Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century
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CUNNINGHAM, William, provost marshal, born in Dublin ; died in London, 10 August 1791. From his confession, published at the time of his death, he appears to have been the son of a trumpeter in the dragoons, and to have been born in the barracks in Dublin. He arrived in New York in 1774, and was occupied for a time in the breaking of horses and in giving riding-lessons. His course at the beginning of the Revolutionary war rendered him obnoxious to the Whigs in New York, and he fled to Boston, where, continuing his opposition to the popular movement, he attracted the attention of General Thomas Gage, who appointed him provost marshal to the royal army. In 1778 he had charge of the prisons in Philadelphia, and later of those in New York; and in both places his cruelties to the prisoners became notorious. The details of his crimes are horrible. Of the prisoners under his care, 2,000 were starved to death, and more than 250 were hanged without trial. At the close of the war he went to England, and settled in Wales. Later he resided in London, where he became exceedingly dissipated, and, in order to relieve his embarrassment, mortgaged his half-pay, and subsequently forged a draft. For this offence he was convicted and executed.
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