Captain Isaac Hull
Who am I?
I am called Isaac Hull, and I have the good fortune to be Captain of this magnificent frigate. I was born in Derby, Connecticut, 39 years ago. My Uncle Bill, who raised me, wanted me to go to college but my love of salt water thwarted him. At 14, I was a cabin boy; by 21, a captain. I served on Constitution as Lieutenant for six years until 1802, and returned as her Captain two years past.
My work may surprise you
A schoolboy will tell you a sea-captain’s job is to sail, but sailing is the work of others. No, I command the ship and all in her. On a voyage, I decide where we shall go; in a battle, I choose whether ‘tis wiser to fight or flee. If Constitution is victorious, then (whether I deserve it or not) people will praise me. If through my faults she is defeated, then I must take the blame!
Be careful what you wish for
To command a ship in our young nation’s navy is perhaps the dream of every officer, but it is lonely work. When I walk the quarterdeck other officers move away, out of respect for my authority. For the same reason, I dine alone each night and can have no friends among the lieutenants. Sometimes when I hear their merry laughter, I miss the casual comradeship of the lower ranks.
The British deserve to be taught a lesson
Like every American, I have been angered by the British actions that provoked this war. However, I have special reasons to plot their defeat. One is to avenge an insult: they described my ship as “a bundle of pine boards sailing under a bit of striped bunting.” My other reason is personal: my father was sorely ill-treated on a British prison ship.
Not as deaf as you think!
Our escape from the British Squadron off New Jersey in July 1812 drew my name to public attention. Our destruction of Guerriere the following month brought me fame and medals, and prize-money from the war enabled me to marry my beloved Ann. Later I commanded squadrons in the Pacific and Mediterranean but by 1841 it was time to retire, for I knew my ambitious, impatient Lieutenants called me their “short, fat, deaf captain.”
Read the text and answer the following questions.