Who Served Here?
General Jedediah Huntington
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Compounding all other concerns, winter was coming, and General Washington was uncertain where the army would spend it, though he was sure it would entail hardships and sacrifice. From the December 17, 1777 General Orders:
"The Commander in Chief with the highest satisfaction expresses his thanks to the officers and soldiers for the fortitude and patience with which they have sustained the fatigues of the campaign . . . The General wishes it was in his power to conduct the troops into the best winter quarters but where are those to be found? Should we retire to the interior parts of the State, we should find them crowded with virtuous citizens, who, sacrificing their all, have left Philadelphia and fled thither for protection. To this distress, humanity forbids to add. This is not all; we should leave a vast extent of fertile country to be despoiled of and ravaged by the enemy from which they would draw vast supplies and where many of our friends would be exposed to all the miseries of the most insulting and wanton depredations."
The orders then set the stage for the winter at Valley Forge, and implore Huntington and the other generals to make the necessary preparations:
These considerations make it indispensibly necessary for the army to take such a position, as will enable it most effectually to prevent distress & to give the most extensive security; and in that position we must make ourselves the best shelter in our power-With activity and diligence Huts may be erected that will be warm and dry. — In these the troops will be compact, more secure against surprises than if in a divided state and at hand to protect the country. These cogent reasons have determined the General to take post in the neighbourhood of this camp; and influenced by them, he persuades himself, that the officers and soldiers, with one heart, and one mind, will resolve to surmount every difficulty, with a fortitude and patience, becoming their profession, and the sacred cause in which they are engaged:
Huntington helped to make these preparations and settled in with Washington for a long and unpleasant winter for which they were inadequately supplied. As spring approached conditions in camp had materially improved. The health of the army was good, more clothing had finally arrived, food was more plentiful, the morale of the soldiers had improved with the training they received from von Steuben. Perhaps the biggest boost to morale was the issuance of back and bonus pay to the beleagured soldiers. The last entry in Weedon's Orderly Book concerning Huntington's brigade was on May 3, noting that on the following Thursday the brigade would receive their pay.
On July 2, 1778, Huntington once again rendered service in the judgement of his fellow soldiers in the court martial of General Charles Lee, for his actions and inactions at the battle of Monmouth in June. The Court found Lee guilty on three charges brought against him. His sentence was a suspension of his command in the armies of the United States for twelve months. Congress approved the findings by a vote to thirteen to seven, and ordered the findings and proceedings of the court to be published.
Three years after his wife took her own life, in the winter of 1778, Jeddediah married Ann Moore. He and Faith had had one son, Jabez (presumably named after Jedediah's father). He and and Ann would eventually have a total of seven children.
Huntington was later appointed to another court, for the trial of John Andre, the man who aided Benedict Arnold in the treasonous betrayal of West Point. The trial occured on September 29, 1780. After lengthy deliberations, the court rendered the verdict that Andre be executed as a spy.
The Americans finally won their independence with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. In May of that year, Huntington, along with Henry Knox, Edward Hand, and Samuel Shaw, wrote the Constitution of the Society of the Cincinnati, essentially a social club for officers who had served in the Continental Army. The society still exists today, its membership limited to male descendents of officers of the Continental Army. General Washington—who would later become the frist President of the United States, when that position was created by the Constitution—was elected the first president of the Scoiety.
When he retired from the army he took up business in Norwich, but his family's fortunes had declined considerably. His father had taken ill and the family business had been neglected while Jedediah devoted his time and energy to the Revolutionary cause. Nonetheless, the former general rendered public service in peace as he had in war, serving as sheriff of New London, Judge of Probate for the district of Norwich, first Alderman of the city of Norwich, a representative to the Connecticut state legislature, a state elctor, and as state treasurer.
In 1787, the newly created Constitution radically reorganized the federal government. Under the new custom-house system, Connecticut was divided into three districts: New London, New Haven, and Fairfield. In 1789, the new government's first president, George Washington, appointed Huntington to the post of collector for the New London district, a post he would hold for almost three decades until his death in 1818
Adapted from "Jedediah Huntingdon"
By Charles William Heathcote, Ph.D.
The Picket Post, The Valley Forge Historical Society, May 1956