Agrippa Hull: The Life and Legacy of the Revolutionary War’s Most Famous Black Soldier

Written by Charles River Editors

*Includes pictures
*Includes contemporary accounts
*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading
*Includes a table of contents

By the time the Revolutionary War started, military confrontations between the world powers had become so common that combat was raised to the status of a fine art, consuming a large portion of time for adolescent males in training and comprising a sizeable component of the economy. Weaponry was developed to a degree of quality not accessible to most North Americans, and European aristocrats were reared in the mastery of swordsmanship with an emphasis on the saber for military use. Likewise, the cavalry, buoyed by a tradition of expert horsemanship and saddle-based combat, was a fighting force largely beyond reach for colonists, which meant that fighting on horses was an undeveloped practice in the fledgling Continental Army, and the American military did not yet fully comprehend the value of cavalry units. Few sword masters were to find their way to North America in time for the war, and the typical American musket was a fair hunting weapon rather than a military one. Even the foot soldier knew little of European military discipline.

However, with European nations unceasingly at war, soldiers from one side or the other often found themselves in disfavor, were marked men in exile, or were fleeing from a superior force. To General George Washington’s good fortune, a few found their way to the colonies to join in the cause. Some were adventurers recently cut off from their own borders, while others embraced the American urge for freedom that so closely mirrored the same movements in their home countries. Nations such as France undoubtedly had an elevating effect on America’s capacity to make formal war, and Lafayette is the most famous foreigner to serve in the Continental Army, but one of the most important individuals who arrived was a Polish nobleman named Tadeusz Kościuszko, who had military and engineering experience.

Raised in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Hull’s increasing fame is accessible in large part due to his association with Kościuszko, who is still a hero across America today for helping design and construct the defenses of West Point, among other things. Serving as Kościuszko’s orderly for a period of 50 months in nearly every major battle, Hull was described by noted historian Gary Gary Nash as a great “unnoticed American.” Nash further speaks of Hull’s service to the Continental Army at the side of Kościuszko as the core of his “hidden importance.” By the end of the war, Hull had served for six years and two months in Washington’s army, receiving a badge of honor for his extended service, and precious discharge papers signed by the commanding general himself.

Beyond that unique professional collaboration and personal friendship, the savvy orderly set an example to all free blacks by achieving a lifestyle unthinkable for many white residents of Stockbridge or any American community. Likewise, excellence as an orderly to a high-ranking officer is not the most memorable story for an American biography; rather, Hull’s influence on Kościuszko’s worldview constitutes the heightened social value of the alliance. Confident in his status as a full citizen, Hull’s way of looking at the world reflected the sentiments that caused the colonies to consider revolution.. Accepted as an honored citizen in his community of Stockbridge, he lived a distinguished life that lasted until the outbreak of the Mexican-American War in the mid-19th century.

Agrippa Hull: The Life and Legacy of the Revolutionary War’s Most Famous Black Soldier profiles one of the Revolution’s most unique participants. Along with pictures of important people, places, and events, you will learn about Hull like never before.


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