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Biographical Sketch of Robert Cunningham by E. Alfred Jones of London, England

An excellent biographical sketch of Robert Cunningham was published in The Ohio State University Bulletin, Volume XXVI, Number 4, October 30, 1921, pages 87-88, entitled The Journal of Alexander Chesney, a South Carolina Loyalist in the Revolution and After, Edited by E. Alfred Jones of London England, with an Introduction by Professor Wilbur H. Siebert.  Professor Wilbur Henry Siebert describes Mr. Jones in the following words:

It is scarcely necessary to speak of the special qualifications of Mr. E. Alfred Jones for the task of editing The Journal of Alexander Chesney, since the admirable results of his labors are manifest in this volume. The present writer can not, however, deny himself the pleasure of saying that Mr. Jones has long been familiar with the abundant materials relating to the American loyalists that are to be found in the Public Record Office, the British Museum, and other collections in London. Nor can he forbear to add that the Editor has greatly increased the value of this volume by his copious annotations, many of which contain information not easily available and some, information not accessible at all in print. Mr. Jones found Chesney's Journal in the British Museum (Additional MSS., 32627).

Sketch of Robert Cunningham

Robert Cunningham, born in 1741, was the son of John Cunningham, a member of a Scotch family which settled about 1681 in Virginia and removed early in 1769 to the district of Ninety-Six in South Carolina. (E. McCrady, The History of South Carolina in the Revolution, 1775-1780, p. 88.) Robert Cunningham acquired a plantation of his own at Island ford on the Saluda River and by energy and industry became a man of wealth and influence.

From the dawn of the Revolution Robert Cunningham displayed the most uncompromising spirit of loyalty. (Hist. MSS. Comm., Report on the MSS. of the Earl of Dartmouth, Vol. II, p. 355.)  The treaty of neutrality made between that urbane and easy­going loyalist, Colonel Thomas Fletchall, and William Henry Drayton, September 16 1776, provoked his bitter opposition and brought forth his refusal to be bound by it, in a letter to Drayton, dated Oc­tober 6 following (see Drayton, Memoirs of the Revolution, Vol. I, p. 418). So dangerous a foe was not permitted to remain at large and on November 1, while holding the rank of captain in the loyal militia, Cunningham was committed to Charleston jail on a charge of committing high crimes and misdemeanors against the liberties of South Carolina, having, according to a letter written from Savannah on the 19th., been seized by a party disguised as Indians. He was detained a prisoner until February 1776. (Force, American Archives, Series IV, Vol. 8, p. 1606; ibid., Vol. 4, p. 29; iv; McCrady, The Hist. of South Carolina in the Revolution, 1775.1780, p. 86; A. S. Salley, Jr., Hist. of Orangeburg County, 1898, pp. 804-7; Moultrie, Memoirs, Vol. I, p. 100.)  His brother, Major Patrick Cunningham, with a party of loyalists made an unsuccessful attempt to rescue him from the hands of his captors.

The British Government awarded him compensation to the amount of £1,080 from his estimated loss of £1,355 for his South Carolina property confiscated by the State. (A.O. 12/109.)

Brigadier-General Cunningham at the conclusion of the war in his own Province set sail for the Bahamas with other compatriots and settled at Nassau in the island of New Providence, so aptly named as the harbor of refuge for the distressed loyalists. In this new home Robert Cunningham settled on the tracts of valuable land which had been granted to him for his services in the American Revolutionary war. Here he died, 9 February 1813.  On his tombstone in the western cemetery is inscribed: " ... exiled from his native Country in the American Revolution for his attachment to his King and the Laws of his Country." His wife, Margaret, survived him only a few weeks, having died 26 March at the age of 76.

Four children were left by Robert and Margaret Cunningham, namely, John, who married, 5 March, 1795, Ann Harrold; Charles; Margaret, who was married, 22 June 1790, to Richard Pearis, son of Colonel Richard Pearis, a loyalist from South Carolina; and Elizabeth, who married, 1 May 1792, Robert Brownlee, a loyalist.  In his will are mentioned, in addition to his wife and children, the following family connections: John, natural son of John Cunningham by a woman named Hannah Ridley; his sister, Margaret Cunningham, and her son, Robert Andrew Cunningham; his cousin, Jean, daughter of Thomas Edwards; his cousin, Robert Cunningham, son of David Cunningham, to whom was bequeathed 300 dollars for his education; and his two cousins, Margaret Fenny and Elizabeth Brown, daughters of Joseph Jefferson.

Patrick, David, and John Cunningham, three loyalist brothers, remained in South Carolina after the war. (A.O. 12/3, fos. 8-10; A. O. 12/48, fos. 215; A. O. 12/92; A. O. 12/109; A. O. 18/97; A. O. 13/127; Sabine, Loyalists of the American Revolution, Vol. I, 346, 349; A. T. Bethell, The Early Settlers of the Bahamas Islands, 1914, pp. 21-23.) William Cunningham, known as “Bloody Bill,” was a cousin of Brigadier General Cunningham.  He was only nineteen at the beginning of the war, and was lively and jovial, openhearted and generous, and a remarkable horseman. (E. McCrady, The History of South Carolina in the Revolution, 1780-1785, pp. 467-476.)

 

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