William Hull first became active in the United States militia when he was about twenty years old during the Revolutionary War. He quickly moved through the ranks and was recognized for his service by Congress and Washington. But military action didn’t come back into his life until he was sixty as the War of 1812 made its way across America. As he was serving as the governor of the Michigan Territory, President Madison asked him to serve as a brigadier general. Hull rejected the first offer but accepted the second after the next man appointed fell ill.
Unfortunately for Hull, he wasn’t the all star of his youth again when it came to this war. For one thing, he and his men settled on the Maumee River where Hull sent a supply ship full of invalids up north and straight into the British. Hull wasn’t aware that the war started half a month ago because the letter he was supposed to receive informing him of such was quite late. (Fort Michilimackinac suffered the same fate and as a result was captured by the British.)
After that incident, Hull tried to get a good navy built up on Lake Erie, but his requests were ignored. He hardly stood a chance as the British forces soon began closing in on Fort Detroit, attacking with their two vessels. Meanwhile, Tecumseh and his men were coming in the opposite direction and seemed to number by the thousands. Little did Hull know that there were only 600 Native Americans disguising their number with large war cries. Hull feared for his daughter and grandchild in the fort and felt the enemy was too numerous. Only seven Americans were killed, but on 16 August 1812, Hull raised the white flag before what he felt would be a bloodbath.
Hull was almost shot for what he did, but President Madison stepped in and pardoned him because of his honorable service in the Revolutionary War. Hull spent the rest of his life in Massachusetts, attempting to redeem his good name by writing books in his defense (Defence of Brigadier General W. Hull: Delivered Before the General Court Martial and Memoirs of the Campaign of the North Western army of the United States, A.D. 1812).
Find more of William Hull’s records in Fold3′s Letters Received by the Adjutant General.