Joshua Huddy being led from prison to his hanging.
(Library of Congress)
"The chapter name, CAPTAIN JOSHUA HUDDY, was thought most fitting by the organizing members. His gallant defense of the blockhouse and Salt Works of Toms River had never been properly credited. His capture and execution at the hands of the British had international repercussions.
Joshua Huddy, sometimes called “Jack Huddy,” was of English descent. His ancestors came from England in the 17th century. His grandfather was Hugh Huddy, who married Martha Hunloke of Burlington. Apparently there is no record of Huddy's birth. He was one of seven brothers, and his grandfather was Judge Hugh Huddy of Burlington. He was not, according to records in possession of Attorney Xenophon Huddy of Milford, PA, born in Monmouth County. He spent the earliest part of his life in or near Salem, New Jersey. Captain Huddy, with his wife and two daughters, Martha and Elizabeth, lived at Colts Neck, originally called “Calls Neck,” so called for a resident of that name. His wife, Catherine, who was formerly married to Leir Hart, had owned the house, which she sold in 1784. It was still standing in 1842. Subsequently, the house was torn down and a modern house replaced it. It was in the old house that Captain Huddy was first captured during a British raid in 1780, only to escape as he was being taken to New York. The second attack on Captain Huddy was made in Toms River, which was then a harbor for privateers and also a location for Salt Works that were indispensable for the curing of meat for the American Army.
The inhabitants of Monmouth County petitioned the Legislature that Captain Huddy be placed in command of a fort or a blockhouse in the Village of Toms River. This location was considered to be of great importance, owing to the fact that Cranbury Inlet, nearly opposite, was then perhaps the best inlet on our coast, except Little Egg Harbor.
On this account, it was a place of great importance for privateers on the lookout for British merchant vessels that were carrying supplies to the enemy in New York. The Blockhouse was burned, also the nearby mills, the salt works, and also every house in Toms River, save two. Sunday, the day of the attack on Toms River was a memorable day, as no fewer than one hundred women and children were rendered homeless. The fathers were captured, carried away and killed; household goods were destroyed; mothers and children were scattered, never as families to meet again. This attack resulted in the capture of Captain Huddy. He and other prisoners were taken to New York where they were lodged in the guardhouse. Old hulks of vessels were moored in the Hudson and East Rivers and used as floating prisons. There were 5,000 Americans suffering in the prisons and prison ships in New York at one time, and they were dying by the scores every day. Ill-treatment, lack of humanity, and starvation everywhere prevailed.
Evidently it was not the intention to capture Captain Huddy for the purpose of executing him when the expedition was sent against Toms River; but it happened during his confinement in New York that word was received by the Loyalists of the killing of Philip White, a Monmouth County refugee. Captain Huddy supposed that he was to be exchanged, but some of White's friends applied to Governor Franklin, son of Benjamin Franklin and President of the Board of Associated Loyalists, for the retaliation of Captain Huddy who was considered by the Loyalists as a proper subject for that purpose, because of the killing of White by others, and because of Huddy's activities against the enemy, Franklin ordered Huddy to be executed.
From some of the printed accounts of the murder of Captain Huddy the impression was given that he was executed under a charge of murdering White, while in reality he was murdered in retaliation and pure revenge. On April 12, 1782, Captain Huddy was taken ashore at Middletown Point from the British guard ship in which he was imprisoned between decks in irons. He was carried to the beach at the foot of the Navesink Hills, a mile north of Beacon Hill, upon which the Highlands Lighthouse stood. There were sixteen refugees in the party engaged in the foul deed under the command of Captain Lippincott, a refugee from Monmouth County. On Gravely Point, from which the British had embarked after the Battle of Monmouth, near the water's edge, a gallows was erected. It is recorded that the gallows were erected from three fence rails. Whether he was actually hanged from the gallows made from three fence rails is uncertain and somewhat improbable, although every printed account of the murder states that to be fact. Other historians are of the opinion that the hanging took place from the tree that stood within a few hundred feet from the Waterwitch Railroad Station. Upon the head of a barrel under the gallows, Captain Huddy signed his will. That will is now preserved in the rooms of the Newark Historical Society. His last words were: "I shall die innocent and in good cause." After Captain Huddy's body was cut down it was taken to Freehold where it was buried April 15, 1782, with the honors of war in an unmarked grave in the Old Tennent churchyard.
Captain Huddy had inherited a silver sword as an heirloom from his forebears, but its disappearance has always remained a mystery. Could it possibly have been buried with him?
Captain Huddy's townsmen of Monmouth County to the number of 400 petitioned General Washington for retaliatory measures upon British Officers. They met at West Point and it was unanimously voted that such measures should be inflicted upon an Officer of equal rank. Captain Charles Askill of the British Army was chosen. He was barely 19 years old and an only son of a noble family. In vain the King of England made petitions that were exchanged in an effort to save Askill's life, but all in vain. Captain Askill was finally reprieved through the intercession of the King of France.
Briefly I shall refer to Captain Huddy's two daughters, Elizabeth and Martha, both of whom were named in his will. Elizabeth was born April 22, 1766. She married Mr. Nathaniel Green and Martha married a Mr. William Perry. Martha was buried in Cincinnati, Ohio. After his death, Martha married a Mr. Piatt. One of Elizabeth's daughters had a descendant whose name was Anna Stratton. At the time this article was written (in 1950), she was still living and was a member of the DAR Chapter there. This fact was verified by the NSDAR not long ago. A Mrs. Jones, who formerly lived in Four-Mile-Colony in New Lisbon was descended from one of Captain Huddy's sisters. Mrs. Jones once attended one of our DAR meetings in 1932 when Judge Xenophon Huddy of Milford, another descendent of one of Captain Huddy's sisters was a guest speaker. Since writing the foregoing brief story regarding Captain Joshua Huddy, I have received two interesting letters from Miss E. Ruth Rudisill (*) of Mountain Lake Park, Maryland, who is a direct descendant of Captain Joshua Huddy, as follows:
• Her mother was Mary Coleman Perry, who married John Wesley Hopkins.
•Her father was Joshua Huddy Perry, who married Lydia Paddock.
•His mother was Martha Huddy who married William Perry on August 10, 1786; after his death, Martha married a Mr. Piatt. Martha Huddy was one of Captain Joshua Huddy's daughters.
If by chance you should go to the Old Tennent Cemetery and find a marker near the British Soldier's (Col. William Monckton) grave with Captain Joshua Huddy's name on it, that does not indicate that Captain Huddy is buried there, for he is buried in the cemetery in an unmarked grave. The U.S. Army Department placed the Huddy marker there in 1962.
In 1950 Captain Joshua Huddy Chapter, DAR erected and dedicated a bronze plaque embedded in a large natural rock on the approximate site of the Blockhouse. Another monument to Captain Joshua Huddy's memory stands at the foot of Waterwitch Hill in the Highlands, marking the spot where Captain Huddy was hung on April 12, 1782.
This, therefore, is but a brief sketch of the life and the valorous deeds accredited to Captain Joshua Huddy." (*) Contributed by a member of the Francis Scott Key Chapter, NSDAR, of Maryland. Prepared for the chapter members by the Captain Joshua Huddy Chapter, NSDAR, by organizing regent of the chapter, March 30, 1950.
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