Jedediah Huntington, born August 4, 1743, was the third generation of Huntingtons to be born in Norwich, Connecticut. His grandfather, Joshua, was a very successful businessman, thus Jedediah’s father, Jabez, became a leading member of the local aristocracy. Jabez graduated from Yale in 1741 and was elected a member of the Connecticut General Assembly in 1750. He amassed a large fortune of his own in the shipping business.
Harvard University, in the 18th century, listed its students by wealth and social order rather than intellectual prowess. The Huntington fortune was so large that Jedediah was listed number two when he graduated in 1763. After college, he returned to Norwich where he actively joined his father in business and in the Sons of Liberty. He was appointed ensign of the first Norwich militia company in October of 1769, became a lieutenant in 1771, and a captain in May of 1774. Meanwhile he had received his Master’s degree from Yale in 1770. In the spring of 1776, as a colonel in the 20th Regiment of colonial militia, Huntington marched to Boston, where his regiment was part of the force that occupied Dorchester Heights. After the British evacuation of Boston, he marched with the army to New York, entertaining George Washington at his home in Norwich on the way. He and his regiment were involved in the battle of Long Island and also at King’s Bridge, Northcastle and Sidmun’s Bridge. In May of 1777, Huntington became a brigadier general in the Continental Army. He spent the summer of 1777 in Peekskill, N.Y. but rejoined the regular army at Whitpain in October. Thus he marched into Valley Forge with the troops in December. He did not stay for the entire encampment, as he was appointed by Washington in April to serve on a commission to study the loss of Forts Montgomery and Clinton in the state of New York. In July he was a member of the court martial that tried General Charles Lee for misconduct at the Battle of Monmouth, and in September he was a member of the court of inquiry that heard the case of Major John Andre. In December of 1780 Huntington commanded the only Connecticut brigade that remained in service. He appears to have spent much of the remainder of the war in the West Point area, and in April of 1783, he recommended that site for a military academy. Later that year he was one of a committee of four who drafted the Constitution of the Society of Cincinnati. At the close of the war Jedediah Huntington was brevetted Major General.
The Huntington family, and Jedediah in particular, risked and lost a great deal when they made a total commitment to the revolutionary cause. While many businessmen made large profits from their dealing with the army, the Huntington fortune suffered from Jedediah’s long absence. Although his father did not die until 1786, he was very ill from 1779 on. Jedediah’s first wife, Faith Trumbull Huntington, also became a victim of the war. Faith was the daughter of Jonathan Trumbull, who served as governor of Connecticut for fifteen years, including the years of the revolution. One of her brothers, John Trumbull served as adjutant to the Second Connecticut Regiment, briefly as aide-de-camp to Washington, then as a brigade major. Faith and a group of her friends went to visit her brother and the army in their camp outside Boston in June of 1775. Instead of a glamorous and exciting military display, they witnessed the brutality of the Battle of Bunker Hill. The realization that this might be the fate of her brothers and husband seems to have been too much for the young Mrs. Huntington, and she began experiencing episodes of serious depression. As these bouts grew worse, and as Jedediah, who was in Boston, did not feel he could leave his men, he and his mother brought Faith to stay with friends in Dedham, where he could visit her frequently. On November 24, shortly after one of these visits, she hanged herself. Their son, Jabez, who was eight at the time, went to live with his maternal grandparents for the duration of the war. A little less than two years later, Jedediah met Ann Moore, daughter of the New York merchant, Thomas Moore and sister to Bishop Moore of Virginia. He returned to Norwich in the winter of 1778 to marry her. They had seven children in all, three by the end of the war.
After the war was over, Jedediah Huntington returned to Norwich, Connecticut where he attempted to resume the family business. He served as state treasurer and was a delegate to the state constitutional convention. In 1789 President Washington appointed him customs collector for the port of New London, a position he held until his death in September of 1818.
Did You Know?
Varnum's brigade contained the 1st Rhode Island Regiment, a unit largely made up of African American and Native American soldiers. The unit symbolizes the diversity of the army - a diversity not seen again for many years.