our side. Morgan’s command was so thoroughly routed, that it never paused in its flight until it had run twenty-five miles, and it was so thoroughly demoralized, that it was utterly worthless during the remainder of the war.

In this engagement our Assistant and Acting Regimental Surgeon, Dr. Duncan, became so enthused and went so far to the front, that he captured three of the fleeing Johnny Rebs. The fame Morgan had acquired by his many dashing and successful raids and the estimate placed upon him by Gen. Grant, in his memoirs, to-wit: that he was one of the most daring and successful cavalry officers produced by the war, makes it pardonable in us we think, in feeling some pride in our thoroughly successful surprise and attack of his hitherto successful command. I will not consume your time with other references to the services of our little army of loyal Southern mountaineers. My object in writing, was not to give an history of the services of our brigade, but to pay a tribute to the faithful and efficient service rendered to his country by Comrade Amos E. Duncan, and which services will be ever appreciated by his comrades of the Union Army of loyal Eastern Tennessee.

Very Respectfully,
John B. Brownlow,
Late Lieutenant. Colonel,
Ninth Tennessee Cav. Vol., U. S. A.

Returning to the more peaceful life of a civilian, Dr. Duncan now opened an office at Arcanum, Ohio, where he practiced his profession five years, since which time he has devoted himself principally to scientific investigations, to the duties which have devolved upon him in connection with Antioch College, and particularly to those which pertain to physiology and sanitary science. Ably assisted by his son, who is far advanced in microscopic photography, and who is his assistant in the college, he has likewise made many investigations in bacteria analysis.

On Christmas Day, 1857, the rites of wedlock were celebrated between Dr. Duncan and Miss Anna B. Brandon, a lady whose fine mind and noble nature had won the regard of the young physician. She is a daughter of Isaiah and Elizabeth (Hall) Brandon, of Miami County, in which she opened her eyes to the light January 24, 1840. The happy union has been blessed by the birth of two children, but the parents have been called upon to mourn the loss of Della, the first born; Denman C. was born at Bartonia, Ind., April 26, 1861, and bids fair to take a high stand among the scientists to whom he is already becoming known as a keen observer and deep thinker.

It is scarcely necessary to say that Dr. Duncan belongs to the Grand Army of the Republic, as his war record would naturally lead to that conclusion. He has been interested in the Masonic fraternity, and holds a demit from the Royal Arch degree. His first Presidential ballot was cast for John C. Fremont, and he has always been an earnest Republican. His knowledge and skill in medical science, and all matters pertaining to the health of the body, his intelligence in other lines of study and affairs, and his manly character, alike entitle him to esteem, and he is regarded with the highest respect, not only throughout the community where his later years have been spent, but in other places where he is known, having an extended acquaintance, and an assured position among the learned men and women of the land.

Dr. Duncan has written several articles that have been published, on subjects relating to his chosen profession and sanitary science, inviting attention in 1861, to the fact of paralysis following diphtheria, and being caused by it, before the real nature of that grave and fatal malady was well understood by the profession at large.

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This family biography is one of the many biographies included in Portrait and Biographical Album of Greene and Clark Counties, Ohio published by Chapman Bros., in 1890. 

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