Andrew Huntington (1745-1824): Revolutionary War Commissary Helps Sickly French Troops
Updated: Oct 29
I still continue to slowly wade my way through my book. Have had an extremely busy year of shoulder surgery, travel, and family business. The Revolutionary War chapters are the most challenging because there are a lot of documents to sift through, prioritize, and analyze.
Andrew (1745-1824), was the second of Jabez' five sons (Jedediah, Andrew, Joshua, Ebenezer, and Zechariah) and the only one to not have an active-duty military career during the war. He was, however, a resourceful commissary and important to not only the functioning of Washington's Continental Army but also the Connecticut militia (led by his father from 1777-1779). In short, he provisioned and clothed many regiments, on demand, throughout most of the war.
Like his father, Andrew would never recover financially from the cost of war. For example, he was not fully reimbursed for taking care of sickened French troops that stopped in Norwich during the fall of 1778. This really irked him and he pursued restitution for years.
Despite conflicting stories, smallpox-infected French troops WERE in Norwich in October of 1778 and camped out on the green, probably in the courthouse, and private homes. They were part of an early French fleet that had recently arrived to aid the patriots.
Andrew paid for their care out of his own pocket. Approximately 20 of them perished and were buried in an unmarked grave in the Norwichtown grave yard.
Wrote Andrew, "In October 1778 there was a large number of French Prisoners Released from confinement at New York, and Landed at this place in order to be sent Boston--they were in the most distressed circumstances that you can easily imagine..." The French pleaded for money and "necessaries" to help these released prisoners that had suffered in the British prison ships in New York harbor.
Duped by John Holker
As the French soldiers arrived, Andrew was also sent a plea letter from the French Consul, merchant John Holker (born in England). He was stationed in Boston to represent French interests. Holker requested that Andrew supply the French troops with all their needs (ie, medical, rations, clothing, etc) and that he would of course be "repaid with honor" the £600 in Bills of Exchange.
Andrew admitted that he had to "straighten my own circumstances" in order to help these poor troops. He reluctantly obliged because he had no contract. But it was wartime and an honorable man did what he had to do to help the Patriots.
Well, Holker duped Andrew. This sent Andrew on a wild goose chase during and after the war. He needed the money! The Huntington vessels were getting captured, trade was at a standstill, and there was no end in sight. He did get some money back but never the full amount.
This desperation indicates the downward spiral of his wealth. In fact, he acknowledged in the letter that normally it would not have been a big deal for him to lose this money. I think he was more annoyed that his honor and good nature was taken advantage of.
A few years after the war Andrew painstakingly contacted important figures such as his distant cousin (and neighbor) Samuel Huntington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson (via his aide), to see if they could get him the financial restitution. He also hired a lawyer. But, with no lawful document he was screwed.
At roughly the same time Andrew was challenging Holker's good word, the Pennsylvania Founding Father, Robert Morris was also having his own financial and legal problems with Holker which was very acrimonious. See sources below for more details on this situation.
Even though we don't have a known portrait of Andrew, there is a reliable description of him as an older pious Connecticut Yankee gentleman. Lydia Huntley Sigourney (1791-1865), the famous poet/writer, from Norwich, described Andrew this way:
"Judge Andrew Huntington...was a man of plain manners and incorruptible integrity. His few words were always those of good sense and truth, and the weight of his influence ever given to the best interests of society."
Two of the many local political roles he served, particularly after the war, was that of Justice of the Peace and Probate Judge for Norwich.
Andrew, with his first wife, Lucy Coit Huntington, had two children: Joseph and Hannah.
Joseph married Eunice Carew in 1791. The daughter of Captain Joseph Carew, Eunice (1769-1848) grew up in the very garrison/tavern house that Andrew's great-grandparents had built in the early eighteenth century! After her father's death in 1818, Eunice and Joseph Huntington moved into this house--it had been out of Huntington hands for many decades.
(As I have noted before, early Norwich families, like the Huntingtons and Carews, typically kept homes in the family by handing them down. Huntington widows remained in their homesteads and usually lived with their sons or grandsons such as happened to Andrew Huntington (with the elderly Grandma Hannah). Or with Hannah Williams Huntington who lived with her youngest son "Zach" who eventually inherited his father's large double home on Huntington Lane. Or, in the case of Jedediah Huntington (1743-1818) he lent or shared his grand home to the fourth brother, Ebenezer, when Jed moved to New London a few years after the war.)
Lucy Dies in 1776 of Tuberculosis
He remarried again, on May 1, 1777, a very young and perky, Hannah Phelps from nearby Stonington. She was the daughter of a wealthy doctor, farmer, merchant, and politician Major Charles Phelps. Somehow she knew Andrew probably through the Coit family. Again, everyone knew each other in tight-knit New London County.
It is interesting that Andrew and Dr. Phelps were willing to spend this kind of money during hard times. Clearly, rank, protocol, and customs still mattered.
Hannah, aged 16, was given special recognition for her marriage in The Norwich Packet as “…a young lady possessing the Beauties of Mind and Person in an eminent degree.” They had two children together.
Later, Sigourney remembered her neighbor Hannah Huntington as an elegant elderly woman who "fascinated the children" by giving them cakes and picture books to read.
Andrew and Hannah lived out their long lives in Norwich at the old homestead. At his death, Andrew owned a horse named Count Pulaski--named for the famous Polish officer who fought for the Americans.
Sources (with abbreviated citations):
Franklin Papers, Founders Online, National Archives.
Andrew Huntington Papers, Connecticut Museum of Culture and History,
The Huntington Scrapbook, The University of Michigan, Clements Library.
The Papers of Robert Morris, 1781-1784. Volume 9: January 1-October 30, 1784, edited by Elizabeth M. Nuxoll and Mary A. Gallagher.
Lydia Huntley Sigourney, Letters of Life, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1867.