Commodore Abraham Whipple

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Abraham Whipple

Birthdate: (85)
Birthplace: Providence, Providence, RI
Death: Died in Prob. Marietta, Washington, OH
Place of Burial: Mound Cemetery, Marietta, Washington, OH
Immediate Family:

Son of Noah Whipple and Mary Whipple
Husband of Sarah Whipple
Father of Catherine Katy Whipple; Mary Molly Polly Whipple and John Hopkins Whipple
Brother of Susanna Angell; Mary Whipple; Freelove Pitts; Annphillis Whipple and Samuel Whipple

Occupation: Capt. in Continental Navy (1775-1780); Cdre. of RI Colonial Navy (1774-1775); Led raid on HMS Gaspee; Pioneer in Ohio Territory
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Commodore Abraham Whipple

A Patriot of the American Revolution for RHODE ISLAND with the rank of COMMODORE. DAR Ancestor # A124140

Abraham Whipple (September 26, 1733 – May 27, 1819) was an American revolutionary naval commander in the Continental Navy. Whipple was born near Providence, Rhode Island and chose to be a seafarer early in his life. He embarked upon a career in the lucrative West Indies trade, working for Moses and John Brown. In the French and Indian War period, he became a privateersman and commanded privateer Game Cock from 1759 to 1760. In one six-month cruise, he captured 23 French ships.

He sank the first British ship of the American Revolution, the British schooner HMS Gaspée, in the 1772 Gaspée Affair. He was the first to unfurl the Star Spangled Banner in London. He commanded the first Continental Navy-Marine Corps amphibious expedition.

On one occasion in mid-July 1779, his group of three ships encountered a large British convoy in dense fog off the Newfoundland Banks. Whipple concealed his guns and ran up the British flag. Like a wolf among sheep, he cut 11 prizes out of the convoy—eight of which contained spoils of war valued together at over one million dollars—easily one of the richest captures of the entire war.

He was also the first to build and sail an ocean-going ship 2000 miles down river from Ohio to the Caribbean, opening trade to the Northwest Territory.

Early life

Abraham Whipple was born on September 26, 1733 to Noah Whipple, Jr. Abraham Whipple, and Sarah Hopkins were married on August 2, 1761. They had three children: John, Catherine, and Mary. Catherine's husband, and Commodore Whipple's son-in-law, was Colonel Ebenezer Sproat of the Continental Army.

Revolutionary activities

Rhode Island

As American colonists began to resist what they considered unfair oppression by the British crown, acts of defiance became more and more prevalent. One such occurrence happened on June 9, 1772, when Whipple led 50 Rhode Islanders in the capture and burning of British revenue cutter HMS Gaspée, which had run aground off Pawtuxet while chasing the packet Hannah. The incident initiated an exchange of notes between Whipple and Captain James Wallace of HMS Rose. Wallace wrote, "You Abraham Whipple on June 10, 1772 burned his majesty's vessel the Gaspée and I will hang you at the yard arm!" To which point Whipple responded, "Sir, always catch a man before you hang him."

Three years later, the Rhode Island General Assembly appointed Whipple commodore of two ships fitted out for the defense of the colony's trade. On the day the sea captain received his commission, 15 June 1775, he led his men to capture the tender to frigate HMS Rose. After cruising in the vicinity of Narragansett Bay, he headed south to Bermuda to procure gunpowder for use by the colony and, on the return voyage, transported naval recruits to Philadelphia. Upon her arrival there, his ship, Katy, was taken over by agents of the Continental Congress and was fitted out as sloop-of-war Providence.

Naval command

Whipple was commissioned a captain in the Continental Navy on December 22 and was given command of 24-gun frigate Columbus. During the period from February 17 to April 8, 1776, he commanded that ship during the first Continental Navy-Marine Corps amphibious expedition—the cruise to New Providence, in the Bahamas, to seize essential military supplies from the British garrison at Nassau.

After returning north to New England, Whipple captured five British prizes before March 27, 1778, when his ship ran aground off Point Judith, Rhode Island. After stripping the ship, the captain and his crew abandoned her and escaped capture ashore.

Next assigned to command 28-gun frigate Providence, Whipple ran the British blockade on the night of April 30, 1778, damaging HMS Lark and outrunning another Britisher during the escape. Tacking for France, Whipple's Providence crossed the Atlantic Ocean unmolested, bearing important dispatches relating to agreements between France and the American colonies, and reached Paimboeuf. After acquiring needed guns and supplies for the Continental Army, Providence and Boston sailed home to the colonies, taking three prizes en route.

Upon his return, Whipple received command of a small squadron—Providence, Ranger, and Queen of France. On one occasion in mid-July 1779, this group of ships encountered a large British convoy in dense fog off the Newfoundland Banks. Whipple concealed his guns and ran up the British flag. Like a wolf among sheep, he cut 11 prizes out of the convoy—eight of which contained spoils of war valued together at over one million dollars—easily one of the richest captures of the entire war.

Following this adventure, Whipple cruised off Bermuda before arriving at Charleston, South Carolina, on December 23, 1779. British forces threatened that key Continental port, causing the guns and crews from the Continental Navy ships in port to be moved on shore to reinforce the land batteries to repulse the expected British assault.

However, after a rugged four-month siege, the overwhelming pressure of British arms forced the Continental forces to surrender on May 12, 1780. Whipple remained a prisoner of the British until he was paroled to Chester, Pennsylvania, and he took no further part in the war. Upon the conclusion of hostilities, Whipple took up farming near Cranston, Rhode Island.

Later life

For the rest of his life, he remained a farmer, with the exception of two spells of seafaring as master of merchantmen, first of the General Washington and then of the St. Clair. With the formation of the Ohio Company of Associates in 1788 and the initial westward migration into that territory, Whipple and his family became pioneers on the American frontier and were among the founders of the town of Marietta, Ohio, and the first named proprietor of Charleston, Vermont.

Granted a pension by Congress in recognition of his distinguished service in helping to win American independence, Whipple died at Marietta, Ohio on May 27, 1819, and was buried at Mound Cemetery in Marietta.

Several ships of the United States Navy have been named USS Whipple in his honor. There is a Whipple Street, Avenue or Court in almost every one of the 39 municipalities in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

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Commodore Abraham Whipple's Timeline

September 26, 1733
Providence, Providence, RI
Age 24
January 25, 1762
Age 28
East Providence, Providence County, Rhode Island, United States
Age 33
Age 54
Marietta, Washington, OH
May 27, 1819
Age 85
Prob. Marietta, Washington, OH
Farmer in his later years
Mound Cemetery, Marietta, Washington, OH