Friday, July 25, 2014

Pyles, and the Psychotic David Fanning, after Yorktown

Because some of my ancestors pursued the infamous Colonel Fanning through several North Carolina counties I have been trying to find who served with them. As always when you work with documents (pension applications transcribed mainly by the ineffable Will Graves and Leon Harris) you resist by-paths if you can. Yet I cannot ignore Dr. John Pyle Sr or Dr. John Pyle Jr after learning that the young doctor's wife was my Aunt Sarah Brashear. Philip Higdon calls young Dr. Pyle the "major." And apparently it was not a hand or part of a hand but an eye the major lost at the Hacking Party held by the father of Robert E. Lee, for another applicant says that in the 1820s he saw the young doctor, no longer young but still one-eyed, in Illinois. Poor Uncle John, fleeing his shame! First he went with a troop of Tory Brashears in a mass migration to Greenville, SC, accompanied by my highly patriotic Grandfather Ezekiel Henderson and his bride, Elizabeth, Sarah's sister, then went on to Kentucky and Illinois. One son tried to erase the shame of being the son and grandson of Tory Pyles by rushing to enlist when the War of 1812 broke out. What did Ezekiel think and what did he say? And to name a son Brasher! That's all a by-path.

I am looking at the slaughter David Fanning carried out after Yorktown, when North Carolina might have settled down to reconciliation and reconstruction, you would have thought. William Ryan (transcriber Leon Harris--who after years of polite emailing turns out to be a Cockerham cousin of mine!) says it clearly: 
"The Tories under Col Fanning and other tory leaders seemed to be driven to despair by the surrender of Cornwallis  They divided themselves into small parties and prowled about the country & sought every opportunity to commit the most cruel and unprovoked murders & so frequent were murders robberies & Arsons committed by them that the Counties of Guilford Randolph & Chatham were in a state of continual alarm throughout the fall and winter of 1781 & the spring & summer of 1782--and the tories did not give up the control until the British wholly evacuated South Carolina."

Characteristically, after his retreat to Nova Scotia Fanning raped a female child, was convicted, and got away without punishment. The Single Most Evil Tory in the Revolution? Are there other candidates?

Back to looking at what the aged vets say about Fanning.

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