October 17, 1997


Isaac Hull, captain of the USS Constituion, is a celebrated hero of the War of 1812. The story of his Uncle William is less well known.

U. S. Army Captain William Hull tried in vain to convince his fellow Yale graduate Nathan Hale that going behind enemy lines in disguise was too risky, possibly leading to execution. Hull proved right in his friend's case. He had no way of knowing that he himself would one day face a similar fate. But not as a spy. As a traitor. Hale was caught and died on the gallows. The American Revolution ran it's course and peace with England came. It would last less than thirty years.

William Hull returned to the law after the Revolution, dabbled in politics, helped suppress Shay's Rebellion. In 1805 President Jefferson appointed him governor of the new Michigan Territory. Seven years later, war broke out again and Hull found himself, at the age of fifty-nine, a Brigadier-General. He bravely set out from Dayton, Ohio, with a party of nearly 2,000 men, and began cutting a 200-mile road through the forest. It was during this trek that he received notice that war had officially begun. The British were now forewarned and expecting an invasion. Hull reached Detroit, then crossed the river into Canada and prepared, with absolutely no military intelligence available, to attack Fort Maiden. Suddenly, feeling Detroit was in jeopardy, he crossed back into the U. S., entrenched his forces there, and awaited a British attack. General Sir Isaac Brock, acting lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, was soon at the gates, demanding unconditional surrender. With a diminished effective fighting force of a thousand men, a fort full of women, children and old men to defend, and an unknown number of Indians and British troops massed outside the walls, Hull surrendered.

After the War, Hull was court martialled. Justice Henry Dearborn, himself partially responsible for the strategic bungling on the Great Lakes, was in charge of the trial. Hull was sentenced to death. President Madison, considering his prior military service and the fact that William's nephew Isaac Hull had found glory at the helm of the USS Constitution, pardoned him. Saved, inadvertently, by the ship!

Which brings me, and hopefully you, to the Fairport Historical Society, where you can view a handcrafted ship model of Old Ironsides. It was created by local physician George A. Dean, while recuperating from wounds during World War II, as a gift to his wife Louise Griswold Dean, a descendant of both Isaac and William Hull. So you may want to weigh anchor, set your mainsail, and scoot over for a look-see. The museum is open Tuesdays and Sundays from 2 to 4 PM, and on Thursdays from 7 to 9 PM. Call 716 377-8208 if you require navigating directions.

For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor

© 1997 David Minor / Eagles Byte