New Jersey is known as the “Crossroads of the Revolution” because its location between New York and Philadelphia, as well as its strategic importance for troop movements by both the British and Continental armies, made it a hot bed for Patriot and Loyalist activities. Fighting between these two groups in New Jersey became so intense at times that residents often found themselves in the midst of a civil war between neighbors who fell on different sides of the political spectrum. A section of Monmouth County in central New Jersey, Pleasant Valley (present-day Marlboro), was known by the British as the Hornets’ Nest, because local men with Patriot leanings “constantly stung them by capturing and sinking ships in Sandy Hook bay and seizing the Tories to exchange for prisoners.”
For most students of New Jersey history, Joshua “Jack” Huddy was a hero of the American Revolution whose exploits during the conflict were folkloric in nature and served to frustrate and harass British officials and the Loyalist population of central New Jersey. A number of places throughout the region bear his name to commemorate his contributions to the cause of independence. Huddy is also celebrated by groups such as the Toms River chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. A deeper analysis of the real Joshua “Jack” Huddy reveals that he was a complicated man who supported the American cause for independence, and was capable of committing acts of violence and cruelty even towards those closest to him.
Huddy was born to a wealthy Quaker family in Salem County, New Jersey on November 8, 1735. Huddy was the oldest son of Hugh Huddy and Martha Hunloke of Burlington County, New Jersey. His grandfather, Judge Hugh Huddy, was a merchant, a member of the New Jersey Council, and judge in the county. Huddy’s family traced its roots back to immigrants from England who arrived in America in the seventeenth century.
Huddy was considered a troublemaker in the Salem, New Jersey Quaker community. In 1757, his reputation was tarnished when he was expelled from the Society of Friends on charges that he “Suffered himself to Lead . . . into Evil and Loose Company and the Corruption of the world.” Although little is known of what he actually did to displease his Quaker neighbors, apparently he refused to be punished for his scandalous behavior and instead, “Absconded . . . in a Disorderly manner.” Repeated legal trouble resulted in Huddy having to sell his 300-acre farm in Salem to pay off debts, which also forced the young man into debtor’s prison for some time.
Huddy’s first marriage was to a widow named Mary Borden in 1764, with whom he had two daughters, Elizabeth and Martha. After Mary’s death, Huddy relocated to Colts Neck in Monmouth County in the 1770s. With the outbreak of the American Revolution, Huddy found himself on the side of Patriots in a state where political loyalties fiercely divided neighbors. An act of the New Jersey Legislature, on September 4, 1777, appointed Huddy as the commander of an artillery company in the New Jersey Militia. Huddy was known to Patriots as a popular and aggressive militia commander, who had little to no sympathy for his neighbors with Tory leanings. This was indicated in a number of accounts written by Monmouth County Loyalists, who painted Huddy as a common killer.
The arrest, trial, and execution of Stephen Edwards in 1777 was one example of Huddy’s questionable dealings with Monmouth County Loyalists. Edwards was a young man who left his home in Shrewsbury to join Loyalist “Refugees” in New York City. In New York, Col. George Taylor, a former resident of Middletown, gave Edwards written instructions to ascertain Patriot forces there. Word of Edwards’ activities in Monmouth County came to the attention of Patriot forces in the area. Capt. Jonathan Forman, a Patriot cavalry officer, hunted down Edwards to the home of his father about a half a mile from Eatontown. He and his men entered the home around midnight to find Edwards in bed with his wife, disguised in a woman’s nightcap. The written instructions given to Edwards by Taylor were found with his belongings that night. Edwards was tried, found guilty of being a spy for the British, and executed soon after his arrest. To the disgust of local Tories, Huddy allegedly assisted in the execution, and later proudly boasted to friends and enemies alike that “he . . . slushed [greased] the Rope Well, and . . . assisted in pulling the rope hand over hand.”
Little is known of Huddy’s involvement in the Philadelphia campaign of 1777 and 1778, although it is almost certain that the militia officer and his men served in some capacity during the fighting. Some sources indicate that Huddy led militiamen at the October 4, 1777 Battle of Germantown and the June 28, 1778 Battle of Monmouth. It was documented that he and his men later harassed the British as they moved from Freehold to Sandy Hook, where the British army was transported from New Jersey back to British-occupied New York City.
He married his second wife, Catherine (Applegate) Hart, on October 27, 1778. Catherine, a Protestant, was a widow who inherited the Colts Neck Tavern and homestead from her late husband, Levy (Levi) Hart, a prosperous Jewish entrepreneur in Monmouth County. Soon after his wedding, Huddy was brought to court in 1779, where he had to defend himself against accusations from the Monmouth County Sheriff Nicholas Van Brunt that he had cast Catherine’s three children out of their Colts Neck home “by means of threats or blows,” and sold off Catherine’s personal possessions without her consent. The outcome of the case is unknown, but Huddy’s standing in the community as a heroic militia officer may have saved him from any penalties. This was just one of several legal incidents that Huddy encountered in Monmouth County, most of which revolved around assault and property disputes.
On August 5, 1780 he was granted letters of marque by the Continental Congress as the captain of a privateer’s whaleboat called the Black Snake. The ship weighed in at ten tons, and consisted of a single swivel gun and fourteen-man crew. The Black Snake was relatively small compared to other American privateering vessels, which could weigh up to 500 tons, carry as many as twenty guns, and were manned by crews of 100 sailors or more. These letters of marque opened the door for Huddy and his crew to legally target pro-British ships, settlements, and outposts on the New Jersey coast. Huddy was involved in privateering from this point until his capture by pro-British forces in 1782. Huddy frequently brought captured booty to Toms River to be auctioned off.
Huddy’s notoriety as a militia officer and privateer made him a top target for Monmouth County Loyalists, who sought to punish him for perceived wrongdoings. Huddy was captured by Associated Loyalists on two occasions during the war.
The first incident came in September 1780, when a group of twenty-five to sixty Loyalists led by an escaped Monmouth County slave named Titus, or Colonel Tye, attacked Huddy’s home in Colts Neck. Tye earned the honorary title of colonel from the British soldiers and Loyalists for his fierce and effective use of guerrilla warfare techniques. The British offered him the job to hunt down Huddy in hopes that they could put an end to his raids against loyal British subjects in the region. A strangely romantic account of the attack was recounted in a letter from Continental Congressman Nathaniel Scudder of Monmouth County to his son. Scudder was a prominent figure in New Jersey during the American Revolution. Not only did Scudder serve as a Continental Congressman, he also served as a doctor, state legislator, and colonel in the militia until he was killed in a 1781 skirmish near Shrewsbury.
According to Scudder, at the time of the attack, Huddy and an African-American servant girl, Lucretia Emmons, were the only occupants of the house. They managed to hold off the siege for two hours. Huddy utilized a large cache of stolen and confiscated muskets to give his attackers the impression that there was a much larger force defending the home. As the veteran militiaman and privateer moved from room to room firing at Colonel Tye and his men, Emmons carefully loaded muskets and strategically positioned them in rooms throughout the home. Huddy was forced to surrender to the raiding party after the house was set on fire. Before giving himself up to Colonel Tye, Huddy requested that the fire be extinguished so that his house could be spared from destruction. The Loyalists obliged his request, and Huddy exited the house to the satisfaction of his enemies.
In the aftermath of the fighting, Emmons managed to escape. As Huddy was led away by the Loyalists to a boat on the Shrewsbury River bound for British-held New York City, nearby militiamen sprang into action and pursued their comrade’s captors. In the ensuing fighting, six Loyalists were killed and Colonel Tye was wounded in the wrist, a wound which would later be mortal after becoming infected with tetanus. To add insult to injury, Huddy, who had been shot in the hip during the engagement, managed to escape from the capsized boat and swim to freedom on the shore of present-day Rumson.
Huddy’s wound forced him to retire from action for several months. However, during the summer of 1781, the scourge of local Loyalists was back at it raiding and pillaging Loyalist and British settlements along the New Jersey coast. His actions against the enemy caught the attention of New Jersey Patriot officials who appointed the valuable, and apparently fearless, Huddy commander of a blockhouse in Toms River, New Jersey.
On March 24, 1782, Joshua Huddy was again confronted by a sizeable band of British and Loyalist troops at the blockhouse in Toms River. The wooden blockhouse, which was located on present-day Robbins Street across the road from Toms River Town Hall, was built to defend Toms River’s important saltworks. This pro-British force set fire to the village of Toms River, and the twenty-five man Patriot garrison was surrounded by a force of approximately eighty troops. Huddy and his men were forced to surrender after running out of gunpowder. Huddy was taken to New York City on their whaleboat, the Arrogant, where he was held in the Sugar House Prison. He was released to the Associated Loyalists, an organization lead by Benjamin Franklin’s acknowledged illegitimate son and the last royal governor of New Jersey, William Franklin. Franklin had previously signed a warrant to hang Huddy in retaliation for the murder of a Loyalist, Philip White. British authorities released the militia leader to Loyalists after being assured that Huddy would be used as a bargaining chip for the exchange of prisoners with Patriot forces in New Jersey.
Philip White was the son of a wealthy farmer from Freehold of the same name. The elder White enlisted in the British army during the American Revolution and was killed at the 1781 Battle of Eutaw Springs. He left behind four sons, including Philip, all of whom sided with the Loyalist cause during the war. Philip received his commission in 1777, and became a notorious Tory raider and privateer. White was captured by Patriot forces, and while being transported to a Monmouth County court for trial, was mysteriously murdered by his Patriot captors on March 30, 1782. The Board of Directors of the Associated Loyalists was outraged by the death of their comrade. The hated Capt. Joshua Huddy, who was then in their custody, provided them with the perfect candidate for a retaliatory killing.
Huddy was one of only two American prisoners of war executed by the British over the course of the American Revolution. Huddy was executed by hanging on April 12, 1782 by Associated Loyalists under the command of Capt. Richard Lippincott in retaliation for the death of Philip White. When Huddy’s body was recovered by Patriot forces in present-day Highlands the next day, they reported that his executioners had left a sign on him that read, “We, the Refugees, having long with the grief beheld the cruel murders of our brethren . . . determined not to suffer without taking vengeance . . . and thus begin, having made Captain Huddy as the first object to present to your view; and we further determine to hang man for man while there is a Refuge existing . . . Up goes Huddy for Philip White.” In a letter of explanation to Gen. George Washington, British commander Gen. Henry Clinton later called the execution of Capt. Huddy an “act of barbarity.”
Huddy’s execution caused outrage amongst Washington’s troops, both militia and regulars, who demanded retaliation for what they perceived was an act of murder by pro-British officials. Washington responded to this outrage by declaring that a British captain would be executed in response to the murder of Jack Huddy, if the individual responsible for his death was not turned over to the Continentals for punishment. On May 26, 1782, lots were drawn by a group of British captains, with Capt. Charles Asgill drawing the unfortunate lot. Over time, Washington and members of Congress determined that the retaliatory execution of Asgill would result in unnecessary bloodshed by both sides in a conflict that would soon end. French Foreign Minister Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes helped Washington and the Congress save face in the eyes of their troops by appealing for clemency for Asgill, a request which Congress gladly accepted, thus bringing an end to the so-called Asgill Affair.
In response to Patriot accusations that Capt. Richard Lippincott and his troops had murdered Huddy in cold blood, British officials, instead of turning Lippincott over to the Patriots, held a general court martial for the Loyalist commander between May 3, 1782 and June 22, 1782 at City Hall in New York City. Over the course of the proceedings, Lippincott and other witnesses to the execution of Huddy and surrounding events were questioned by British Maj. Gen. James Pattison and a fourteen member panel comprised of British and Loyalist officers. In the end Lippincott was found not guilty of murder and acquitted, on the grounds that he acted on orders from the Board of Directors of the Associated Loyalists. Lippincott was later rewarded for his service to Great Britain during the war with a land grant in Upper Canada, where he died in 1826 at the age of eighty-one.
Capt. Joshua Huddy is buried in an unknown location on the grounds Old Tennent Church in Manalapan Township. There, the man who inspired an international incident in the closing months of the American Revolution is commemorated with a standard, government issued, military-style tombstone that reads:
Huddy’s contributions to the Patriot cause in present-day Monmouth and Ocean Counties are also commemorated in a number of monuments and parks that stand on land that was associated with the often tumultuous and volatile life Monmouth and Ocean Counties favorite Rebel son.
Historic Places Associated with Joshua Huddy
Monmouth County, New Jersey:
Colts Neck Inn, 191 County Road 537, Colts Neck, NJ 07722
Joshua Huddy Drive, Colts Neck, NJ 07722
Joshua Huddy Hanging Site, 70 Waterwitch Avenue, Highlands, NJ 07732
Joshua Huddy Homestead Site, Route 537 and Route 34, Colts Neck, NJ 07722
Joshua Huddy’s Leap Monument, West Park, 3 Rumson Rd, Rumson, NJ 07760
Joshua Huddy Memorial, Heyers Mill Road near Deep Wood Lane, Colts Neck, NJ 07722
Old Tennent Church (Joshua Huddy Burial Site), 448 Tennent Road, Manalapan Township, NJ 07726
Ocean County, New Jersey:
Captain Joshua Huddy Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, Toms River, NJ
Huddy Walk, Downtown Toms River to Huddy Park in Toms River, NJ 08753
Joshua Huddy Park, 39 E Water Street, Toms River, NJ 08753
Original Site of the Toms River Block House, next to the Toms River Municipal Building, 33 Washington Street, Toms River, NJ 08753
“Meet Your Revolutionary Neighbor: Joshua Jack Huddy,” Crossroads of the American Revolution, www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3e1wWLP2mc, accessed July 1, 2018.
“Revenge and retribution: … the death of Philip White, New Jersey Loyalist,” The Free Library, www.thefreelibrary.com/Revenge+and+retribution%3A+…+the+death+of+Philip+White%2C+New+Jersey…-a030083299, accessed August 24, 2018.
Court Martial of Capt. Richard Lippincott, 1782, Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, archives.gnb.ca/exhibits/forthavoc/html/Lippincott.aspx?culture=en-CA, accessed July 2, 2018.
“Memorial Tiles: Capt. Richard Lippincott,” St. Alban the Martyr UEL Memorial Church, www.uelac.org/St-Alban/biographies/memorial-tiles-Lippincott-Richard.php, accessed August 23, 2018.
“Capt. Joshua Huddy,” Find a Grave, www.findagrave.com/memorial/10468694/joshua-huddy, accessed September 1, 2018.