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First Name: Abraham

Last Name: Whipple

Birthplace: Providence, RI, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Continental Navy (1775 - 1785)


Date of Birth: 26 September 1733

Date of Death: 27 May 1819

Rank or Rate:

Years Served:
Abraham Whipple

•  Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783)


Abraham Whipple
Commodore, Continental Navy

Abraham Whipple was born on 26 September 1733 in Providence, RI, to Noah Whipple, Jr. Abraham Whipple and Sarah Hopkins were married on 2 August 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 9 June 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 22 December 1775, and was given command of 24-gun frigate Columbus. During the period from 17 February to 8 April 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 27 March 1778, when his ship ran aground off Point Judith, RI. After stripping the ship, the captain and his crew abandoned her and escaped capture ashore.

Next assigned to command the 28-gun frigate Providence, Whipple ran the British blockade on the night of 30 April 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, SC, on 23 December 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 12 May 1780. Whipple remained a prisoner of the British until he was paroled to Chester, PA, and he took no further part in the war. Upon the conclusion of hostilities, Whipple took up farming near Cranston, RI.

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, OH, and the first named proprietor of Charleston, VT. Whipple was granted a pension by Congress in recognition of his distinguished service in helping to win American independence.


• Several ships of the U.S. 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.

Death and Burial

Abraham Whipple died at Marietta, OH, on 27 May 1819. He is buried at Mound Cemetery in Marietta. His gravestone reads:

Sacred to the memory of Commodore Abraham Whipple whose naval skill and courage will ever remain the pride and boast of his country. In the revolution he was the first on the seas to hurl defiance at proud Britain, gallantly leading the way to wrest from the mistress of the ocean her scepter, and there to wave the star spangled banner. He also conducted to the sea the first square rigged vessel built on the Ohio, opening to commerce resources beyond calculation. Born September 26th, A.D. 1733. Died May 27th, 1819. Aged 85 years.

Honoree ID: 3215   Created by: MHOH




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