Lt. Col. William Hull

Is your surname Hull?

Research the Hull family

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Lt. Col. William Hull

Birthplace: Derby, New Haven County, Connecticut, United States
Death: November 29, 1825 (72)
Newton, Middlesex County, MA, United States
Place of Burial: Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Capt. Joseph Hull and Eliza Hull
Husband of Sarah Hull
Father of Sarah McKesson; Isaac Hull; Alice Hull; Eliza Hull; Abraham Fuller Hull and 6 others
Brother of Capt Joseph Hull; Samuel Hull; William Hull; Samuel Hull; Elizabeth Smith and 5 others

Occupation: Soldier in the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, 1st Gov. Michigan Territory, 1805-1813
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
view all 27

Immediate Family

About Lt. Col. William Hull

William Hull (1753-1825) was an American soldier and politician. He fought in the American Revolution, was the first Governor of Michigan Territory, and was a brigadier general in the War of 1812, for which he is best remembered for surrendering Fort Detroit to the British.


   * 1 Biography
         o 1.1 Early life and Revolutionary War
         o 1.2 Michigan Territory and War of 1812
               + 1.2.1 March to Detroit
               + 1.2.2 Invasion of Canada
               + 1.2.3 Surrender of Detroit
         o 1.3 Later life
   * 2 Notes
   * 3 References
   * 4 Further reading
   * 5 See also


Early life and Revolutionary War

He was born in Derby, Connecticut and graduated from Yale in 1772, studied law in Litchfield, Connecticut and passed the bar in 1775.

At the outbreak of fighting in the American Revolution, Hull joined a local militia and was quickly promoted to captain, then to major, and to lieutenant colonel. He was in the battles of White Plains, Trenton, Princeton, Stillwater, Saratoga, Fort Stanwix, Monmouth, and Stony Point. He was recognized by George Washington and the Continental Congress for his service.

Hull was a friend of Nathan Hale and tried to dissuade Hale from the dangerous spy mission that would cost him his life. Hull was largely responsible for publicizing Hale's famous last words, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."[3] After the American Revolution, he moved to his wife's family estate in Newton, Massachusetts and served as a judge and state senator in Massachusetts.

Michigan Territory and War of 1812

On March 22, 1805, President Thomas Jefferson appointed him Governor of the recently-created Michigan Territory as well as its Indian Agent. As almost all of the territory except for two enclaves around Detroit and Fort Michilimackinac were in the hands of the Indians, Hull undertook the goal of gradually purchasing more Indian land for occupation by American settlers. He negotiated the Treaty of Detroit with the Ottawa, Chippewa, Wyandot and Potawatomi nations, which ceded most of present-day Southeast Michigan to the United States. These efforts to expand American settlement began to generate opposition, particularly from the Shawnee leaders Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa, the Shawnee Prophet, who preached resistance to the American lifestyle and to further land giveaways.[4]

By February 1812, the US was openly talking about and making plans in Congress for war with Great Britain, including an invasion of Canada. The British responded by recruiting Native American tribes to form part of their defence in the Michigan, Canada area in case the Americans attacked Canada[5]. While Hull was in Washington, Secretary of War William Eustis informed him that President Madison wished to appoint him a Brigadier General in command of the new Army of the Northwest. Hull, then nearly 60 years old, expressed his disinterest in a new military commission, and a Colonel Kingsbury was selected to lead the force instead. Kingsbury fell ill before taking command, and the offer was repeated to Hull, who this time accepted. His orders were to go to Ohio, whose governor had been charged by Madison with raising a 1,200-man militia that would be augmented by the 4th Infantry Regiment from Vincennes, Indiana, to form the core of the army. From there he was to march the army to Detroit, where he was to also continue serving as Territorial Governor.[6]

March to Detroit

Hull arrived in Cincinnati on May 10, 1812, and on May 25 took command of the militia at Dayton. The militia comprised three regiments, who elected as their commanding Colonels Duncan McArthur, Lewis Cass, and James Findlay. They marched to Staunton and then to Urbana, where they were joined by the 300-man 4th Infantry Regiment. The men of the militia were ill-equipped and lacked military discipline, and Hull relied on the infantry regiment to quell several instances of insubordination on the remainder of the march. By the end of June, the army had reached the rapids of the Maumee River, where Hull committed the first of the errors that would later reflect poorly on him.[7]

The declaration of war on Great Britain was signed on June 18, 1812, and that same day Secretary Eustis sent two letters to General Hull. One of them, sent by special messenger, had arrived on June 24 but did not contain any mention of the declaration of war. The second one, announcing the declaration of war, was sent via the postal service, and did not arrive until July 2.[8] As a result, Hull was still unaware that war had broken out when he reached the rapids of the Maumee, and as the army was now on a navigable waterway, he sent the schooner Cuyahoga Packet ahead of the army to Detroit with a number of invalids, supplies, and official documents. Unfortunately for Hull, the British commander at Fort Amherstburg had received the declaration of war two days earlier, and captured the ship as it sailed past, along with all of the papers and plans for an attack on Fort Amherstburg.[9]

Invasion of Canada

Hull was, at least in part, the victim of poor preparation for war by the U.S. government and miscommunication. While governor, Hull's repeated requests to build a naval fleet on Lake Erie to properly defend Detroit, Fort Mackinac, and Fort Dearborn were ignored by the commander of the northeast, General Henry Dearborn. Hull began an invasion of Canada on July 12, 1812. However, he quickly withdrew to the American side of the river after hearing the news of the capture of Fort Mackinac by the British. He also faced unfriendly Native American forces, which threatened to attack from the other direction.

Surrender of Detroit

Facing what he believed to be superior forces thanks to his enemy's cunning stratagems such as instructing the Native American warriors to make as much noise as possible around the fort, Hull surrendered Fort Detroit to Sir Isaac Brock on August 16, 1812. Accounts of the incident varied widely. A subordinate, Colonel Lewis Cass placed all blame for the surrender on Hull and subsequently succeeded Hull as Territorial Governor. Hull was court-martialed, and at a trial presided over by General Henry Dearborn, with evidence against him given by Robert Lucas, a subordinate and the future governor of Ohio and territorial governor of Iowa. Hull was sentenced to be shot, though upon recommendation of mercy by the court, Hull received a reprieve from President James Madison.

Later life

Hull lived the remainder of his life in Newton, Massachusetts and wrote two books attempting to clear his name (Detroit: Defence of Brig. Gen. Wm. Hull in 1814 and Memoirs of the Campaign of the Northwestern Army of the United States: A.D. 1812 in 1824). Some later historians have agreed that Hull was unfairly made a scapegoat for the embarrassing loss. The publication of his Memoirs in 1824 changed public opinion somewhat in his favor, and he was honored with a dinner in Boston on May 30, 1825.[10] That June, Lafayette visited Hull and declared, "We both have suffered contumely and reproach; but our characters are vindicated; let us forgive our enemies and die in Christian love and peace with all mankind."[1] Hull died at home in Newton several months later, on November 29, 1825.

He was also uncle to Isaac Hull and adopted Isaac after his father (William's brother Joseph) died while Isaac was young.


  1. ^ a b Colonial Society of Massachusetts 1907, p. 369
  2. ^ Colonial Society of Massachusetts 1907, p. 368
  3. ^ Ortner 2001
  4. ^ Campbell & Clarke 1848, pp. 305–324
  5. ^ Hull, William 1824, pg 15
  6. ^ Campbell & Clarke 1848, pp. 325–326
  7. ^ Campbell & Clarke 1848, pp. 329–334
  8. ^ Campbell & Clarke 1848, pp. 332–334
  9. ^ Garcia 1999
 10. ^ Colonial Society of Massachusetts 1907, p. 366


   * Campbell, Maria; Clarke, James F. (1848), Revolutionary Services and Civil Life of General William Hull, New York: D. Appleton, OCLC 2510566, 
   * Colonial Society of Massachusetts (1907), Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, X, The Society, , p. 364-369
   * Garcia, Bob (1999), Fort Amherstburg in the War of 1812, 
   * Ortner, Mary J. (2001), Captain Nathan Hale, The Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, 
   * Hull, William (1824), Memoirs of the Campaign of the North Western Army of the United States, A.D. 1812: In a Series of Letters Addressed to the Citizens of the United States, with an Appendix, Containing a Brief Sketch of the Revolutionary Services of the Author, True and Green, p. 15, 

Further reading

   * Campbell, Maria Hull (1847), Revolutionary Services and Civil Life of General William Hull, New York: D. Appleton & Co., 
   * Forbes, James G. (1814), Report of the Trial of Brig. General William Hull, Commanding the North-Western Army of the United States, New York: Eastburn, Kirk, OCLC 4781638,  (digital version contains both this document and Hull's Memoirs; the report of the trial begins at p. 240)
   * Hull, William (1814), Defence of Brigadier General W. Hull: Delivered Before the General Court Martial, Boston: Wells & Lilly, OCLC 2738191, 
   * Hull, William (1824), Memoirs of the Campaign of the North Western army of the United States, A.D. 1812, Boston: True & Greene, OCLC 11571681,  (digital version contains both this document and Forbes' Report of the trial)
   * Paine, Ralph D. (1920), The Fight for a Free Sea: A Chronicle of the War of 1812, The Chronicles of America Series, 17, Project Gutenberg, 

See also

   * Siege of Detroit

Source: Downloaded 2010 from Wikipedia.

+ _ + < > < > < > < > < > < > \ | / \ | / \ | / \ | / \ | / < > < > < > < > < > < > + _ +

Williams second son of Eliza had graduated from Yale in 1773

a classmate and friend Nathan Hale. In deference to the fond wish of his father and mother that he

should become a clergymen, he began the study of theology, but a year's trial having proved that he

had a more decided taste for the law, he entered the celebrated Law School in Litchfield, COnn. and

was admitted to the bar in 1775.

He was chosen captain of the first company organized in Derby, which he hastily drilled and

in command of which he accompanied the Connecticut regiment that monarched to Cambridge to meet

Washington. His career throughout the Revolution was one of steady progress in uslefulness and honor.

He crossed the Delaware with Washington and helped to win the victories of Trenton and Princeton,

after which he was rewarded by promotion to the rank of Major. At Saratoga he was engaged in both

in both battles and recieved thanks from Congress for his bravery. He passed the winter of 77-78 at

Valley Forge in the midst of the extreme wretchedness of the army where under circumstances of

intense suffering, he was ordered on one occasion to pursue a foraging party of the British. In one

of his letters he thus describes the log huts which were their only shelter during that winter of

misery. "The hut we occupied consisted of one room. This was dining room, parlor, kithcen and hall.

On side were shelves for our books on another stood a row of Derby cheeses sent from Connecticut by

my mother- a luxury of which the camp could rarely boast and with which visitors were often regaled."

Unfortunately the early correspondance of Cpt. William Hull was accidentally destroyed by fire. At 

this time two of Eliza's sons were with the destitute army, and one, a prisoner in the hands of the

enemy. When Tyron was raiding and burning the Connecticut towns on the SOund, with the intention of

drawing Washngton from his strong position in the Highlands of the Hudson, the stormng of Stony

Point was orderd by Washington- as a counter check to Tyron, and was succefully carried to completion

by Mad Anthony Wayne. For bravery in this attack called " one of the most brilliant of the

Revolution" Major Hull was promoted to rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Under the direction of Baron Stueben, Colonel Hull became one of the most able masters of the

army in military drill, having recieved the appointment of deputy inspector; Baron Stueben himself

being Inspector General of the army. So valuable did Colonel Hull become in this department that the

more distinguished postion of aide to Washington was declined by him in deference to the request of

Baron Stueben, who deemed the services of Col. Hull as Deputy Inspector too important to be lost to

the army. Loyally declining the high honor for himself, COlonel Hull recommended his life long friend

and townsman David Humphreys who recieved the appointment. In 1781 COlonel Hull applied for leave of

absence for the first time in six years and went directly to Boston where he was married to Sarah

Fuller the beautiful daugheter of Judge Fuller of Newton. His bride returned to him to the army.

Col. Hull was present at the battles of Long Island, White Plains, Trenton, Princton, Ticonderoga,

Stillwater, Saratoga, Monmouth, and Stony Point. He himself commanded an expedition against Morrisania

for the success of which he recieved the thanks of Washington and Congress. When the army was disbanded

at the close of the Revolution, COl. Hull was appointed by Washington Lt. Col. of one regiment of

infantry retained and was stationed at West Point during the winter of 83-84. The order of the Cincinnati

was founded at this time, Col. Hull being one of the originators and a delegates to the first convention

held in Philadelphia in May 1784. One of the closing scenes of Revolution was the withdrawal of the British

army from the posts long occupied by them in NYC. As they withdrew Washington advanced and took posesion

of the posts escorted by Col. Hull with his light infantry the perfect discipline of his troops calling

forth words of commendation from the Commander in Cheif.

American Soldier and Politician. He studied law at Yale, graduating in 1772 and passing the bar in 1775, before joing the Colonial army during the Revolutionary war, where he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Married Sarah Fuller in 1781, with whom he had four children. In 1805, he was appointed first Governor of the Michigan Territory, and in 1807 signed the Treaty of Detroit, in which local Native tribes ceded control of what is now Southeast Michigan and Western Ohio. In preparation for the War of 1812, he was appointed Brigadier General of the Army of the Northwest, charged with defending Detroit and assisting in a proposed invasion of Canada. Both of these assignments ended in failure, and he took much of the blame despite being a victim of poor communication and ill-prepared forces. He was court martialed for his failures, and originally received a death sentence, but was pardoned by the President and returned to his home in Newton, Massachusetts. (bio by: Kristin Jones)

view all 23

Lt. Col. William Hull's Timeline

June 24, 1753
Derby, New Haven County, Connecticut, United States
- 1773
Age 14
United States
Age 19
Age 19
United States
January 20, 1783
Age 29
June 22, 1784
Age 30
March 8, 1786
Age 32
Age 32
Newton, MA, United States