In the following article, University of California at Los Angeles historian Gary B. Nash describes little-known Revolutionary War soldier who was attached by General George Washington to serve with Polish military engineer Tadeuz Kosciuszko. This account is part of a larger history of three individuals, Thomas Jefferson, Tadeuz Kosciuszko, and Agrippa Hull, who shaped the revolutionary struggle even as their own lives were transformed by it.
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. But Hull’s influence on shaping the abolitionist thought of Tadeuz Kosciuszko, the Polish military engineer for whom he served as an orderly for the last 50 months of the war, is the hidden importance of the young black patriot.
Said to be the son of an African prince, Agrippa Hull was born free in Northampton, Massachusetts on March 7, 1759. Little is known of his father, who died when Hull was an infant; but 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