Bidwell Lore – Agrippa Hull’s War Experience

Welcome to Bidwell Lore number 143! This week we will talk a bit more about Agrippa’s experience during the Revolutionary War.

Portrait of Agrippa Hull, unknown artist, unknown date. Acc# 47.002. Courtesy of the Stockbridge Library Museum & Archives. Painted from an 1845 daguerreotype taken by Anson Clark in West Stockbridge, also in the collection of the Stockbridge Library Museum & Archives.

Agrippa Hull’s War Experience
Rick Wilcox, 2022

General John Paterson and General Thaddeus Kosciuszko greatly influenced young Agrippa Hull, as did the whole war experience, though he managed to keep his humor and kindness intact throughout. Hull signed up with Isaac Marsh’s First Stockbridge Company on May 1, 1777. Marsh, a tavern keeper, had purchased his tavern from William Goodrich at what is now the southwest corner of Main and South Street in Stockbridge. You may remember that we discussed Captain Goodrich in a previous Bidwell Lore series beginning HERE. Goodrich had served under Benedict Arnold, surviving the assault on Quebec, but was taken prisoner and held by the British until the fall of 1776, returning home in 1777. Goodrich ended up commanding a company of Stockbridge Mohicans.

Agrippa signed up for a term of “three years or the war” according to his enlistment papers, which note that he served with the 12th Massachusetts Regiment. Not long after he enlisted, Agrippa was assigned as an orderly to Colonel John Paterson. Agrippa was officially assigned to Colonel Samuel Brewer’s command, though he likely never saw Brewer or any of his company commanders.

Agrippa was listed in the rolls of the Office of Army Accounts under the Paymaster General as well, who was authorized by Congress, July 4, 1783, “to settle and finally adjust all accounts whatsoever between the United State and the officers and soldiers of the American Army.” What follows is a list of his military assignments used by the Paymaster General in 1783 to ensure each soldier or officer was paid for his time in the Revolutionary War. There are gaps in Agrippa’s service records, but the larger gap is that he spent the majority of his six years and two months with General Paterson and General Kosciuszko.

“Sept. to Dec. 1777 Agrippa Hull was again assigned to Colonel Brewer’s 12 Regiment as a Pvt. With Capt. John Chadwick’s in the Batt’n of Massachusetts Bay Forces, again for the duration of the war. Sometimes referred to as Captain John Chadwick’s 8th Company. On September 10th 1778 was again assigned to Captain Chadwick’s Company in the 6th Massachusetts Battalion commanded by Colonel Samuel Brewer for the war. September 10th 1778 Agrippa Hull appears on the enlistment papers as a private with the men in Capt. John Chadwick’s company if the 6th Massachusetts Battalion commanded by Col. Samuel Brewer. Roll dated West Point, May 1779 to June 12, 1779 Agrippa, still part of the Massachusetts 12th was assigned to 8th Company,  commanded by Lieut. John Pray, 9th Battalion Massachusetts Forces commanded by Maj. Tobias Fernald. Under remarks it read: On Comd with Genl. Paterson. June 1779 to July 1779 dated at West Point, Agrippa was again with Colonel Samuel Brewer attached to the 12th Massachusetts, assigned to the 8th Company, 9th Battalion, commanded by Maj. Tobias Fernald. Regiment. Noted on the Company Muster Roll under remarks: On Comd with Col. Kosiousko. Company Muster Roll, July 1779 to August 5, 1779 at West Point, again Col. Samuel Brewer’s 12 Massachusetts, Agrippa Hull, Pvt, 8th Company 12th Battalion Massachusetts Forces, command be Maj. Tobias Fernald. The Company Muster Roll Aug. 1779 to Sept. 1779, no change in assignment. The next Company Muster Roll, Sept. 1779 to Oct. 2, 1779 at West Point, again no changes in Company or Battalion assignment. The Company Muster Roll for Jan. 81 to Feb, 81 at York Heights and under remarks: On extra service with Col. Kosciuszko, but assigned to Capt. Mean’s Co. 2d Massachusetts Regiment commanded by Lieut. Col. Ebenezer Sprout. April 1781 to May 1, 1781, Kutsnear West Point, again with Capt. Means and Col. Sprout. Remarks: On extra service Col. Kosciuszko.” [1]

Fort Ticonderoga today, image courtesy of Wikipedia

 In April 1777 General Paterson, newly promoted to the rank of brigadier general by the Continental Congress, was ordered to march his regiment to defend Ticonderoga. Agrippa, having joined on May 1, 1777, was assigned at that time as an orderly to Paterson. “Very likely, Agrippa carried no arms. The militia law under which Hull enlisted gave a bounty of twenty pounds to each man who could furnish his own gun, bayonet, hatchet, blanket, knapsack, canteen, and ammunition. For a poor youth like Hull equipping himself in that manner would have been difficult, and no evidence of his six years in the army shows that he was an arms-bearing soldier. So he had to content himself, it seems, with a fifteen-and-a-half pound bounty given to enlistees unable to fit themselves out.” [2]

Agrippa had not been long in the army, and traveling with General Paterson, when on May 16, 1778, John Paterson and Thaddeus Kosciuszko met at Ticonderoga, where Paterson was to assume command. Kosciuszko was there to plan new fortifications and use some of the 2,500 soldiers at the fort to quickly put those plans in place. A contingent of 7,100 British regulars, and some 2,500 Indians descended upon the fort, laying siege. By July 5, General Paterson and his troops had retreated, leaving Ticonderoga to the British. While Paterson and his troops gathered at Fort Edwards, Kosciuszko turned Burgoyne’s journey into a miles-long series of booby traps, while Paterson destroyed bridges and felled trees across his path. By the time Burgoyne reached Fort Edward, General Paterson’s men, now under the command of General Philip Schuyler, were nowhere to be found.

            “Patriot soldiers began to gather from a number of states greatly increasing their numbers. The trained eye of Kosciuszko then provided a key advantage. Selecting a wooded hill not far from the Hudson River, he directed the construction of redoubts and retrenchments that would funnel the attaching British onto a killing field. Here on Bemis Heights the British forces of 5,800 men engaged 6,300 Americans on September 19, 1777. Attending the man he had come to admire, Grippy[Agrippa Hull] was there to see the Continental brigades absorb the attacks of General Baron Von Riedesel’s light infantry and grenadiers from Brunswick, Germany, on the American’s right wing.” [3]

Winning the battle at Saratoga was important emotionally for the struggling American army, but equally important was the October 17, 1777, surrender of Burgoyne’s army of approximately 3,500 English and German soldiers. Honor required that Burgoyne no longer engage in combat and he began a march with his army back to Boston. There is a mountain cut called Burgoyne Pass that is just south of Laura’s Tower and Ice Glen in Stockbridge where folklore tells us General Burgoyne marched. The road went to Monterey, but was discontinued in the 1790s by agreement between the two towns. Evidence suggested he crossed the county along what would become Route 23. The Laurel Hill Association minutes suggest at least some of the Hessian troops wandered through Stockbridge.

From the Laurel Hill Association minutes: [4]“After the dramatic surrender of the battle of Saratoga marking the first surprised failure of the British to cut our army in twain, a detachment of Burgoyne’s crestfallen troops passed through Stockbridge en route to the seaboard, where transports were to receive them ‘whenever General Howe shall so order.’ Colonel Prentice Williams [5] as a boy remembered seeing ‘the Hessians smoking their pipes on Laurel Hill.’ Burgoyne’s Pass, over which they marched, is the grass grown road, which throws itself over a spur of Bear Mountain near ‘Boulder Farm,’ the estate of Professor Henry W. Farnum of Yale. [6]

Next week we will share more details about Agrippa’s experiences during the Revolutionary War

1. Stockbridge Library Museum & Archives, Agrippa Hull collection.
2. Friends of Liberty Thomas Jefferson, Tadeusz Kosciuszko and Agrippa Hull: A Tale of Three Patriots, Two Revolutions and a Tragic Betrayal of Freedom in the New Nation, Gary B. Nash, Graham Russell, Gao Hodges, 2008, Basic Books, p. 21.
3. Friends of Liberty Thomas Jefferson, Tadeusz Kosciuszko and Agrippa Hull: A Tale of Three Patriots, Two Revolutions and a Tragic Betrayal of Freedom in the New Nation, Gary B. Nash, Graham Russell, Gao Hodges, 2008, Basic Books, p. 51.
4. Minutes of the Laurel Hill Association, Stockbridge Library Museum & Archives.
5. Williams’ home was at 49 Main Street. He also owned land across the street near 52 Main Street.
6. Now 15 Ice Glen Road, the road led to Township # 1, aka Monterey. The towns abandoned the road in the 1790s.