Joshua Huddy is celebrated as the Patriot hero of the Toms River Blockhouse Fight, but few know about his colorful past.Huddy was born in 1735 in Salem County, New Jersey. He was the oldest of seven brothers. Although he was raised in a prosperous Quaker family, he was forcibly removed from the religious group in 1757 for his unruly and disorderly conduct. As a rebellious young adult, Huddy was arrested several times for assault and theft. Financial troubles led to the sale of his 300-acre farm in Salem and to a stretch of time in debtor's prison. He married a widow, Mary Borden, with whom he had two daughters, Elizabeth and Martha.In 1778, after his wife died, he moved to Colts Neck in Monmouth County where he married Catherine Applegate Hart, another widow who had inherited a tavern from her first husband. The county sheriff accused Huddy of attempting to steal the tavern from her and force her children into homelessness.After the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, Huddy joined the Continental Militia and participated in raids and executions of unofficial Loyalist soldiers who were pursuing Patriots. In 1780, he was commissioned to operate a privateer gunboat, the Black Snake, along the New Jersey shoreline. During a Loyalist raid launched from Sandy Hook in 1780, his house "We the Reffugees 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 numerous Cruelties and thus begin 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 Reffugee is Left Existing. ** "Up Goes HuddyforPhillip WhiteText of the handwritten note attached to Huddy before his execution and found on his body.
in Colts Neck was torched. While engaging in a two-hour gunfight with the twenty-five Loyalists who were pursuing him, Huddy was captured. As he was being transported from Rumson to New York, Patriots fired on the Loyalists' boat from the shore. Although Huddy was shot in the leg, he escaped by jumping into the Shrewsbury River and swimming to safety while shouting out to his Patriot friends, "I am Huddy, I am Huddy!"In December 1781, the citizens of Dover Township (now Toms River Township) petitioned the first Governor of the State of New Jersey, William Livingston, to send Captain Huddy to command the blockhouse at Toms River. The fort had been built in 1777 to defend of the village, its privateering seaport, and the nearby Pennsylvania Salt Works. Huddy's appointment was necessary because scattered fighting continued between Patriots and Loyalists for nearly two years after the British surrender at Yorktown, Virginia, in October 1781.Huddy was given command of the blockhouse in Toms River on February 1, 1782. All was quiet until March 24 when a group of 120 British troops and Loyalists attacked the tiny fort. Huddy was bold and brave, but his militiamen and local residents who were defending the village and salt works were outnumbered almost 5-to-1. When their gunpowder was depleted, the enemy demanded surrender. Huddy defiantly shouted, "Come
and take it!" As the fort fell, Huddy escaped into the woods and found refuge at Randolph's Mill. After torching all but two houses in the village, the British and their Loyalist supporters eventually found Huddy and two other Patriots, Squire Randolph and Jacob Fleming.Captain Huddy was captured and taken to New York where he was imprisoned. On the morning of April 12, 1782, Joshua Huddy was transferred by ship to the Highlands in Monmouth County and hanged without trial. That afternoon, Patriots removed Huddy's body from the makeshift gallows and brought it to the Old Tennent Church in Freehold. Huddy was buried in an unmarked grave in the cemetery adjacent to the church near the Monmouth Battleground.