Friday, March 15, 2013

Provost Marshal Cunningham

   Captain William Cunningham was notorious for the mistreatment and neglect of American prisoners.  The Irish-born Loyalist served the British as Provost Marshal. 
   On November 25, 1783, the British military withdrew from New York City.  Anticipating the arrival of General George Washington and New York Governor George Clinton, the residents of a home near Chappel Street raised the flag of the United States.  British personnel still occupied the city in the early part of the day.  To Cunningham, the raising of the American colors was premature. 
   Cunningham led a party to confront the residents and pull down the flag.  A contemporary account, dripping with sarcasm, referred to “the humane and polite” Cunningham shouting at the flag wavers “with his usual politeness,” cursing them with “scores of double headed Damns…in the true Milesian Cadence….”  
Connecticut Journal (New Haven), 3 December 1783.
Milesian” refers to the legendary Celtic settlers of Ireland who arrived from Spain.  For an account of Cunningham's neglect of wounded officers captured at the Battle of Bunker Hill (June 17, 1775), please consult the post here.  For a fraudulent account of Cunningham's execution for forgery, please visit the post here.
     For Francis Hopkinson's denunciation of Cunningham for the starving American prisoners to death during the 1777-78 British occupation of Philadelphia, please visit this post
  In November 1776, American officer Colonel Samuel Atlee referred to William Cunningham as "the most infamous of mankind" for his cruelty and rudeness to prisoners.  
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