Captain Joshua Huddy History

By William Horner
Originally published by
Moreau Brothers of Freehold, NJ 1932
Reprinted in 1974

Execution of Captain Huddy for Death of Philip White

Virtually the war had long been over, although the definitive treaty of peace was not formally signed until September 3, 1783. Yet, non the less, did Monmouth county Tories and Refugees, in sheer vindictiveness of revenge, continue in their course of spoilation, destruction, and murder to the bitter end. The burning ot Toms-River was the last of their exploits having even the semblance of military character, but sporadic crimes long continued to be committed. Cases in point are the killing of Davenport, pursued with hue and cry, by exasperated patriots, and the butchery of sleeping Americans by Bacon, told on page 80 of this volume.

The Asgill Affair

Two tragic incidents, factitiously related to the Toms-River raid, remain to be told. Before taking these up, however, it may be well to glance briefly at a later happening, a sequel to the hanging of Huddy, which bade fair to be the most dramatic of all the kaleidoscopic indicents of the whole war.

The wanton hanging of Huddy had caused a veritable furor in Monmouth, the whole county fairly "frothed at the mouth." An official investigation was at once set of foot. The findings of this body were immediately forward to Governor Livingston, to the Congress, and to Washington.

Lippencott's Surrender Demanded

Washington forthwith demanded from the British the surrender of Lippencott, or it that officer "was acting under instructions from a superior, the surrender of that superior."

see Letter from Washington regarding Huddy murder

Sir Henry Clinton, the British Commander-in chief, while admitting that the hanging of Huddy was a "barbarous outrage against humanity," refused to surrender Lippincott.

Sir Henry did, however, cause him to be tried by court-martial. The accused office pleaded that he had orders from the Board of Associated Loyalists, a body that had no authority to give such orders.

Lippencott Acquitted

The trial-court acquitted Lippencott, holding that, while Huddy was executed without proper authority, Lippencott was only obeying orders. So, the malefactor went scot-free.

Reprisal Determined On

Washington now called together a council made up of twenty-five general and field officers, to determine upon the course to be pursued. This Council decided to select by lot, from among fourteen British prisoners-of-war, of rank equal to Huddy, held in various states, one who should be hanged in reprisal. All this was in strict accordance with the Laws and Usages of War.

Asgill Designated

The finger of fate pointed out Lieutenant Charles Asgill as the victim, under the law of old dispensation "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." He was a young man of twenty, brave, amiable, generous popular. His parents were wealthy, his father a British Baronet.

Mother Fights for Son's Life

Lady Teresa Asgill threw herself, body, heart, and soul, into an almost superhuman determination to save her son from death. Her pleas for aid were heard in almost every court in Europe. The universal human heart was moved. The English King issued instructions that Lippencott must be surrendered, a now impossible thing, properly disregarded. Both the King and Queen of France pled for mercy. Holland proffered friendly counsels of clemency. Washington and his officers sickened at the thought of the revolting duty ahead of them.

Pity Paramount

The entreaties of the French King, our steadfast ally, at length prevailed. Asgill was spared-to succeed to his father's Baronetcy, to become a British general, to a long, a happy, and a useful life. Recognition of the mercy so shown was evidenced in certain favorable concessions contained in the Treaty of Paris.

The entire civilized world had been interested in the case of young Asgill, and the whole civilized world applauded the clemency meted out.

Yet, it may well be doubted whether, in the long run, the sterner course would not have been more truly in the interest of justive and humanity.

The Slaying of Philip White

Less than a week after the capture and icarceration of Captain Joshuah Huddy, Philip White, a malignant Tory, met his death at the hands of a party of our soldiery from whose custody he was endeavoring to escape into the swampy land bordering Yellow Brook on the north of the road leading from Colts-Neck to Freehold.

The story of this killing, interesting in itself as one of the few incidents of this nature that have come down to us in any detail of narration, takes on an added interest from the puerile and preposterous attempt to use it in attempted justification for the wanton and malevolent murder of Captain Huddy.

An Investigating Committee

A number of variant, and sometimes ridiculously extravant, tales have been told of this affair, but the true facts were ascertained at the time in a formal and semi-official inquiry conducted at the instance of General David Forman by a Committee, which was composed, I believe, of: John Covenhoven, Thomas Seabrook, Peter Forman, Richard Cox, Joseph Stillwell, Barnes Smock, John Schenck, Samuel Forman, William Willcocks, Asher Holmes, Elisha Walton, Stephen Fleming, John Smock, and Thomas Chadwick. The findings of this committee were submitted in form to Washington, for use in the attempt to bring Lippencott to condign punishment. They are said to have been in substantial accord with the following account, as published in the New Jersey Gazette, under Freehold date of April 15, 1782:

The Facts of the Case

"The circumstances attending the death of the above mentioned Philip White are as follows:

"On Saturday the 30th of March last, he was surprised by a party of our people, and after he had laid down his arms in token of surrendering himself a prisoner; he again took up his musket and killed a son of Colonel Hendrickson; he was however taken by our light horse, and, on his way from Colts-Neck to Freehold, where they were conducting him, he again attempted to make his escape from the guard, who called upon him several times to surrender, but he continued running, although often crossed and recrossed by the light horse, and desired to stop and finally, when leaping into a bog, impassable by the horse, he received a stroke in the head with a sword, which killed him instantly. The above facts have not only been proved by the affidavits of our friends who were present, but by the voluntary and candid testimony of one Aaron White, who was taken prisoner with the said Philip."

A Traditional Account

Some sixty years later a representative of Barber and Howe visited our county for the purpose of obtaining material for their Historical Collection. He thus writes of this case:

"The following circumstances, relating to the death of White, were obtained principally by conversation with a highly respectable gentleman, a soldier of the revolution, now (June 1842) a resident of this township. White, the refugee, was a carpenter, and served his time in Shrewsbury. Six days after Huddy was taken, he was surprised by a party of militia highthorse, near Snag swamp, in the eastern part of the township. After laying down his arms in token of surrender, he took up his musket and killed a Mr. Hendrickson. He was, however, secured and while being taken to Freehold was killed at Pyle's Corner, 3 miles from there. He was under guard of three men, the father of one of whom was murdered at Shrewsbury, the year previous, by a band of refugees, among whom was White, and he was therefore highly exasperated against the prisoner. Some accounts state, that he was killed while attempting to escape; others, with more probability, that they pricked him with their swords, and thus forcing him to run, cruelly murdered him."

The Crowing Infamy

At sunset of the day that had seen Toms-River fed to the flames, March 24th, the little British flotilla fared forth from Cranberry-Inlet, in the face of a raw and biting wind, on their return to New York, which they reached on the following day. With them went, perforce, Captain Joshua Huddy and the others of their prisoners.

Upon reaching the city, these were thrown into the notorious and infamous Sugar-House prison. Thence, on April 1st, they were removed to the Provost-Guard prison, under the administration of Cunningham, the monster. Huddy was kept constantly ironed -- both hand and foot. All were subjected to the brutalities and special privations at that time meted out to those who stood within the shadow of the gallows.

Sent Down To Sandy-Hook

A week later, April 8, Captain Richard Lippencott, who had been a neighbor of Huddy in Shrewsbury township, and who undoubtedly entertained against him some ancient grudge, removed the three prisoners, Huddy, Randolph, and Fleming, to the hold of a sloop and proceeded down the Bay to Sandy-Hook. He acted under the pretended authority of the "Board of Associated Loyalists."

A Job's Comforter

While thus held in fettered durance, the hold of the sloop in which he lay not being sufficiently deep to permit a man to stand upright, one of Monmouth's refugees, John Tilton, approached Huddy "and informed him that 'he was ordered to be handed.'"

"Capt. Huddy asked, 'what charge was alleged against him?'"

"Tilton replied, 'that he had taken a certain Philip White, a refugee, six miles up in the country, cut off both his arms, broke both his legs, pulled out one of his eyes, and then damned him and bid him run.'"

"To this Huddy answered, 'It is impossible that I could have taken Philip White, I being a prisoner closely confined in New York at the time and for many days before he was made a prisoner.'"

"Justice Randolph confirmed what Huddy had said, and answered Tilton that he could not possible (sic.) be charged with White's death; upon which Tilton told Mr. Randolph that 'He should be hanged next.'"

The Prisoners Transshipped

From the sloop, Huddy and the other prisoners were transferred to the war-ship "Britannia," Captain Morris, where they were confined in the calaboose, somewhat more comfortably, until the ominous morning of Friday the Thirteenth.

On that fateful morning some civilian strangers (presumably members of the Tory Board) presented themselves to Huddy and told him to, "Prepare to be hanged immediately."

"He again said, 'He was not guilty of having killed White' and that, 'He should die an innocent man, and in a good cause.'"

"With the most uncommon fortitude and composure of mind, he prepared for his end, and with the spirit of a true son of libery, he waited for the moment of his fate, which me met with a degree of firmness and serenity, which struck the coward hearts of his executioners with admiration."

Huddy Handed Over To Lippencott

Immediately after this, Captain Morris, of the "Britannia," on the demand of Lippencott, delivered up Huddy to the tender mercies of his arch-enemy. The hapless prisoner was hurried on a large pinnace, rowed by six sailors, and carrying a guard of sixteen Loyalists, which at once set off for Gravelly Point, "at landing was made.

The Last Will

Preparations for the execution were immediately set on foot. While the renegades were engaged in erecting "on the beach, close to the sea," a make-shift gallows of fence-rails, thrust deep into the sand, Huddy was permitted to write his own will. This was accomplished on the top of the barrel from which he was to be swung off into eternity. The document itself (said to be in the possession of the New Jersey Historical Society) was written calmly, and was "in a hand-writing fairer than usual."

The Execution

"Tradition states that Capt. Lippencott, observing reluctance in some of his men to take hold of the rope, drew his sword, and swore he would run the first through who disobeyed his orders. Three of the party, bringing their bayonets to the charge, declared their determination to defend themselved -- that Huddy was innocent of the death of White, and they would not be concerned in the death of an innocent man."

Another tradition, according to Mr. Wm. H. Fischer, 'says that Huddy shook hands with Lippencott, just as he stepped up on the barrel, saying, 'I shall die innocent, and in a good cause.'"

"Lippencott's men were loath to pull the rope on Huddy; so cursing them, Lippencott seized the rope himself, and as others joined in, launched Huddy off into eternity."

"Another story says that a black slave who had fled to the British lines, was Huddy's executioner."


At four o'clock that afternoon some of our people came upon the dangling body of the valorous Huddy, swinging slowly in the wind. Affixed to the breast was the following placard:

"We the refugees having with grief long beheld the cruel murders of our brethren and finding nothing but such measures daily carrying into execution,

We therefore determine not to suffer without taking vengeance for the numerous cruelties, and thus began (and I say may those lose their liberty who do not follow on) and have made use of Capt. Huddy as the first object to present to your views, and further determine to hang man for man as long as a refugee is left existing, 'Up goes Huddy for Philip White.'"

Huddy's body was taken to Freehold where the funeral was held on the 15th. The sermon was preached by the Reverend Mr. Woodhull.

Interment, with all the honors of war, was in the churchyard of Old Tennent. The exact emplacement of the grave is no longer known, no cenotaph keeps alive the memory of this brave man.

The Finale

And so, in ancient acre of God, brave Huddy sleeps -- in honored memory, Lippencott, banned and banished, died where Toronto now sits in queenly pride, no son to him succeeding. He left to an only daughter a sullied fame, a name forever infamous.

Lippencott and Huddy had been friends in youth. They were neighbors. Something of moment had come between them, for it cannot be reasonably doubted that Lippencott did his foe to death in satisfaction of the hoarded venom of private hatred rather than in display of rancorous party malevolence. They fought on opposite sides of a seven-year struggle. Lippencott killed Huddy, and apparently victor, walked away erect -- under a load of infamy that would have bowed a giant.

"Am I my brother's keeper?" was asked of old. The answer is the same -- forever.

On a day certain, Joshua Huddy and Richard Lippencott will meet again, face to face -- the day of the Great Assize.

Introduction and Preface-Hornor - useful advice in reading chronicled history
Letter from Washington regarding Huddy murder
Go to Directory of Historical Material