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Edmund Fanning (April 24, 1739 – February 28, 1818) first gained fame for his role in the War of the Regulation, but later had a distinguished career as a colonial governor and British general.

Sketch of Edmund Fanning

Edmund Fanning was born in the Town of Southold on Long Island in the colony of New York. Other sources (Memoir of Governor John Parr, page 56) state that Fanning was, like Parr, a Protestant Irishman, and was from Ulster and owned great estates there. And still other sources (Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online) also state that his parents were Captain James Fanning and Hannah Smith.

He was graduated from Yale in 1757 and studied law in New York. He then moved to North Carolina in 1761 and settled in Hillsborough. He held several local political posts and became a protégé of colonial governor William Tryon. Fanning came into conflict with the leaders of the Regulator movement. He, along with lawyer Francis Nash, was charged with extorting money from the local residents, but was fined only a small fine. After several riots, the movement was crushed by the an army of North Carolina militia led by Tryon at the Battle of Alamance on May 16, 1771.

Fanning followed Tryon to New York as his personal secretary. At the start of the American Revolution, revolutionaries drove Fanning from his home, forcing him to seek refuge aboard HMS Asia (1764) in the New York harbor. After being commissioned a colonel by General William Howe, Fanning later raised a regiment of Loyalists named the King's American Regiment. He was wounded twice during the war and was credited with saving Yale College from destruction by British forces, for what Fanning was granted an honorary degree LL.D., 1803[1]. He was later appointed to the office of surveyor general, which he retained until he fled, with other Loyalists, to Nova Scotia in 1783.

Fanning became lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia in that same year, and was thereby deputy to Governor John Parr. On November 30, 1785 he married Phebe Maria Burns. In 1786, he was appointed governor of St. John's Island (which was later renamed Prince Edward Island) by the Home Secretary, Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney, a post which he held for almost 19 years. He was appointed General of the British Army in 1808. He retired to London and died there in 1818.

Despite having several children, Fanning had no grandchildren. He had two daughters, Lady Wood, who lived near London with her mother; the other daughter married a Captain Bentwick Cumberland, a nephew of Lord Bentwick, and lived in Charlotte's Town, St. John's Island. He also had several prominent nephews, including the like-named explorer Edmund Fanning, the war hero Nathaniel Fanning, and the celebrated attorney John Wickham. A great nephew was James Fannin.

Edmund Fanning's signature

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