If a man means to be an historical figure, it is a good idea to impress a literary patron – a Homer, a Virgil, a Boswell, a Longfellow. Odysseus, Aeneas, Samuel Johnson, and Paul Revere were fortunate in this regard. General William Whipple of New Hampshire and Commodore Abraham Whipple of Rhode Island were not. As a result, they have been left out of practically all the history books about the American Revolution. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow put Paul Revere on the Revolutionary map. He even gave us the exact hour at which Paul reached Concord on his “midnight” ride despite the fact Revere says he was captured by the British before he got there.
The Revolutionary accomplishments of the General and the Commodore were among the significant exploits of the struggle for independence. Both joined the struggle early in the contest. Both immediately rose to positions of leadership. Both were recognized by their peers for their outstanding contributions: William for the major role he played in the Continental Congress from 1776 to 1779; Abraham for his unbelievable exploits in the Continental Navy from 1775 to 1780. Unfortunately, historians mostly ignored them.
Though carrying the same surname, they were not related by blood but were related by commitment to the American cause. (William descends from “Elder” John Whipple of Ipswich and Abraham from Capt. John Whipple of Providence).
William’s contributions were many. He was active in Portsmouth, NH public affairs, represented the city in the Colonial Legislature, was on the Provincial Committee of Safety, the executive body that ran the Province, commanded a militia brigade in the war, and served three terms in the Continental Congress. After leaving Congress, he was New Hampshire’s first federal tax collector and Judge and President of the Court to try the first case heard under the Articles of Confederation. He ended his career as Justice of the state’s Superior Court of Judicature. In Congress, he signed the Declaration of Independence, was Chairman of the Marine, Foreign Affairs, and Tax committees, and a ranking member of the Military and Quartermaster committees.
Abraham fired the first gun of the war on water – two days before the battle of Bunker Hill – and was assigned by the Marine Committee the most difficult jobs and consistently out maneuvered British Admirals equipped with much larger and more powerful guns. He eluded a British squadron on Narragansett Bay and carried dispatches from the Congress to France in 1777 which brought that nation into the war on the American side. He made the richest capture by the Continental Navy of British merchantmen during the war.
The next Blog will present in much greater detail the accomplishments of General Whipple. It will be followed by a Blog on the accomplishments of Commodore Whipple.