Chauncey Judd


It was past sunrise on Saturday morning ere the boats were espied, from "Sentinel Hill," rounding the point in the river, and approaching the Landing at Derby.

Already some of the people were gathered, and waiting to hear the news of the pursuit. Loud shouts from the crews, as they drew nigh, announced the success of the expedition, and before they had landed, a joyful peal from the meeting-house bell sent the glad intelligence throughout the town. In a very brief time, hundreds had assembled to express their pleasure at the result, and aid, if there was need, in any measures that might be adopted to bring the criminals to justice. It is a significant testimony to the habits of self-control to which the law-abiding people of Connecticut were accustomed, that these were not snatched from the hands of their captors, and hanged upon the nearest tree.

It being impracticable, from the absence of witnesses and other circumstances, to hold the requisite legal examination that day, the prisoners were handcuffed, and placed under a strong guard until after the Sabbath. They were then arraigned before Joseph Hopkins and Thomas Clarke, Esqs., of Waterbury, justices of the peace for the county, and with the exception of Graham, were all committed for trial at the Superior Court, to be held in New Haven in May following.

Graham was ascertained to be both a deserter from the American army and under a commission from General Howe to recruit soldiers from among the tories for the British service. On searching him, the commission was found in his pocket; and finding his case desperate, he no longer made a secret of his career, but acknowledged his true character and designs. It was concluded by the magistrates that the case properly came under the jurisdiction of military law, and they ordered him sent, under a strong escort, to the headquarters of the army, then at Morristown, to be tried, under the orders of Washington, as a deserter and a spy. This was accordingly done, and he was found guilty and executed, agreeably to the rules of War.

We have no information as to the manner or circumstances of his death. The fact only is attested by tradition, and agrees with the inherent probabilities of the case. It is probable, also, that he died hardened and reckless, as he had lived. For not in the natural world do the laws of cause and effect operate more surely than in the moral, decreeing the certain connection between a life of sin and a death of infamy and hopelessness. It is not alone an enactment of divine justice, but a result following in the normal workings of his own nature, that whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

The remaining robbers having been dispatched to New Haven for confinement in the jail, Chauncey, accompanied by his brothers and other friends, was taken to his home. Of the warmth and tenderness of his reception there we can have no doubt. And he needed all the care which the most assiduous nursing could afford. He had endured hardships which were enough to crush one much stronger than he. Indeed, he was, for several days, partially insane. The shock to his nervous system, from the repeated imminent prospect of death, increased by his severe bodily sufferings, had completely broken him down. Often would he awake from a sort of stupor in which be lay, and cry, Hurrah for King George! imagining himself to be in the power of his abductors still. During their flight down the river and across the Sound, he had been wholly unprotected from the wind, and had almost perished from cold. His hands, from holding the bayonet, had been frost-bitten, and some of his fingers remained stiffened and crippled for life. It was believed by his family that the strength of his constitution was impaired by these hardships so that he never recovered from it, but continued in delicate health until his death.

On the first Tuesday in May, a special term of the Superior Court, consisting of the Hon. Matthew Griswold, chief judge, and Eliphalet Dyer, Roger Sherman, and William Pitkin, assistant judges, was held at New Haven for the trial of the robbers, to which was joined that of six other persons as accessories, viz., David Wooster, Sen., Noah Candee, Daniel Johnson, William Seeley, Francis Noble, and Lemuel Wooding. The character of the offense, the number and prominence of the accused, and the romantic story of the abduction and maltreatment of young Judd, excited a profound interest throughout the county, and the sessions of the court were crowded with spectators. The counts of the indictment were two-fold – first for burglary, and secondly for treason, the latter consisting in joining or attempting to join the enemies of the state by going to Long Island, which, by a recent law of the state, had been expressly declared to constitute that crime. The accessories named were charged with countenancing, harboring, and aiding the active criminals in so doing.

In the lack of sufficient independent evidence to secure the conviction, – for it will be remembered that Chauncey could not testify to the fact of the burglary, – two of the accused, Scott and Cady, who were believed to be least conspicuous in the transaction, were permitted to turn witnesses for the state. All the others were found guilty, and received sentences as follows;–

The three burglars, David and Henry Wooster, Jr., and Samuel Doolittle, each to pay a fine of fifty pounds, and be imprisoned four years in the Newgate State Prison.

David Wooster, Ben., and Noah Candee, to pay a fine each of five hundred pounds, and be imprisoned nine months in the Hartford jail.

Daniel Johnson, two hundred and fifty pounds fine, and imprisonment in the Hartford Jail nine mouths.

Francis Noble, a fine of fifty pounds, and imprisonment in Hartford Jail one year.

William Seeley, twenty-five pounds, and Hartford Jail nine months.

Lemuel Wooding, twenty-five pounds, and Hartford Jail six months.

In addition to these sentences, civil suits for damages were instituted by Captain Dayton against all the responsible parties that had been implicated in the affair – first for assault and battery upon Mrs. Dayton and the children; secondly for the damage done to his house and furniture, the destruction of his liquors, etc., and thirdly for the loss of his goods which they had carried away. In all these suits but one, he recovered judgment, awarding him, in the aggregate, many thousands of pounds. The excepted case was a suit against Captain John Wooster, his wife and daughter, for harboring and concealing the robbers, which, for some reason not stated on the record, was decided against Dayton.

Mr. Judd also sued David Wooster and his son, Candee, Johnson, and Jobamah Gunn, for the abduction of Chauncey, and injuries done to him, and recovered a verdict of eight hundred pounds, lawful money.

These heavy fines and payment for damages, together with all the costs of the trial, it may well be believed, were the pecuniary ruin of many of the tories. Mr. Wooster, indeed, was stripped of all his property. His homestead was attached and confiscated to the state, and he was reduced to absolute poverty. Many traditions remain to this day of the straits to which his family were reduced. Candee also, and Gunn, notwithstanding all the endeavors of the latter to conceal his knowledge of the transaction, suffered heavily. It is said that, when paying to Mr. Judd the eight hundred pounds awarded for the abduction of Chauncey, he brought out the coin from his house in his beaver hat, and made delivery of the money in that mode.