Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Villains! The Counterfeit Tory by Shannon McNear – Backcountry Brides
[Angela here, and for the next month we are going to have a little fun here every Wednesday as
I wrote an entire post on Colonial Quills about William Cunningham, the infamous Tory leader, and his reign of terror across the South Carolina backcountry in the fall of 1781. Victorian era writers styled him “Bloody Bill” Cunningham, but several others earned the same moniker. Some of them even deserved it. By all accounts, Cunningham certainly did, when I’ve questioned the same about others.
Cunningham was son, nephew, and cousin to staunch loyalists at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, but being the strong-minded, contrary sort, he joined the rebel side. (That’s loyalist terminology for what we call patriots.) When refused a promotion he thought he deserved and assigned to a location he didn’t care for, Cunningham attempted to resign from the Continental Army but was court martialed for insubordination and sentenced to a whipping.
Sent home in disgrace and facing threats on his life, he fled to St. Augustine, Florida. Two years later, word reached him that patriot militia had turned his family out of their house, treating his aged father roughly and whipping his disabled brother so severely that he died. Furious, Cunningham returned to South Carolina on foot and went straight to the patriot leader responsible for his family’s suffering, where as the story goes, he shot the man at dinner, in front of his family.
Afterward, Cunningham’s exploits for the British soon earned him the rank of major and later, captain, and he’s recorded as being present at the Battle of King’s Mountain. Notably fearless and an expert horseman, he was so much admired by his peers that even his enemies speak of him in tones of awe, decades later.
The truly chilling accounts, however, start just after the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, which took place October 1781. A series of raids against the patriot populace quickly became a campaign of vengeance on those who had committed the gravest offenses against the Tories or their families. Cunningham’s habit of pinning down his enemies, then deliberately putting them to death with a single-minded fury that is legendary even today, puts him head and shoulders above others in infamy. To my knowledge, no other figure is attributed with such habitual, wholesale slaughter.
Backcountry Brides: https://amzn.to/2GwbyFb
And the prequel, The Highwayman, is now available as a standalone: https://amzn.to/2GA53S5
After more than two decades in the South, Shannon McNear now makes her home on the windy northern plains with her husband, four of their eight children, two German Shepherds, four cats, several chickens, and a noisy flock of guinea fowl. She serves in worship and youth ministry, and has been writing novel-length fiction since age 15. Her first novella, Defending Truth, from A Pioneer Christmas Collection, was a 2014 RITA® nominee. When not sewing, researching, or leaking story from her fingertips, she enjoys being outdoors, basking in the beauty of the Dakota prairies.