Commodore Isaac Hull

COMMODORE ISAAC HULL, was born in Connecticut, March 9th 1775. His father was an officer in the American army during the whole of the revolutionary war, and was detained for a long time a prisoner in the Jersey prison-ship. Commodore Hull's passion for the sea was very early displayed, and became stronger as he grew up. With the hope of diverting his attention to other pursuits, he was sent by his friends to his uncle, General William Hull, at Boston, where he went to school. The object desired, however, not having been accomplished, they consented to his making a voyage. This proved a disastrous one the vessel in which he sailed being wrecked on the coast of Ireland. He nevertheless returned home fortified in his resolution of leading the life of a seaman, which his family no longer opposed. At the age 119, he already commanded a ship to London. On the passage of a bill by Congress for the increase of the navy, he made application for a lieutenantcy in the U. S. service, and devoted him self assiduously, while awaiting the decision of the government in his case, to the studies necessary for the naval profession. He was commissioned as a lieutenant on the 9th of March 1798, the day on which he completed his 23d year. He was ordered to the frigate Constitution, then preparing for sea at Boston. For a period of about four years, he was occupied in cruising on the West India station, for the protection of American merchantmen going to or returning from the Windward Islands. In 1808, he distinguished himself by cutting out of the harbor of Port Platte, in the island of Hayti, the French letter of marque, the Sandwich; an enterprise executed with great gallantry and spirit, and without any loss to the assailants. On the return of the Constitution to Boston, Lieutenant Hull was directed to superintend the repairs of the ship; but before this service was completed, he was ordered to proceed as first lieutenant of the frigate Adams to the Mediterranean. He subsequently commanded the schooner Enterprise of 12 guns, and rendered in her effectual aid to Captain Rodgers in the John Adams, in capturing a large corsair before the harbor of Tripoli. The next vessel that he was appointed to command was the Argus of 16 guns, which was in 1804; in which year, also, he was promoted to the rank of a master-commandant. He was made a captain in 1806. In the Argus, he cruised for some time off the coast of Morocco to watch the movements of corsairs in the ports of that state; and after rejoining Commodore Preble's squadron off Tripoli, he was ordered to the Bay of Naples, and charged with the protection of American property in the event of the French gaining possession of that city. The next office intrusted to him was the conveying, on board of his vessel, of General Eaton and his officers to Alexandria, in Egypt. He at length returned to the United States, after an absence of four years and three months, and was immediately ordered to superintend the construction of gun-boats, in pursuance of the system adopted during the administration of President Jefferson. He was successively appointed to the command of the Norfolk Navy-Yard, and gun-boats on that station; to the command of the frigate Chesapeake; to that of the Constitution, in which vessel he conveyed to France, Mr. Barlow, the American minister to Napoleon; and to that of the navy-yard and gun-boats in the harbor of New York. At the commencement of the war of 1812, Captain Hull was appointed once more to command the Constitution frigate. He sailed in her from Annapolis on the 12th of July; and in the course of a few days an opportunity was afforded him of exhibiting a specimen of skillful seamanship and naval manoeuvring, of so extraordinary a nature as to excite the admiration even of the enemy. After a chase of nearly three days, and as many nights, he succeeded in effecting his escape from a British squadron consisting of the Africa 64 gun-ship, 4 frigates and a brig. On the 19th of the following month, he had the good fortune to encounter the Guerriere, one of the frigates of this squadron, single-handed. There is, perhaps, no instance on record of a greater execution having been performed by an equal force, and in an equal time, in naval warfare, than was done by the Constitution on the present occasion. Although there was an interval of about two hours between the firing of the first and the last shot, the battle was really won in a fourth part of that time. Of the Americans 14 only, of the British 79, were killed or wounded; and while the Constitution was so little injured as to be ready to engage another frigate immediately afterwards, had she been called upon to do so, the Guerriere was completely dismasted, and reduced to a mere wreck. On his return into port, Captain Hull gave up the command of the Constitution, 'with a feeling,' to use the words of Mr. Cooper, that was highly creditable to him, in order to allow others an equal chance to distinguish themselves; there being unfortunately many more captains than vessels in the navy at that trying moment.' He was then appointed to the command of the navy-yard at Boston, and about a year afterwards was transferred to that at Portsmouth, in New Hampshire, where he remained until he was selected to be one of the first Navy Commissioners. After holding this office for a few months only, he accepted once more the command of the Boston station, and remained there eight years. At the expiration of this time, he was sent, in the frigate United States, to command the American squadron in the Pacific Ocean. Returning home in three or four years, he was ordered to the command of the Washington Navy-Yard. There he spent seven years, and, having obtained leave of absence, went to Europe with his family, and continued abroad two years. Upon his return, he was employed on various courts-martial, and other duties, for about 12 months. He was then appointed to the command of the line-of-battle-ship Ohio, and of the Mediterranean squadron; which cruise lasted nearly three years. Commodore Hull, finding his health to have become seriously impaired by the unremitted and arduous duties which he had been called upon to perform, asked for, and had granted to him, an unconditional leave of absence from the naval service. He established himself in the city of Philadelphia in the month of October 1842. And he died here on the 13th of February 1843. He was ever exemplary in the performance of his private, as of his public duties; and the modesty, amiability, and courtesy, of his intercourse with others, as strikingly characterized him as did his self-possession and intrepidity in danger.