Tulip tree sawdust was pretreated using hot compressed water with different pretreatment severities (LogR0, 3.05-5.01) by varying reaction temperatures (180-220°C) and residence time (1-30 min). It is found that the chemical composition and physicochemical properties of the pretreated products can be characterized and correlated with severity. Removal of most of the xylan and other hemicellulosic sugars from the raw material was observed at a severity of 4.5. Thus, the residual solids were recovered with increased cellulose and lignin contents. Nearly complete glucan conversion was achieved after 48 h of hydrolysis with 10 FPU/g of wet residual solid obtained above a severity of 4.8. The characteristics of the pretreated solids according to the pretreatment severity were strongly related with the glucose yield. The removal of structural barriers to the enzyme attack was the dominant factor affecting enzyme accessibility to the substrate.