Waddell, Hugh (1734–73), colonial general in America, was born in Lisburn, Co. Antrim, son of Hugh Waddell, a prosperous farmer, and Isabella Waddell (née Brown). His father killed a man in a duel and was forced to flee the country; emigrating to America, Hugh was educated in Boston, Massachusetts, where he spent his early life. Returning to Ireland c.1752, Hugh Waddell senior discovered that his estate had been seized, and realised he was penniless; his health gave way and he died soon after. Faced with few opportunities in Ireland, Hugh decided to go back to the colonies and settled in North Carolina, where Arthur Dobbs (qv), his friend, had just been appointed as royal governor. Arriving in 1754 he was immediately embroiled in the impending conflict between the Virginians and the French, and he enlisted in a North Carolina regiment that was being raised to assist its neighbouring colony. Commissioned a lieutenant, he soon proved himself an able and energetic soldier and was promoted to the rank of captain. In winter 1755, when he returned from active duty in Virginia, he was appointed clerk of the provisional council in North Carolina.
Given command of the colony's ranger companies, Waddell was responsible for constructing forts at key strategic points between the Yadkin and Catawba rivers. One of the most impressive of these was named Fort Dobbs; another, Fort Waddell. Anxious to improve his soldiers' efficiency, he studied and adapted the fighting methods of the Native American peoples that he encountered. He also helped negotiate a provincial treaty with the Catawbas and the Cherokees in 1756; as a result he secured the use of Native American scouts who proved invaluable for reconnaissance in sub-sequent conflicts. Rising rapidly in reputation, he was elected for four consecutive terms in the North Carolina general assembly (1757–60). Now a major in the army, he was given command of three companies of soldiers and played a critical role in the capture of Fort Duquesne (1758), removing French influence from the region. Tensions with the Cherokees soon erupted and he led a successful series of raids on them in South Carolina the following year; he also helped defend Fort Dobbs from assault in 1760. Purchasing much land in the area, and benefiting from the patronage of Governor Dobbs, Waddell established himself as one of the leading political and military figures in North Carolina. He served a further four terms in the general assembly (1762, 1766, 1767, 1771).
The death of Dobbs (1765) did not prove a setback to Waddell's career. Waddell soon developed a close relationship with Dobbs's successor, William Tryon, but defied him to oppose the controversial British stamp act in February 1766, which he viewed as unconstitutional. After visiting Ireland in 1768, he returned to America to become general of the provisional militia. In 1771 he was involved in the war of regulations against frontier settlers who were campaigning against various injustices, but had his supply train captured in a skirmish.
Towards the end of 1772 his health failed and he died 9 April 1773 at the Castle Haynes plantation, North Carolina. Regarded as the leading soldier in the colony before the American revolution, his death was a major loss for the colonial cause in its struggle for rights and, eventually, independence. He married (1762) Mary Haynes; they had three sons.