Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
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. 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 sunk the first British ship of the Revolution. The first to unfurl the Star Spangled Banner in London, 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.
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 Gaspée, which had run aground off Pawtucket while chasing the packet Hannah.
Three years later, the Rhode Island 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.
Whipple was commissioned a captain in the Continental Navy on 22 December 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 American 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, 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 30 April 1778, damaging HMS Lark and outrunning another Britisher during the escape. Tacking for France, Whipple's Providence crossed the Atlantic 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 Chaleston, South Carolina, 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, Pennsylvania, and he took no further part in the war. Upon the conclusion of hostilities, Whipple took up farming near Cranston, Rhode Island.
For the remainder of his life, he remained a farmer, with the exception of two spells of seafaring as master of merchantmen, first of General Washington and then of St. Clair. With the formation of the Ohio Company 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. Granted a pension by Congress in recognition of his distinguished service in helping to win American independence, Whipple died at Marietta on 27 May 1819.
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