John Duff (counterfeiter)
John Duff was a counterfeiter, hunter, and scout who assisted in George Rogers Clark
George Rogers Clark
George Rogers Clark was a soldier from Virginia and the highest ranking American military officer on the northwestern frontier during the American Revolutionary War. He served as leader of the Kentucky militia throughout much of the war...

's campaign to capture the Illinois country
Illinois Country
The Illinois Country , also known as Upper Louisiana, was a region in what is now the Midwestern United States that was explored and settled by the French during the 17th and 18th centuries. The terms referred to the entire Upper Mississippi River watershed, though settlement was concentrated in...

 for the American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 side during the Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

. He had been leading a group of hunters returning from Kaskaskia, Illinois
Kaskaskia, Illinois
Kaskaskia is a village in Randolph County, Illinois, United States. In the 2010 census the population was 14, making it the second-smallest incorporated community in the State of Illinois in terms of population. A major French colonial town of the Illinois Country, its peak population was about...

, when intercepted by Clark's soldiers near modern-day Paducah
Paducah, Kentucky
Paducah is the largest city in Kentucky's Jackson Purchase Region and the county seat of McCracken County, Kentucky, United States. It is located at the confluence of the Tennessee River and the Ohio River, halfway between the metropolitan areas of St. Louis, Missouri, to the west and Nashville,...

, Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

. After taking an oath of allegiance
Oath of allegiance
An oath of allegiance is an oath whereby a subject or citizen acknowledges a duty of allegiance and swears loyalty to monarch or country. In republics, modern oaths specify allegiance to the country's constitution. For example, officials in the United States, a republic, take an oath of office that...

, Duff and his men joined Clark's forces. He later rose in rank to sergeant in Clark's Illinois Regiment, Virginia State Forces.

In the 1780s, he was in business with two brothers of the later river pirate Samuel Mason
Samuel Mason
Samuel Mason or Meason was a Revolutionary War militia captain on the frontier, who following the war, became the leader of a gang of river pirates and highwaymen on the lower Ohio River and the Mississippi River in the late 18th and early 19th centuries...

. In 1790 he was associated with the counterfeiter Philip Alston
Philip Alston (counterfeiter)
Philip Alston was an 18th century counterfeiter both before and after the American Revolution in Virginia and the Carolinas before the war, and later in Kentucky and Illinois afterwards...

 at Cave-in-Rock.

Genealogy and early life

Duff was born John McElduff sometime between September 1759 and August 1760 in South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

, according to his testimony in court in August 1781, when he was 21 at the time. His father died and his mother remarried. His stepfather moved the family to the Natchez
Natchez, Mississippi
Natchez is the county seat of Adams County, Mississippi, United States. With a total population of 18,464 , it is the largest community and the only incorporated municipality within Adams County...

, Mississippi
Mississippi is a U.S. state located in the Southern United States. Jackson is the state capital and largest city. The name of the state derives from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary, whose name comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi...

 area prior to the start of the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

. The French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

The term document has multiple meanings in ordinary language and in scholarship. WordNet 3.1. lists four meanings :* document, written document, papers...

 at Kaskaskia
The Kaskaskia were one of about a dozen cognate tribes that made up the Illiniwek Confederation or Illinois Confederation. Their longstanding homeland was in the Great Lakes region...

 often spell his name as "Jean Michel Duff" or "John Michael Duff."

John Duff is believed to be a grandson of a Thomas McElduff, Sr., who received two land grants on the south side of the Tyger River in Union County, South Carolina, in the 1750s. In 1786 John and Daniel, another grandson of Thomas, sold the tracts in two different property deeds. There was a Daniel who was also at Kaskaskia in the 1780s and is likely John's brother.

John's father may have been the Thomas McElduff killed by Philip McElduff some time prior to November 1761.

Counterfeiting activities and death

On June 4, 1799, a group of three Shawnee
The Shawnee, Shaawanwaki, Shaawanooki and Shaawanowi lenaweeki, are an Algonquian-speaking people native to North America. Historically they inhabited the areas of Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Western Maryland, Kentucky, Indiana, and Pennsylvania...

Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 and a courier du bois guide were hired by U.S. Army Captain Zebulon Pike, Sr., father of the explorer
Zebulon Pike
Zebulon Montgomery Pike Jr. was an American officer and explorer for whom Pikes Peak in Colorado is named. As a United States Army captain in 1806-1807, he led the Pike Expedition to explore and document the southern portion of the Louisiana Purchase and to find the headwaters of the Red River,...

, who was the commandant at the frontier outpost, Fort Massac
Fort Massac
Fort Massac is a colonial and early National-era fort on the Ohio River in Massac County, Illinois, United States.Legend has it that, as early as 1540, the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto and his soldiers constructed a primitive fortification here to defend themselves from native attack...

, which is now Metropolis, Illinois
Metropolis, Illinois
Metropolis is a city located along the Ohio River in Massac County, Illinois, in the United States. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 6,482...

. This mercenary party's orders were to assassinate Duff at his house which was located either at Battery Rock (according to the newspaper account) on the Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

 side of the Ohio River
Ohio River
The Ohio River is the largest tributary, by volume, of the Mississippi River. At the confluence, the Ohio is even bigger than the Mississippi and, thus, is hydrologically the main stream of the whole river system, including the Allegheny River further upstream...

, or across the river at what would later become Caseyville, Kentucky, (as recalled in the History of Union County, Kentucky).
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