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Transcript of Agrippa Hull
Agrippa Hull was one of the most remarkable and unnoticed African Americans of the revolutionary era. Hull was born free in Northampton, Massachusetts in 1759 in the middle of the Seven Years' War. Hull became the largest black landowner in Stockbridge, where he lived after the war. He lived to be eighty-nine.
He was said to be the son of an African prince. Agrippa Hull was born in Northampton, Massachusetts on March 7, 1759. Little is known of his father, who died when Hull was an infant. His parents were members of the Congregational Church where Jonathan Edwards occupied the pulpit. When economic stress overcame Bathsheba Hull, Agrippa’s mother, she sent the boy to Stockbridge in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts to live with a free black farming family. It was here that Agrippa grew up in the mission town largely composed of Stockbridge Indians.
Shortly after his eighteenth birthday, Agrippa enlisted in the Continental Army, where he was assigned as an orderly to General John Paterson of the Massachusetts Line. At Paterson’s side, Hull witnessed the surrender of British General John Burgoyne at Saratoga, New York, endured the winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania and was part of the battle at Monmouth Courthouse, New Jersey in June 1778. In May 1779, Hull was reassigned to Kosciuszko, who had come in 1776 to offer his services as a military engineer to the Continental Congress and was designing the fortifications at West Point. This launched a long comradeship.
Agrippa Hull was one of the most remarkable and unnoticed African Americans of the revolutionary era. He served for six years and two months in Washington’s Continental Army, which earned him a badge of honor for this extended service. He served as an aide to Tadeusz Kościuszko, a Polish military officer, engineer and nobleman, for five years during the American Revolutionary War. After the war he received a veterans pension; as it was signed by George Washington, he treasured it for the rest of his life.
By the time the southern phase of the war ended in May 1783, Hull had participated in almost every major battle of the bushwhacking campaign—at Cowpens, Eutaw Springs, Ninety-Six, Guilford Courthouse, and the Siege of Charleston, which finally brought the British to their knees. Sailing first from Charleston to Philadelphia with Kosciuszko, Hull refused the Polish general’s invitation to return with him to Poland. Then the war-hardened veteran made his way back to Stockbridge after mustering out at West Point in July 1783 with his discharge signed by Washington himself.
Returning to Stockbridge, Hull found a place in the household of Theodore Sedgwick, a well-born and successful young lawyer who had just won a landmark slavery case before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that gained the freedom of Elizabeth Freeman, soon known as Mum Bett. Hull would serve Sedgwick’s family for almost two decades, working alongside Mum Bett, who virtually mothered the brood of Sedgwick children.