Who was Commodore Isaac Hull?

An early portrait of Commodore Hull

Isaac Hull was born in Derby in 1773. His father was a sea captain and Isaac learned his nautical skills in Derby before joining the merchant service and commanding his first ship at the age of 19. When the new United States Navy was created in 1798, Isaac Hull was appointed a lieutenant on one of the four ships built for the new navy. He proceed to distinguish himself in the "quasi-war" with France and the war with the Barbary pirates.

When Hull attained the rank of captain in the American Navy, he was put in command of the U.S.S. Constitution. On Aug. 19, 1812 the Constitution became engaged in a battle with the Guerriere, an English Navy vessel. Within one half hour, the Constitution had won the battle, making it the first  naval win for the U.S. during the War of 1812. Hull had used his heavier broadsides and his ship’s superior sailing ability, while the British, to their astonishment, saw that their shot seemed to rebound harmlessly off Constitution’s hull — giving her the nickname 'Old Ironsides'. This battle marked the first time in history that an English frigate had struck its flag to an American ship of war.

Hull went on to command the Portsmouth Naval Yard and build the USS Washington, the largest American  battleship ever built to that time. Hull was Promoted to commodore in 1823. After Portsmouth he commanded the Pacific squadron, the Washington Navy Yard, and the Mediterranean squadron.

The U.S.S. Constitution is the oldest commissioned battleship in the U.S. Navy and is still on display in Boston Harbor.

For more information, use the following links:

  • See the words to the song about the battle and Commodore Hull's leadership by clicking here or listen to a special rendition here .

  • Visit the official site for "Old Ironsides" by clicking here.

  • Read the poem "Old Ironsides" by Oliver Wendell Holmes by clicking here


Chronology of Service

9 March
Appointed to USS Constitution as Lieutenant
6 July
Commission as Lieutenant delivered
8 July
Ordered to remain on board USS Constitution
21 September
Ordered to take charge of USS Constitution
1 April
Ordered to duty in USS John Adams
  Ordered to command of USS Enterprise
Ordered to command USS Argus
18 May
Promoted to Master Commandant
23 November
Commission issued
23 April
Promoted to Captain
24 July
Returned to the United States in Argus and ordered to Connecticut to contract for and superintend building of four gunboats
9 January
Commission as Captain issued
26 June
Ordered to Hampton, Virginia, to act as member of a Court of Inquiry
11 July
Ordered to Norfolk under Commodore Decatur
12 September
Appointed member of Board of Inquiry
11 January
Ordered to duty in USS John Adams
2 February
Ordered to Norfolk for duty in USS Chesapeake
15 April
Ordered to take command of Portland Station in addition to other duties
10 October
Ordered to command at New York
12 November
Ordered to Washington
  Ordered to command of Boston Navy Yard
    Ordered to command of Portsmouth Navy Yard
18 January
Granted short leave of absence
21 January
Ordered to report to Commodore Bainbridge at Charleston, SC
  Appointed to Board of Navy Commissioners
  Commodore of Pacific Squadron - Flagship United States
  Commanded Washington Navy Yard
  Commanded USS Constitution
  On leave
  Appointed Commodore of Mediterranean Squadron - Flagship Ohio
  Died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Source: "Isaac Hull, USN" (single-page undated typed chronology covering 1798-1814) and other items in Isaac Hull ZB file, Navy Department Library.


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