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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Joshua Huddy and the Character of Retaliation

Captain Joshua Huddy, commander of the garrison at Toms River, New Jersey, that was destroyed by the British on March 24, 1782, was hung unceremoniously by the British after his capture, resulting in the 18th century equivalent of an international incident.  He is buried at Tennent Church near the Monmouth Battlefield.

Numerous depositions were obtained and presented to Washington, who on April 21, 1782, wrote an incensed letter to British General Henry Clinton, threatening repercussions if the British did not punish their own.  Unsatisfied with Clinton's response, on May 3, 1782, Washington ordered General Moses Hazen to choose by lot a British officer--a captain if one was available, if not, a lieutenant, either in Pennsylvania or Maryland--for execution.  Ultimately, a man was selected but Washington did not go through with the execution, following international intervention.

During World War II, on January 1, 1945 at Chenogne, Belgium, American troops killed 25 or more German prisoners in retaliation for the execution of 80 American prisoners at Malmedy by German Waffen-SS troops on December 17, 1944.

 As contemptible and violative of the rule of law as the acts were that led to the execution of Huddy by the Loyalists, even if under supervision of the British, it is a telling aspect of the American character that "an eye for eye" justice, even at the expense of the innocent, was even considered.  As we see in the Chenogne and Malmedy massacres, the behavior did not end in the eighteenth century.

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