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Stories of New Jersey
The Story Of Two Captains
Captain Huddy and Captain Asgill (Period, 1781.)

By Frank R. Stockton

Originally published in 1896
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

Several of the attacking party were wounded, and they found at last that there was little chance of capturing this fortress, so well defended: so they concluded to burn the house, and thus force the garrison to come out. While they were at work setting fire to the wooden building, Huddy shot the mulatto in the arm ; but, finding that he could not prevent them from carrying out their purpose, he shouted to them that if they would put out the fire, he would surrender.

When the fort had capitulated and the enemy marched in, the Tories were so angry to find that they had been fighting no one but a man and a negro girl, that many of them were inclined to fall upon these unfortunates, and butcher them on the spot; but they were restrained. As it was known that Huddy's men would probably soon return, – for the noise of the firing had aroused the neighborhood – the enemy seized the captain and hurried him away, leaving the rest of the garrison behind.

It may be said here that this girl, whose name was Lucretia Emmons, afterwards married a man named Chambers, and, like all other Jersey women who were of benefit to their State, lived to a good old age, and had a large posterity.

Captain Huddy was hurried away to the boats in which the Tories had arrived; but the militiamen were in hot pursuit, and a running fight took place between them and the Tories, in which six of the latter were killed. The Tories, with their prisoner, got on board their boats; but they had not pushed very far from the shore, before the militiamen were firing at them again. During the hubbub which ensued, Captain Huddy made a bold dash for liberty. He sprang to his feet, plunged into the water, and began to swim to the shore. In so doing, unfortunately, he received a shot in the thigh from his own friends; but he raised his hands above his head and shouted, "I am Huddy, I am Huddy!" and so, with one leg and two arms, he continued to strike out for shore, which he reached in safety. His wound could not have been very severe, for it was not long before he was again engaged in fighting the Tories.

Two years after this, Captain Huddy was once obliged to hold a fort against a superior body Tories, – this time a rude structure of logs, or blockhouse, near Tom's River, close to the coast. His garrison consisted of twenty-five men. Here he was attacked by a number of refugees, some of them from New York, and some from the neighborhood. They gathered from various quarters during the night, and early on a Sunday morning they made a united attack on the blockhouse. Huddy and his men fought bravely; but when their ammunition was gone, and seven or eight of them were killed, he was obliged to surrender.

Now, there was no one to rescue him, and he was marched away, put in irons, and confined in the hold of a prison ship anchored off the coast. The state of feeling at the time is shown by the way in which the commander of this expedition speaks of the village of Tom's River; for he says, "The Town, as it is called, consists of about a dozen houses, in which none but a piratical set of banditti reside."

What afterwards happened to the captain was the result of a chain of events which could only have occurred in a country where neighbors and former friends were arrayed in bloody conflict against each other. A prominent Tory of that neighborhood, named White, had been captured by the patriots, and it happened that the father of one of White's guards had been murdered by a party of Tories of whom White was a member. , White was shot soon after his capture ; and it was generally believed that he had been killed by this guard, who wished to avenge his father's death.

Thus one murder led to another, but the bloody business had not yet gone far enough. The friends of White were determined to avenge his death, and could think of no better way of doing it than by killing Captain Huddy. The Tories wished to get rid of him anyway, and here was a reason which was considered good enough in those days of furious animosity between fellow-countrymen. It was not long, therefore, before Huddy was taken from his prison, and, without even a show of a trial, was condemned to death. It was said that he assisted in the killing of White; and although he asserted boldly that this was an absurd charge, as he was in prison at the time White was shot, the Tories would not listen to any such plea. They were determined to kill him, and die he must.

He was taken on shore at Sandy Hook, and on the beach a rude gallows was constructed of three fence rails, and there he was hung. Before he died, he wrote his will, resting the paper on the top of a flour barrel; and it is said that his handwriting was as firm and legible as if he had been sitting at a table in his own house.

This inhuman and lawless execution of a man so well known and of such good reputation as Captain Huddy, created great indignation in the patriotic party all over the country, and there was a general demand that the British army should deliver up a man named Lippencot, who had been the leader of the party which had hung Huddy ; but the British did not consent to this. They did make a show of investigating the matter; and Lippencot, who was an officer of a refugee regiment regularly enlisted in the British service, was tried by court-martial. But he was acquitted; and no satisfaction was offered to the Americans for this crime, which had been committed in open defiance of the laws of war.

But the British commander in chief, who arrived about this time, was a man of honor and good sense, and he openly condemned the action of Lippencot and his men, and assured the Americans that he would do what he could to further investigate the matter.

This, however, did not satisfy the country, and from every side there came demands that some one of the officers who were then prisoners in the American lines should be executed in retaliation for Huddy's murder, unless Lippencot were delivered up to the Americans. Here, then, opened the fourth act of this bloody play of progression, and we will tell the story of the other captain.

It is a horrible thing to deliberately execute an innocent man because some one else has committed a crime; but war is horrible, and we must expect that horrible things will continually spring from it. As no satisfaction could be obtained from the British for this acknowledged outrage and murder, – for in acquitting Lippencot the British authorities virtually took upon themselves the responsibility of Huddy's execution, – the Americans, being at war and acting in accordance with the bloody rules of war, determined to select an officer from among the English prisoners in the American lines, who should be executed in retaliation for Huddy's death.

As soon as this order had been issued, thirteen British officers, who were at liberty on parole in the American lines, were ordered to report at Lancaster, Penn., in order that one of them might be selected to be the victim of retaliation.

These officers were assembled in a room of the Black Bear Tavern with several American officers, who conducted the proceedings, and a guard of mounted dragoons was stationed outside.


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