War of 1812people

William Hull


Hull at Fort Detroit

Hull's Proclamation

Eyewitness accounts of Hull’s defeated army as they are marched from Detroit to Quebec by British and Canadian troops in the fall of 1812.

Before the War of 1812, William Hull was known as a man of sound judgment, courage, and leadership. But Hull’s stellar reputation, rooted in his exploits during the American Revolutionary War, would be completely overshadowed by the events of a single day; his surrender at Detroit on August 16, 1812. Hull’s breakdown at Detroit became legendary and stood in sharp contrast to Isaac Brock’s decisive command in the early days of the conflict .

Hull was born in Massachusetts in 1753, and graduated from Yale College by the age of nineteen. He studied seriously for the ministry, but eventually found law more attractive. Hull rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel during the Revolutionary War, was thanked formally by Congress for his services, and was appointed Governor of the Michigan Territory by President Thomas Jefferson in 1805.

As governor, one of Hull’s main objectives was to secure land concessions from the First Nations of the Northwest. He was fairly successful and as a result angered many of the tribes. This fact undoubtedly contributed to his fears that swarms of warriors hungry for American (or perhaps specifically, his own) blood would storm Fort Detroit.

With the war quickly approaching, Hull wanted the Michigan Territory to be protected. He hoped however, that he could avoid this responsibility in exchange for a higher position. He was aiming to become Secretary of War. When William Eustis received that posting, Hull agreed to become brigadier general of the Army of the Northwest as long as he could maintain his position as governor. He gathered militia from Ohio and Kentucky, and along with hundreds of regulars, started the long march to Detroit.

The weakness of Hull’s command began to reveal itself after his invasion of Canada. His strongly-worded proclamation was not followed by forceful action. As his officers grumbled about his reluctance to attack the British at Amherstburg, Hull claimed to be waiting for perfect conditions to strike. But as he stalled, the British secured reinforcements and Hull lost a real opportunity for success.