William Hull was a military and political leader in the Midwest in the years after the American Revolution. He was born in 1753 in Massachusetts. Hull graduated from Yale College in 1772. He studied religion but chose a career in law instead. He served in the American Revolution, attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Continental Army. In 1805, President Thomas Jefferson selected Hull as the governor of the Michigan Territory. President Jefferson directed him to secure lands from American Indian nations residing in the American Northwest. Hull was relatively successful in getting this land for the U.S. government; but his actions alienated and severed ties with American Indians in the region, pushing them to unite more closely with the British in Canada.
As the War of 1812 approached, Hull continued to serve as governor of the Michigan Territory. Secretary of War William Eustis also selected Hull to command the Army of the Northwest. To defend the Michigan Territory, Hull recruited militiamen from Ohio and Kentucky. His primary goal was to defend Detroit, but he also launched a half-hearted invasion of Canada in 1812. Hull's army moved very slowly and lost any advantages it had in surprise and superior numbers of men. As a result, Hull retreated to Detroit. Hull's performance convinced some of Hull's junior officers to call for his removal.
Hull remained in command at Detroit. In early August, 1812, a force of British soldiers and American Indians led by Isaac Brock moved against Detroit. Although Hull's army outnumbered Brock's men, Hull surrendered approximately two thousand soldiers and thirty cannons on August 16, 1812, rather than going into battle.
As a result of his actions, Hull faced a court martial board during the winter of 1814-1815. Charged with cowardice, neglect of duty, and treason, the board convicted him of the first two charges but exonerated him on the charge of treason. The board sentenced Hull to death but recommended that President James Madison grant clemency due to Hull's performance during the American Revolution and because of his age. President Madison followed the board's recommendation. Hull was drummed out of the army and retired to Massachusetts. He died in November 1825.
- Campbell, Maria. Revolutionary Services and Civil Life of General William Hull. New York, NY: D. Appleton, 1848.
- Foster, James. The Capitulation, or, A History of the Expedition Conducted by William Hull, Brigadier-General of the Northwestern Army by an Ohio Volunteer. Chillicothe, OH: James Barnes, 1812.
- Hurt, R. Douglas. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.