Capt. Joseph Howell

Capt. Joseph Howell
Courtesy of Joshua Ladd Howell, Member, Pennsylvania Society of the Cincinnati

Joseph Howell, born about 1750, was the son of Joseph and Hannah (Hudson) Howell of Philadelphia ; the captain often appears in the records as “Jr.”. If there was a relationship with Ezekiel Howell [an Original Member of the Society] it was a remote one and has not been pursued here.

On 15 March 1776 Howell was commissioned Captain in Colonel Atlee’s Pennsylvania State Battalion of Musketry, authorized ten days previously. In August the battalion was ordered to New York City, and on 27 August was badly mauled at the Battle of Long Island. Of the 406 men reported in Atlee’s Battalion in July, four were killed, four wounded and ninety-eight were captured in this battle, including Colonel Atlee and Captain Howell. With a number of others Howell was exchanged on 9 December.

Many of the officers from Atlee’s Battalion were assigned to the Pennsylvania State Regiment when it came into existence in the Fall of 1776, but when Howell returned to duty it was with the Second Pennsylvania Regiment where he became a company commander on 12 March 1777. On 27 August 1778 he was made regimental Paymaster but resigned from this post and from the army on 1 October 1778. It is very likely that the resignation was for health reasons; unconfirmed family records indicate that he was confined aboard one of the New York “prison hulks” during his captivity.

On 11 February 1779, with the recommendation of his old commander Samuel John Atlee, by then a Congressman, Howell was recommended for a vacant post as an auditor of the army accounts. This effort came to nothing, but another was mounted and by 9 November he was chosen as an additional army auditor. Here he worked closely with the Assistant Paymaster General of the Continental Army, John Pierce, who in January 1781 became the Paymaster General. This department continued in existence after the end of the Continental Army to settle the pay accounts, and Pierce was also Commissioner for settling the [general] accounts of the Army; in March 1787 these two offices were united. Pierce died on 1 August 1788 and the affairs of the office were then administered by Joseph Howell until the appointment of Caleb Swan on 8 May 1792.

Howell did not become a member of the Society of the Cincinnati until 21 March 1785. His name appears in the “Report of Sub-Committee June 20th 1789” among those “on the Secretarys Return but have not signed the Parchment”, and a “Return of subscribers to the Penna State Society of Cincinnati” shows that he paid into the treasury a captain’s pay of forty dollars.

Joseph Howell married Rebecca Betterton at Christ Church, Philadelphia, on 13 January 1785, and en secondes noces Hannah Kinward ; the 1791 Directory of Philadelphia shows he then lived at 101 Sassafras Street. He died on 9 August 1798, and in 1800 Mrs. Howell applied for aid from the Society of the Cincinnati. On 17 October an order was drawn on the treasury for her benefit, and this assistance was continued until 1845.