Photo of the Week 

— April 13, 2024 —


“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck 


Col. Josiah Smith, Regimental Orders, August 29, 1776. Col. Smith was the commanding officer of the 1st Regiment of Minute Men, Suffolk County Militia, in 1776. (Document from the Col. Josiah Smith Papers Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library & Archive. Image copyright (c) Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)

Colonel Josiah Smith (1723-1786) was a veteran of the American Revolution whose great-great grandfather was Richard “Bull” Smith of Smithtown. A lifelong resident of East Moriches, Smith was born there on November 28, 1723, the son of Nathaniel Smith and Phoebe Howell. His home was located on property known as the Moriches Patent. He first married Susannah Gelston, daughter of Judge Hugh Gelston and Mary (Maltby) Gelston of Southampton, in 1742, and then Mary Howell, his second wife, in 1758. He had seven children: Mary, Hugh, Susannah, Jane, and Hannah with his first wife, and Juliana and Oliver with his second wife. 

During the American Revolution, Josiah Smith was commissioned as colonel on 30 February 1776 and was in command of the regiment of militia recruited in Suffolk and Queens counties, usually referred to as “Colonel Smith’s regiment.” In August 1776, following orders issued by Congress, he marched his regiment to the western end of Long Island to join the troops gathered there to protect Long Island and New York City in the expected offensive action by the British. The regiment reached Increase Carpenter’s place, near Jamaica, on August 13, and Brooklyn Ferry the following day.

After the British came from Staten Island, on August 22 Colonel Smith’s regiment was engaged in sentry and guard duty, and a part of the time in advanced positions, during the engagement known as the Battle of Long Island. When the decision was reached to retreat, the troops crossed to New York in the early morning of August 30 and marched to Westchester. Colonel Smith’s regiment embarked at Mamaroneck on September 1 and crossed Long Island Sound, landing in Smithtown. They then marched to Bridgehampton and disbanded, the colonel giving orders for the men to get their families and effects away from Long Island, if they did not want to risk the dangers of remaining. Colonel Smith was subsequently taken by the British from his house and held prisoner in New York City.

After the end of the revolutionary war and the British occupation of Long Island, Josiah Smith served as Suffolk County Treasurer until his death in 1786 at age 62. He left to his children his estate lands and property. In his Last Will and Testament, we learn the names of four enslaved individuals who are identified as Joe, Bett, Hagard, and Rose. He also mentions his “friend William Floyd” in his will, which is dated January 7, 1786 and is signed by Surrogate Judge Henry Scudder. 

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian




Copyright © 2024 Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.




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