From William Hull
Albany Feby 1st 1814.
I regret the necessity of making a direct application to you for a document, which is or ought to be, in the office of either the secretary of the department of war or navy. It is, Sir, a memoir which I delivered to the Secretary of war, pointing out the necessity of a navy on Lake Erie in the event of War with Great Britain. Two other memoirs had been presented, previously, one in the year 1809, and one other the 6th of march 1812—on the subject of the northern and western Frontier, in both of which the expediency of a naval force was urged.1 This, Sir, was delivered to the secretary of the department of war after I was appointed a Brig: Genl: in the army of the united states and before I left washington in april 1812. I have the testimony of Mr Eustis then secretary of war under oath of the fact, and I have made repeated applications to the Judge Advocate, to the Adjt. Genl: and to the secretary of war, for the original paper or a certified copy: the only copy I had was lost in the vessel, which was taken on Lake Erie the 2d July 1812.2
I well know, Sir, you ought not to be troubled with this application; but the document is of so much importance to me in my trial, which is now progressing that I believe I need make no further apology.3
After I presented the memoir to the secretary of war, he sent for the Secretary of the navy, when I was present, and refered the subject to him—whether the memoir was lodged in the office of the secretary of the department of war or navy, I know not.4 I am most respectfully your most obet: servt:
RC (DNA: RG 107, LRUS, H-1814); FC (MH-H). RC in a clerk’s hand, signed by Hull. Docketed by Daniel Parker.
1. On 3 Apr. 1809 Hull wrote secretary of war William Eustis recommending that the United States build “armed vessels” on Lake Erie (Forbes, Report of the Trial of Brig. General William Hull [Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 32628], 14, appendix 1:28–29). For Hull to Eustis, 6 Mar. 1812 (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, H-168:6), see PJM-PS, description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (7 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984–). description ends 4:301 n. 3.
2. Hull referred to the capture of the schooner Cayauga, loaded with baggage, including his military papers, as it passed the British fort at Amherstburg on its way to Detroit. He had sent the vessel ahead of his army before receiving word of the declaration of war against Great Britain (Gilpin, War of 1812 in the Old Northwest, 52–54).
3. Hull’s court-martial on charges of treason, cowardice, neglect of duty, and conduct unbecoming an officer began on 3 Jan. 1814 at Albany and concluded on 28 Mar. Acceding to Hull’s closing argument that the court-martial did not have jurisdiction to try him for treason, its members declined to rule formally on that charge but stated their belief based on the evidence presented that Hull had not committed that crime. He was nevertheless found guilty of the remaining charges and sentenced to be shot to death. However, in light of Hull’s age and his service in the Revolutionary War, the court recommended that he receive mercy, and on 25 Apr. 1814 JM wrote on the proceedings: “The sentence of the court is approved, and the execution of it remitted” (Forbes, Report of the Trial of Brig. General William Hull [Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 32628], 3, appendix 1:1–18, 118–19).
4. Daniel Parker wrote to Hull on 12 Feb. 1814, stating that Hull’s request had been referred to him, that all of Hull’s correspondence with the War Department since his appointment as a brigadier general had been sent to the judge advocate at Hull’s court-martial, that Parker had “never seen or heard of” a letter like the one Hull described, and that the rest of the War Department staff knew nothing about it. Parker’s letter was accompanied by “a certificate from the chief clerk in the navy department,” presumably to the same effect (ibid., appendix 1:34).