Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
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.
After the war, he moved to his wife's family estate in Newton, Massachusetts and served as a judge and state senator in Massachusetts. In 1805, President Thomas Jefferson appointed him governor of Michigan Territory. At the beginning of the War of 1812, Hull accepted a commission of brigadier general in command of the northwestern army, while also keeping his position as governor.
Hull was, at least in part, the victim of poor preparation for war by the U.S. government and of 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.
Facing what he believed to be superior forces thanks to his enemy's strategem of 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, he was sentenced to be shot, though upon recommendation of mercy by the court, Hull received a reprieve from President James Madison.
Hull lived the remainder of his life in Newton, Massachusetts and wrote two books attempting to clear his name. Some later historians have agreed that Hull was unfairly made a scapegoat for the embarrassing loss.
He was also uncle to Isaac Hull and adopted Isaac after his father (William's brother Joseph) died while Isaac was young.
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