J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, April 27, 2019

The First Captured British Officer to Die in the Revolutionary War

When provincial militia companies fired at the British soldiers holding the North Bridge in Concord, they wounded four army officers:
Unable to march back to Boston, Gould commandeered a chaise in Concord and set out with Hull, who seems to have been more badly hurt. They raced back to safe ground through the hostile countryside.

Somewhere east of Lexington, the lieutenants met up with Col. Percy and the British relief column. Gould briefed the colonel about what had happened in Concord and drove on. But by the time the chaise reached Meontomy, the provincial militia was out in force.

Someone fired at the vehicle, wounding Hull again. Gould surrendered and was taken to Medford. Hull was carried into a deserted house beside the road. When the homeowners, Samuel and Elizabeth Butterfield, returned at the end of the day, they found a provincial man, Daniel Hemenway, shot in the chest but relatively healthy, and Lt. Hull, grievously wounded.

The next day, the Rev. David McClure had been in the Butterfields’ house. He wrote:
I went into a house in Menotomy, where was a stout farmer, walking the room, from whose side a surgeon had just cut out a musket ball . . .

In the same room, lay mortally wounded, a british Officer, Lieut. Hull, a youthful, fair & delicate countinance. He was of a respectable family of fortune, in Scotland. Sitting on one feather bed, he leaned on another, & was attempting to suck the juice of an Orange, which some neighbour had brought. The physician of the place had been to dress his wounds, & a woman was appointed to attend him. His breaches were bloody, lying on the bed. . . .

I asked him, if he was dangerously wounded? he replied, “yes, mortally.” That he had received three balls in his body. His countenance expressed great bodily anguish. I conversed with him a short time, on the prospect of death & a preperation for that solemn scene, to which he appeared to pay serious attention.
A rumor about Hull’s captivity circulated among his fellow officers in Boston, as recorded by Lt. Frederick Mackenzie on 30 April:
Lt. Hull of the 43rd Regiment who was dangerously wounded on the 19th Instant, was left in a house in the Village of Menotomy. ’Tis said the Rebels placed three deserters from the 43rd Regt over him while he lay on a bed unable to move, and that one of those Villains threatened to shoot him for having formerly brought him to a Court Martial.
There’s no hint of such treatment in provincial sources. The head of the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, Dr. Joseph Warren, had written to Gen. Thomas Gage assuring him that Hull and Gould were getting medical care. He invited the general to send out any British army surgeon he chose.

In Igniting the American Revolution, Derek W. Beck writes that toward the end of the month, as Hull weakened, Warren sent Gage another note saying that the lieutenant hoped to see his regimental adjutant. That was Lt. William Miller; he was promoted to captain at the end of the year and was still at that rank when he died in 1789.

Hull died on 2 May. The next day, Gen. Artemas Ward ordered three lieutenants and three adjutants to escort the lieutenant’s coffin to Charlestown and turn it over to the British military. A barge from H.M.S. Somerset carried it across the Charles River to Boston.

On 4 May Lt. John Barker of the 4th Regiment wrote in his diary:
The late Lt. Hull of the 43d was buried today: he was wounded and taken Prisoner on the 19th and the day before yesterday died of his wounds; they yesterday brought him to town as he had requested it.

They won’t give up any of their Prisoners, but I hear they treat ’em pretty well.
(The photo above shows the monument to two British privates killed and buried near the North Bridge in Concord. We don’t know where Lt. Hull’s body was interred.)

3 comments:

Charles Bahne said...

John, I question whether Lt. Gould and Lt. Hull were traveling back to Boston together. The sources I've seen indicate that they were traveling separately, some miles apart.

We know that Lt. Gould was sent back to Boston ahead of the main body of Col. Smith's troops. In a draft of his report to Gen. Gage, Lord Percy mentions encountering Gould in his chaise, probably somewhere in the vicinity of modern-day Arlington Heights. There is no mention of Hull being with Gould.

In his "Address" on West Cambridge in 1775, Samuel Abbot Smith says that Gould was captured by the old men who had previously taken Percy's supply wagons. Smith places Gould's capture at Mill Street, which is just west of Arlington Center. Again, there's no mention of Hull being with Gould, and no mention of any shots being fired at this occasion, which was well before the main body of troops arrived in Menotomy.

Smith later describes the capture of Lt. "Hall" [sic], noting that Hall/Hull "was brought down in a chaise in the centre of the troops. The horse was not so swift as the men, and falling a little to the rear he was wounded again, in the shoulder, this time mortally...." The placement in Smith's chronology implies that Hull's capture implies that this happened somewhere in modern East Arlington, after the main body of troops had passed through on their way to Cambridge and Boston.

The fact that Hull was traveling with, or after, the main body of soldiers also explains why there was shooting when Hull was captured, whereas the unaccompanied (and unarmed?) Lt. Gould gave himself up peacefully.

J. L. Bell said...

I knew Smith's account of the capture of Hall/Hull, but I wasn't convinced it was accurate. (Right after that story comes the legend of Wyman on his white horse.) Nor am I convinced Smith was inaccurate, but this posting was based on assuming that some earlier sources were more reliable.

As you know, there are multiple claims to have captured the supply wagons in Menotomy. The attack on the wagons is well documented from 1775, but exactly who did the shooting or the capturing is not entirely clear. I put David Lamson and the Arlington men top on the list for that feat but think other towns’ militia companies were involved. Smith gives his town’s old men all the credit and also says some of them then stopped Gould, not in a chaise but “on horseback.” So how solid is that tradition?

Likewise, there are multiple claims about the chaises carrying officers. From Concord there’s Joseph Hayward’s August 1775 advertisement stating he’d stopped a chaise at Menotomy, the Concord Monitor statement from 1824 saying both chaises were found blood-stained in Lexington, and Lemuel Shattuck’s 1835 account crediting Hayward with capturing two chaises. However, I know from another controversy that Hayward was accused of taking property that other men had won. (I’ll get to that story eventually.) So again, the situation is far from entirely clear.

Another detail I pondered was the point of taking the chaises. Gould was clearly traveling ahead of the column, trying to make speed. According to Percy, Gould was more than fifteen minutes ahead of Lt. Col. Smith’s column. So why would the other chaise be in the middle of the column and, according to Smith, eventually behind it? Well, maybe the poor quality of the horse that Hayward advertised explains that. Was there only one lieutenant in each chaise (for speed)? If the second chaise was in the middle of the column and going no faster than the men on foot, was it also being loaded with wounded soldiers?

Ellen Chase, who was usually reliable in her reconstruction of events, stated that Gould, Hull, and Potter were all captured in chaises. She put Gould and Potter in the same vehicle. That didn't make sense to me since the British command knew that Gould and Hull had been wounded and captured days before they knew anything about Potter. I therefore guessed that Gould and Hull had traveled together and Potter was in the second chaise. But I also entertain the possibility that Chase was wrong and Potter was never in a chaise at all. That would leave Gould and Hull as the only officers connected with chaises, and thus likely one in each.

Another puzzling detail about Hull’s capture came from the Rev. David McClure, who wrote in the spring of 1775 that Hull had told him British soldiers had stripped off some of this uniform. Would that have been possible if he’d been traveling behind the column?

J. L. Bell said...

I changed the title of this article to correct a late-night error. Lt. Joseph Knight of the 4th Regiment was killed on 19 April. He was the first British officer to die in the war. Hull was the first to be captured and die in enemy hands.