TOMS RIVER – In April of 1782, weeks after his capture by the British during the attack on the Toms River Blockhouse, its Patriot defender, Captain Joshua Huddy, was hanged without trial – setting off an international incident.
The Brave Deeds of Our Forebears
Below is an excerpt written in 1927 by William H. Fischer. It was published by the New Jersey Courier newspaper which was headquartered in downtown Toms River. Fischer’s account – 145 years after the attack – was titled “Toms River Block House Fight.” In its preface he wrote that “Man takes curious and special pride in the brave deeds of his forebears.” He was right! This year, as we celebrate Toms River’s founding 250 years ago, the Fischer account is worth reading. In it, he refers to certain people and places:
- Sugar House Prison: A British prison for captured American soldiers during the Revolutionary War.
- Captain Richard Lippincott: An American who was loyal to the British during the war and who served in their army.
- Board of Associated Loyalists: An organization of Americans loyal to the British headquartered in New York City. Its President was William Franklin, the last Royal Governor of New Jersey (and Benjamin’s son).
- Britannia: A British war ship.
- Gravelly Point: The location in Highlands, New Jersey (near Sandy Hook) where Huddy was hanged.
- Freehold: the county seat of Monmouth. Dover Township (now Toms River) was part of Monmouth County until 1850.
The Death of Joshua Huddy
Fischer’s account of Huddy’s death:
“Arriving in New York, Huddy and his men were placed in the Sugar House prison, but he was moved to the Provost Guard prison on April 1. A week later, on April 8, Captain Richard Lippincott, a neighbor of Huddy in Shrewsbury Township, Monmouth County, before the Revolution broke out, with orders from the Board of Associated Loyalists, took Huddy, Fleming and Randolph aboard a sloop, ironed them, and went down the bay to Sandy Hook, where they were placed on the man-o’-war Britannia.
The fiction that Huddy was to be exchanged was carefully kept up in all the written orders, though it seems to have been well known among the officers and men that the “exchange” was to be for Phil White, a daring refugee, captured by the Patriots and shot while trying to escape his captors as they took him to Freehold for trial.
On April 12 Lippincott demanded Huddy from Captain Morris of the Britannia. With a guard of sixteen Loyalists and six sailors, he was rowed to Gravelly Point at the foot of the Highlands. Here three fence rails and a barrel formed a gibbet. Huddy’s old neighbors, now his executioners, allowed him to dictate and sign his will, and they also saw that it reached the Freehold courts for probate.
Tradition also says that Huddy shook hands with Lippincott, just as he stepped up on the barrel, saying, “I shall die innocent and in a good cause.” He stated that he was innocent, because to justify the murder of a prisoner of war, the Tories accused Huddy of having a hand in the death of Phil White, though White was shot four days after Huddy’s capture at Toms River.
Lippincott’s men were loath to pull this rope on Huddy, and cursing them; Lippincott seized the rope himself, and as others joined in, launched Josh Huddy off into eternity. Another story says that a black, a slave who had fled to the British lines, was Huddy’s executioner.
That afternoon at four o’clock the Patriots found Huddy hanging on the gibbet and pinned to his breast was the Tories’ justification of their act. It accused the patriots of murdering refugees and said that they had made an example of Huddy and would “hang man for man, as long as a refugee is left existing. Up goes Huddy for Phil White.”
Huddy’s body was taken to Freehold, to the home of Captain James Green (quite likely his son-in-law) and on the fifteenth, his funeral sermon was preached from the tavern steps by Rev. John Woodhull, pastor of the Presbyterian Church. He was buried with the honors of war in old Tennant Burying ground but the grave was not marked, and is now unknown.”
Today, we still remember the sacrifice of Joshua Huddy (and the other Patriots who defended our village). On Saturday, June 24 – the Township’s 250th anniversary – we shall re-dedicate the municipal park on Water Street that bears Josh Huddy’s name.