William Hull.

Defence of Brigadier General W. Hull : delivered before the general court martial, of which Major General Dearborn was president, at Albany, March 1814 : with an address to the citizens of the United States online

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Online LibraryWilliam HullDefence of Brigadier General W. Hull : delivered before the general court martial, of which Major General Dearborn was president, at Albany, March 1814 : with an address to the citizens of the United States → online text (page 1 of 17)
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Delivered before the General Cotut Mailial, of which Major General \
Dearboiu v.a. i-^-ia<.«*, ^t Aihanv, Mai'ch, 1814. 1



Copied from the original Manuscript, and published by his authorif;

To which are prefixed.








Disti-ict Clerks Office,
BE it i-ememberetl, that on the ninth day of June, anno domini eiglteen htm*,
tilled and foUKeen, and in the thirtj-eighth year of the independence of the Uni*
ted States of America, William WeUs and Robert Lilly "*" *^- c„;4T>ism«'t,
feavs <3opo«t«i ill inis orace the title of a hook, the right whereof theF claim as
Proprietors, in the words following, to wit :

Defence of Brigadier General WillLom Hull. Delivered before tie general
Court-Martial, of which Maj. Gen. Deaiboni was President, at Albany, March,
one thousand eight hundretl and fourteen. With an Addiess to the Citi2pns of the
United States. Written by himself. Copied from the original manuscript, and
published by his auUiority. To which ai-e prefixed, the Charges agaiist Gene
ral Hull, as specified by the Govermnent.

' In confonnity to the Act of the Congress of the United States, intitled " An Act
for the Encouragement of Learning, by secm-ing the copies of Maps, Charts and
Books, to the Authors and Propi-ietors of such Copies, during the times therein
XQcntioned ;" and also to an ^nt intitled, " An Act supplementary to an Act,
intitled, an Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by securing the Copies of
:Maps, Chaits and Books, to the Authors and Proprietors of such Copies dm-ing
the times therein mentioned ; and extending the Benefits thereof to the Aits of
Sesisning, Engi-avingand Etching Historical, and other Prints."

WILLI A JI S. SHAW, Xof MmscKMeett;:.




Fellow-Citizens, ^

In submitting my defence to your consideration, i
and in making my appeal to your judgment, I
have only to ask you to examine with candourj
and decide with impartiality. I am sensible the]
fate of one man is of little consequence, compared!
to the fate of a nation.

If the sacrifice of me, however innocent, could \
make atonement for the sins of others, redeem;;
our misfortunes, and restore the national charac-j
ter, it might be justified by precedents in otherl
countries;, and perhaps, as a patriot, I ought to he\
satisfied. It is unfortunate for the administration, j
and for the other generals who have conducted!
our armies, that it cannot have the effect. In coun-
tries, where the people are hardly permitted to ■


think, and their only prerogative is obedience, in-
nocence is no shield ; and because there can be no
inquiry, the most elevated merit is often brought
to the scaffold for the most meritorious conduct.
But in a country where justice is the basis of its
government, where the people are enlightened by
science, and understand both their rights and du-
ties, such outrages on justice cannot with impu-
nity be committed.

Under a government thus constituted, when
public misfortunes occur, those to whom the ad-
ministration is intrusted are in the first instance
responsible. They well know the pubhc ven-
geance will fall on them, unless they avert it, and
too often have no other means of justification, but
in the condemnation of others. The power they
possess, and the patronage they can give, afford
great facilities in effecting the object. It is how-
ever our happy lot, that, when this power and pa-
tronage are unjustly exercised, a remedy ei^ists ;
and that remedy is an appeal to your justiceL ;To
that justice I now appeal, in the confident efspec-
tation, that you will be satisfied of the purity and
rectitude of my conduct, that you will r -verse
the unjust sentence which has been pronounced
against me, and restore me to that honourable
standing in society, which had been acquired by
the services of nearly half a century.


1 regret that it is not in my power, in this
communication, to present to jou all the testimo-
ny and documents, on which my defence is
grounded, and which had any relation to the trial.
The proceedings of the Court Martial are depo-
sited in the office of the Secretary of the De-
partment of War, and by law I am entitled to a
copy of them. As soon as they are obtained,
they will be published in a separate number.

I believe we are all conscious of the crimes of
which we are guilty. When I might have shel-
tered myself in the enemy's territory, as a priso-
ner of war, I ask you to account for my return
to my own country on any other principle, than
a consciousness of my innocence, and that I had
faithfully done my duty? What other principle
could have induced me to have requested an in-
vestigation of my conduct? When a Court Mar-
tial was ordered to assemble at Philadelphia for
my trial, why did I promptly repair there, with-
out any restraint, and without even having been
divested of my sword ? After the trial was post-
poned by the government, without any request on
my part ; and having before that time received
notice of my exchange from the government, why
did I remain more than a year in the country,
without any restraint or confinement ?


When the new court was ordered for my trial
at Albany, and I was furnished with the volume
of capital charges, exhibited against me by the
government, why did I voluntarily appear before
the Court, and submit to my trial, when it was in
my power so easily to have avoided it ? Why,
after the trial, did I return alone and unattended
to my residence in Massachusetts, and there wait
the sentence of the Court Martial ? — I do presume
your answer must be, that this conduct only could
have resulted from a consciousness of innocenc e,
and a full conviction that I had done my duty^

I now ask you to consider the conduct of the go-
vernment, in relation to me. Did they believe the
black catalogue of charges they exhibited against
me was true ? If they did, could the administration
have been justified in leaving me at perfect liber-
ty, for more than a year after I had been furnish-
ed with a copy of these charges ? Did the mem-
bers of the Court Martial, who pronounced the-
sentence, in their consciences believe I was
guilty, and deserved punishment? If they did,
how can their conduct in directing me, the day
after the sentence was concluded, to return to
my home in Massachusetts, without any kind of
restraint, and without requiring any kind of secu«
rity for my appearance to receive the execution
of the sentence? This direction was given the


day after the sentence was passed. Can it be <
presumed there was a concert between the Presi- '
dent and the Court, and he had directed the Court \
to adopt this measure previous to the sentence ? ]
Is it possible it was understood between the Pre- i
sident and the Court, previous to the conclusion ■]
of the trial, what the sentence should be, and that j
it should be remitted by him ? And if both the ']
President and the Court had believed in their ]
consciences, I had been guilty of the crimes with i
which I was charged, could it be reconciled to ]
their duty to leave me in a situation, where I could ;
so easily avoid the punishment which was to have \
been inflicted ? \


I have stated these facts, and made these ob- ^
servations, to convince you, that my whole con- 1
duct has manifested, I myself was conscious |
of no crime, and it was not the intention either j
of the President, or the Court Martial, that I ]
should receive the punishment which had been/ \
ordered. j

I now ask you, my fellow-citizens, to decide \

for yourselves what have been the motives of the \

administration in this business ? With respect to j

two thirds of the members of the Court Martial, i

they have ordered a sentence, which in their con- j

sciences they believed ought not to be executed, j


The Court Martial, in justification of their con-
duct, in recommending me to the mercy of the
President, can appeal to no precedent, not even
the proceedings in the trial of admiral Byng. Af-
ter the Court had found him guilty of a particular
charge, there was nothing left to their discretion.
The articles of war provided, that the punishment
should be death. In my case the articles of war
provided death, or such other punishment as the
Court Martial should think proper to order. Why
then did not the Court order such a punishment
as they believed ought to have been inflicted ?

From these facts and observations, I do think
the motives of the administration must be appa-
rent. And indeed, I presume it will not be
in your power to reconcile the conduct of the
President of the United Statce, and the conduct
of the Court Martial, without believing there was
a concert and understanding how this business
was to be conducted.

With respect to the lenity of the Court, I in-
formed them I did not ask it ; and I requested
no other mercy from them, than the mercy of a
decision ; that they would decide on my case, and
keep me no longer in suspense.

In regard to the pardon of the President, I had
no opportunity of requesting it, because it was


granted, before I had any knawledge of the sen-
tence. Ingratitude, I hope, is no part of my cha=
racter. But I do submit to your consideration,
whether I ought to feel grateful to him, when the
National Intelligencer, a paper published at his
door, and under his auspices, in giving an account
of the trial and announcing the sentence, states,
that' the punishment is more protracted and terri-
ble, in consequence of a remission of the sentence.
If his object was to aggravate and increase the
punishment, it cannot be called an act of mercy,

Tlier^^ are two very important facts, relating
to my sit'iation, as commander of the north-west-
ern army, not noticed m my defence. One, the
armistice agreed to by general Dearborn, from
which my army was expressly excluded. The
other, the President's message to Congress, the
first session after the capitulation. With regard
to the first, the following are the facts. This was
an arrangement of Sir George Prevost, for the sole
purpose of employing all \M forces against the
army I commanded. Havin^fcceived information
that the orders in council had been repealed, on
the second day of August, eighteen hundred and
twelve, he despatched colonel Baynes, his adju-
tant general, to the head-quarters of general Dear-
born, at Greenbush, near Albany, with an autho-
ritv to conclude an armistice — on the uinth of


August it was concluded between him and general
Dearborn, and my army was excluded.

Immediately after the departure of colonel
Baynes on his mission, major general Sheafe of
the British army was ordered to lake Erie, witR a
large part of the British force from Montreal, to
be placed under the command of general Brock.
From the nature of the transaction, it is certain,
that general Brock was made acquainted with
these circumstances, and informed that he might,
with the most perfect safety to his posts at
Kingston, York, forts George and Erie, march
his whole force against my army, which had in-
vaded the province of which he was governour
and commander in chief. Calculating the dis-
tances, and the celerity with which the British
commanders convey important information, there
was full time for the purpose. Of this important
arrangement, in which the army I commanded had
so much interest, I Jiever received any informa-
tion from general D^rborn. That general Brock
took his whole forcPto Maiden, from fort George
and its vicinity, excepting a few men to take care
of the cannon and stores, is certain ; and that ge-
neral Sheafe arrived from Montreal with the rein-
forcements, immediately after general Brock's
departure from Fort George, is likewise a fact
well inown. That at this time, on the ninth of


August, a cessation of hostilities had been cor.- i
rJiided. which extended from fort Erie, on the j
^ast part of lake Erie, to Quebec. In my next i
number, I shall produce documents to prove the \
facts I have here stated. They are, however, \
all so public, and so well known, that I am fully j
authorized in stating them without the documents, j
That on the day ^f the capitulation, the sixteenth \
of August, general Brock well knew that a cessa- i
lion of hostilities below had taken place, is certain,
because on that day he gave me information of it, j
and that the orders in council had been repealed, \
and observed, he hoped it would be the founda- \
(ion of a peace. It is likewise well known, this ^
measure was disapproved by the President, and ;
principally on account of the effect it would have ]
on my army. When general Dearborn v* as or- ;
<Jered by the President to make diversions on ]
the enemy's posts below me, and ought to have \
been co-operating with me with all his forces, he i
was sitting at his ease at Greenbush, and making !
arrangements, which were one great cause of the I
destruction of my army. And yet this samej
general Dearborn was appointed the president of!
the Court Martial which has condemned me for the i
misfortune, which his own misconduct had been!
a great cause in producing. In sacrificing me,^
he has undoubtedly made some atonement for his!
own faults, in the opinion of the administration,!



and may be permitted to remain in the possessios
of his nomiiial rank, and in the enjoyment of his
emoluments, in the degraded and disgraceful situ-
ation, to which he has submitted for more than a
year. Thus has general Dearborn, by adopting
a measure, which brought the principal part of
the enemy's force against my army, exhibited his
profound skill in military operations, and his
talents and qualifications as commander in chief
of the American army,

I shall now proceed to consider that part of ihe
President's message, of the fourth of November,
eighteen hundred and twelve, which developed
Ihe objects of my unfortunate campaign. It is in
the following words.

"Previous to its declaration, [the declaration
" of war] it was deemed proper, as a measure of
^'precaution and forecast, that a considerable
''force should be placed in the Michigan terri-
*' iory, with a general view to its security, and in
'' the event of war, to such operations in the up-
" permost Canada, as would intercept the hostile
'^influence of Great Britain over the savages,
^'■obtain the command of the lake on which that
^^ part of Canada borders, and maintain co-ope-
" rating relations Avith such forces as might be
" most conveuiently employed against other parts.


*' Our expectation of gaining the command of I
^Uhe lakes, by the invasion of Canada from De- I
" troit, having been disappointed, measures were ■
*' instantly taken to provide on them a naval <
''force snperiour to that of the enemj." ]

The objects of the force intrusted to my com- I
mand, are here particularly stated. They are \
stated by the first magistrate to the legislature -
of the nation. This is a document of the hidiest \
authority, and must be considered as conclusive I
evidence, that these were the objects, for which J
the expedition was ordered, and which the Pre- !
sident expected would have been accomplished. |
If it was the expectation of the President, that !
with the few militia under my command, I should ;
have obtained possession of the lake, it is unac- I
countable, that it never was communicated to me. \
All my instructions from the Department of War ;
were laid before the Court Martial^ and there Vv as i
not the least intimation of the kind. Indeed i :
never had the most distant idea, that this expcc- j
tation was entertained, until it was disclosed I
in this message. Both in my repeated written I
communications, and in frequent conversations j
with the President and Secretary of the Depart- i
ment of War, I had urged the necessity of a navy <
on lake Erie, superiour to the British, in the event: :
<>f war with Grea^ Britain. I well knew at thai )


tirae, ihey had a strong naval force on the lake,
perfectly manned and prepared in everj respect
for ofFensive or defensive war. The United
States had not a single vessel or gun boat on those
waters. All they had was an old unarmed trans-
port vessel, repairing on the stocks, and which was
Kot launched until near a month after the decora-
tion of v.'ar.

There were but two modes of taking possession
of the lake ; one, by taking or destroying the en-
emy's naval force ; the other,"by taking posses-
sion of all their posts and harbours, both on the
main land and islands, an extent of coast more
ihrni three hundred miles. I am confident no one
will believe it was possible for me, either to have
^aken or destroyed the British fieel then on the
lake, w'lih the' means I possessed. The force^
under my commaiad,. was totally inadequate to
have effected it in the other way, especially after
(he full of Michilimackinac, and all the northern
nations of savages were in hostility against me.
Although I still entertain the same opinion I gave
to the government, before the declaration of war,
that a navy on lake Erie was essentially necessary ;
yet) I now believe, had an adequate force been
sent to the Michigan territory, and sufficient
forces had been ordered to have taken possession
of forts George and Erie at the same time^ a5<|



these armies had co-operated, th« whole of that 1
part of the province of Upper Canada, which I
borders on lake Erie, might have been in our pos- 1
session 'in the campaign of eighteen hmidred and ^
twelve, with all the enemy's harbours on the bor- j
ders of the lake, by which means the #aval force j
would have been destroyed, or must have sur^ I
rendered at the approach of winter. I

This idea I suggested to the Secretary of War, |
in my memoir of the sixth of March, eighteen ]
hundred and twelve, provided the object w^as the
reduction of the Canadas, and it was the intention i
of the government, contrary to every opinion I ^
had given, not to build a navy on lake Erie. I :|
suggested it as the only possible mode, and at the ]
same time pointed out all the difficulties which I
would attend it. On the sixth of March, at the l
time when this memoir was presented, I had no j
command in the army, and had uniformly declin- \
ed to accept a military appointment, although I I
had been strongly solicited. Being then the gc" \
vernour of the Michigan territory, it was my duty 1
to induce the government to provide means for \
its safety. j


About the eleventh of April, after I had been ;
appointed to the command of the north-western j
army, unsolicited, and even undesired on my i



part ; I (hen presented to the President, througli
ihe medium of the Department of War, another
commiinicalion, in which I represented in the
sjirongest and most explicit terms, the necessitj
of our having a naval force superiour to the ene-
my on th^lakes ; and that without it, and unless
the army I was to command was strengthened
by additions to its numbers, and unless it were
followed by detachments to keep open the com-
munication, and insure its supplies from Ohio;
and unless it was supported by co-operations on
other quarters,^ my army could not be able to
maintain itself at Detroit, much less carry on ofFen^
sive operations in the enemy's country.

After these communications, and under the cir-
cumstances in which I v/as placed, I ask you, my
fellow-citizens, whether I had any reason to be-
lieve it to be the expectation of the government^
that I should ha-ve obtained the command of the
lakes? But in this I was mistaken. It really ap-
pears, that it w^as, because the President says, in
the Message I have quoted, " Our expectation of
" gaining the command of the lakes by the inva-
*' sion of Canada from Detroit having been disap-
*' pointed, measures were instantly taken to pro-
" vide on them a naval force, superiour to that of
*' the enemy." "J


The other object was, " to maintain co-operat-
" ing relations with such forces, as might be most
"conveniently employed against other parts.'*

I opened a road of two hundred miles through
a savage wilderness, invaded the enemy's coun-
try, remained a month in the possession of it,
waiting for co-operating relations, until I was in-
formed I should receive none ; and uiilil general
I Dearborn, instead of co-operations, agreed to a
cessation of hostilities, which afforded the enemy
an opportunity of concentrating his whole force
against my little army.

By the documents of the government, it thus
appears, that these were the objects of my expedi-
tion ; and because I disappointed the expectations
of the administration in not obtaining the com-
mand of the lakes, with the few Ohio militia I com-
manded, and did not maintain co-operating rela-
tions Vv^ith other forces, when there were none to
co-operate with me, I have been condemned.

I do expect, my fellow-citizens, when you be^
Gome acquainted with the true history of my case,
you will reverse the unjust sentence which has
been pronounced against me. I am now perfect-
ly supported by a consciousness of having done
my duty in the most faithful manner, and my only


desire is, to convince you and posterity of the
purity of my motives, and the correctness of my
conduct. Under this support I am tranquil and
happy. Had I pursued any other course, I should
want the consciousness which I now feel, and in
sincerity I can adopt the language of Pope,

" One stlf approring hour whole years outweighs
- *' Of stupid starers and of loud huzzas ;
"" And more true joy Mai-cellus exiled feels,
" Than Caesar with 3 senate at his heels."

William Hull.

Newton, (Mass.) June 1st. 1S14.


At a general Court Maitial (ordered by the President of the United States) tea-
Tened at Albany, in the State of New- York, on the third day of January one
thousand eight hundred and fourteen, and continued by adjoui-nments to the
twenty-fiftli day of l^Iarch following, brigadier gcnerrd William Hull, of the
army of the United States, -was tried on the following charges and speeifica-
t'lons, viz :


Treason against the United States, between the
ninth of A\n'i\ and the seventeenth of August, eight-
een hundred and twelve.

First specification. In this : That on the first
day of July, in the year eighteen hundred and twelve,
before that time and ever since, an open and public
war was, and is yet carried on and prosecuted by and
between the United States of America and their ter-
ritories, and the united kingdom of Great-Britain and
Ireland, and the dependencies thereof: and that Wil-
liam Hull, a brigadier general in the army of the said
United States, a citizen of the said United States,
owing allegiance to the said United States, and late
commander of the north-western army of the said
United States, well knowing the premises, and trai-
torously and unlawfully designing and contriving to
send and convey intelligence to the said enemies of
the said United States, touching a declaration of war
by the said United States, against the said uaited
kingdom of Great-Britain and Ireland, and the de-
pendencies thereof; and, also, touching the expedition
on which the said nortji-western army under hi« com-


mand as aforesaid was employed ; and, also, touching
the numbers, state and condition of the said north-west-
ern army; in prosecution of the said traitorous and un-
lawful design, on the said first day of July, in the year
aforesaid, at the rapids of the river Miami of the lake,
in the territory of Michigan, the said William KuU
(then and there being a brigadier general in the army
of the United States, and being then and there com-
mander of the said north-western army as aforesaid,)
did traitorously hire or cause to be hired an unarmed
vessel, with the pretended purpose of transporting
therein certain sick soldiers, and the principal part of
the hospital stores belonging to the said north-western

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Online LibraryWilliam HullDefence of Brigadier General W. Hull : delivered before the general court martial, of which Major General Dearborn was president, at Albany, March 1814 : with an address to the citizens of the United States → online text (page 1 of 17)