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Whipple, William - History

Whipple, William - History

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William Whipple was born in 1730 in the town of Kittery in what is presently the state of Maine. He attended local primary schools as a boy and later went to sea. He was a shipmaster by the time he was in his twenties, probably involved with the slave trade. He left his life at sea in 1760 though, and moved to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where he opened his own mercantile firm.

Once Whipple’s finances were secure, he decided to devote himself to political work. In 1775 he attended the provincial assembly in Exeter as a representative from Portsmouth. He also served on New Hampshire’s council of safety. He began to attend the Continental Congress in 1776, and stayed on until 1779. He was deeply absorbed by military matters and advocated the use of military force over diplomacy. As a brigadier general in the New Hampshire militia, Whipple led four regiments to Northern New York State, and surrounded and attacked the British army at Saratoga.

Towards the end of his life, from 1780 to 1784, Whipple served as a state legislator and also, from 1782 until 1785, as associate justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court. He died in 1785 when he was fifty-five years old. His grave is in Portsmouth’s Union Cemetery.


Prince Whipple (1750-1796)

Prince Whipple fought at the battles of Saratoga and in Delaware during the War for Independence. He was also one of twenty enslaved men who petitioned the New Hampshire legislature for freedom in 1779. His owner, General William Whipple, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and an aide to General George Washington. Although Whipple has been identified by some as the African American figure in the familiar painting of Washington crossing the Delaware River, it is doubtful he was present on Christmas Eve, 1776.

Prince Whipple was brought from the coast of Africa to the colonial trading center of Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1760 when he was ten. He grew into manhood enslaved, a body servant to one of the colony’s most influential leaders. Because of his expertise and refinement, Whipple also served as major-domo at the most elegant social events in the city.

In 1779, Prince Whipple was one of 20 petitioners who identified themselves as African men who were taken from their native lands “while but children and incapable of self-defense” now making a plea to the New Hampshire legislature for manumission and for the abolition of slavery in the state. The petition was tabled without legislative action. While the author of the document is unknown, Whipple was literate, as were most of the other petitioners. Literacy was not unusual for New Hampshire slaves who had grown up within households of educated owners. For instance, Whipple’s wife, Dinah, who later ran a school for African children, had been raised in the household of a prominent local minister.

Prince married Dinah on her 21st birthday, which also was the date of her manumission, February 22, 1781. Whipple, however, was not freed until 1784. When William Whipple died the following year, his widow honored the General’s promise to provide a lifetime home for his servants. She allowed Prince Whipple to move a house onto her property where he and Dinah raised their seven children. They shared this house with another former Whipple slave and his family.

Prince Whipple died on November 21, 1796 at the age of 46 and is buried with his wife and at least one daughter and a granddaughter near the tomb of his former owner at North Cemetery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Whipple, William - History

William Whipple, a sea captain turned merchant, retired from business to further the Revolution. In addition to sitting in Congress, he commanded New Hampshire militia in two major campaigns and held various State offices

Whipple, the eldest of five children, was born in 1730, at Kittery, in present Maine. He attended local schools and went to sea while still a boy. In his early twenties he became a shipmaster, and later probably sometimes engaged in the slave trade. About 1760 he gave up the sea and founded a mercantile firm at Portsmouth, N.H., with his brother Joseph. In 1767 he married the daughter of a wealthy merchant-sea captain their only child died in infancy.

By the outbreak of the Revolution, Whipple had become one of the leading citizens of Portsmouth. In 1775, his fortune well established, he left business to devote his time to public affairs. That year, he represented Portsmouth in the provincial assembly at Exeter, and served on the New Hampshire council of safety. The following year, he won seats in the upper house of the State legislature and in the Continental Congress. His congressional tour, interrupted intermittently by militia duty, lasted until 1779. He concerned himself mainly with military, marine, and financial matters. A tough-minded, independent individual, he recommended military aggressiveness in the war instead of diplomacy and favored severe punishment of Loyalists and speculators.

In the fall of 1777 Whipple, a brigadier general in the New Hampshire militia, led four regiments to upper New York State and helped encircle and besiege the British army at Saratoga. He was present on October 17 at the surrender of Gen. John Burgoyne signed the Convention of Saratoga, ending the New York campaign and helped escort the British troops to a winter encampment near Boston to await embarkation for England. In 1778 he led another contingent of New Hampshire militia into Rhode Island on a campaign that sought but failed to recapture Newport from the British.

During his last years, Whipple held the offices of State legislator (1780-84), associate justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court (1782-85), receiver of finances for Congress in New Hampshire (1782-84), and in 1782 president of a commission that arbitrated the Wyoming Valley land dispute between Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Ill the remaining few years of his life, he passed away in 1785 at the age of 55 at Portsmouth, where he was buried in Union Cemetery. His wife survived him.

History of the Ojibway people

Reprint. Originally published: History of the Ojibways, based upon traditions and oral statements. St. Paul : Minnesota Historical Society, 1885. (Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society v. 5)

Includes bibliographical references and index

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History of the Ojibway People

William W. Warren's History of the Ojibway People has long been recognized as a classic source on Ojibwe History and culture. Warren, the son of an Ojibwe woman, wrote his history in the hope of saving traditional stories for posterity even as he presented to the American public a sympathetic view of a people he believed were fast disappearing under the onslaught of a corrupt frontier populaton. He collected firsthand descriptions and stories from relatives, tribal leaders, and acquaintances and transcribed this oral history in terms that nineteenth-century whites could understand, focusing on warfare, tribal organizations, and political leaders.

First published in 1885 by the Minnesota Historical Society, the book has also been cirticized by Native and non-Native scholars, many of whom do not take into account Warren's perspective, goals, and limitations. Now, for the first time since its initial publication, it is made available with new annotations researched and written by professor Theresa Schenck. A new introduction by Schenck also gives a clear and concise history of the text and of the author, firmly establishing a place for William Warren in the tradition of American Indian intellectual thought.

Theresa Schenck is an assiciate professor in the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and Times of an Ojibwe and The Voice of the Crane Echoes Afar: The Sociopolitical Organization of the Lake Superior Ojibwa, 1640-1855.

A History of William Whipple of Dorchester, Massachusetts and Smithfield, Rhode Island

This book chronicles the life of William Whipple who was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1652, and moved with his father, Captain John Whipple, to Providence Rhode Island in 1659. The thirteen member Captain John Whipple family was prominent in New England history for over 250 years. His daughter's grandson was Stephen Hopkins, governor of Rhode Island and signer of the Declaration of Independence. The line of his second son, Samuel, produced Abraham Whipple, Commodore of the Continental Navy. The social history of these and other families who married into the Whipple family are offered. The antecedents of some of these families are tracked back to the fourteenth century.

The William Whipple family lived in northern Rhode Island for the first four generations. His two children married into the prominent Sprague family whose lines produced two Rhode Island governors. William Whipple Junior married Elizabeth Sprague whose great grandfather was Richard Warren, a signatory to the Mayflower Compact. William junior's son Eleazer married Anna Brown, whose ancestor was the Reverend Roger Williams, putative founder of the Baptisit denomination in the United States. Eleazer and Anna's youngest son Jesse, an important manufacturer of lime products, moved to the state of Indiana in the early 1800s to further his business enterprises. Jesse's wife was a member of the Adam's line of descent remembered for producing two American presidents.

The lineage of Jabez Whipple, eldest of this family, is carried through in this book. Biographies of his 11 children are offered, with special emphases given to social histories of Oscar F. and William T. Whipple and their descendants to the present day.

American Revolution

He, like many of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, would be supportive of the American Revolutionary War from the beginning. He was sent as a delegate of New Hampshire Colony to the Second Continental Congress.

He would serve in the Congress until 1779. In 1777 he was made Brigadier General of the New Hampshire militia. Here he would serve valiantly in the Battles of Stillwater and Saratoga.

In 1778 he raised another brigade of New Hampshire Militia to fight in the Battle of Rhode Island. William Whipple&rsquos slave, Prince Whipple served with him faithfully throughout the war.

After the war, he became an Associate Judge for the Supreme Court of New Hampshire.

He would die as a judge when he fainted from atop his horse while riding his circuit.

William Whipple

William Whipple, Jr. (January 14, 1730 – November 28, 1785) was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of New Hampshire.

Whipple was born at Kittery, Maine, and educated at a common school studying how to be a merchant, judge, and a soldier until he went off to sea. He became a Ship's Master by the age of twenty-three. In 1759 he landed in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and in partnership with his brother established himself as a merchant. He married his first cousin Catherine Moffat some time around 1770 to 1771. Whipple and his wife lived in the now historic Moffatt-Ladd House on Market Street in Portsmouth. Ώ] In 1775, he was elected to represent his town at the Provincial Congress. In 1776 New Hampshire dissolved the Royal government and reorganized with a House of Representatives and an Executive Council. Whipple became a Council member, and a member of the , and was elected to the Continental Congress, serving there through 1779. In 1777, he was made Brigadier General of the New Hampshire Militia, participating in the successful expedition against General Burgoyne at the battles of Stillwater and Saratoga raising and commanding a brigade (9th, 10th, 13th and 16th) of New Hampshire militia during the campaign. In 1778, General Whipple led another New Hampshire militia brigade (4th, 5th, 15th, Peabody's and Langdon's) at the Battle of Rhode Island. His slave, Prince Whipple, followed the General to war and served with him throughout. William Whipple freed his slave Prince, having believed he could not fight for liberty and own a slave. ΐ]

After the war he became an Associate Justice of the Superior Court of New Hampshire. He suffered from a heart ailment, and died after fainting from atop his horse while traveling his court circuit. He was buried in the Old North Burial Ground in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In 1976, in conjunction with the American Bicentennial, his headstone was replaced with a new memorial by a local historical association.

William Whipple

William Whipple was a delegate to the Continental Congress for New Hampshire, and was one of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence.

William Whipple by John Trumbull
Public domain image

Early Life

William Whipple was born on January 14, 1730 in Kittery, Maine. When he was a boy he went to a public school. There he dabbled in learning a few different trades namely merchant, judge, and soldier. When he was old enough, Whipple left for sea.

By 1753, William had become a ship’s master. In 1759, he decided to stay in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. There he entered into a partnership as a merchant with his brother. After he had started to do quite well with his business, he married his cousin Catherine.


In 1775, William started service at the Provincial Congress. That year New Hampshire put together an Executive Council, which William was a member of. From late 1775 to early 1776, Josiah footlett was the only delegate from New Hampshire to the Continental Congress. Feeling overwhelmed carrying the load alone, footlett sent several letters to the Executive Council requesting more delegates.

In 1776, William was sent as a delegate to the second Continental Congress with Matthew Thornton. He was a member of Congress through 1779.

Continental Army

In 1777, William Whipple became a brigadier general in the New Hampshire militia. General Whipple fought in the battles of Stillwater and Saratoga. In 1778, he led another successful mission in the Battle of Rhode Island.

William Whipple was among one of the few non-hypocritical Americans of this time. He had a slave named Prince Whipple, who he brought to war with him. William said that he could not fight for his own freedom and own another man, so he freed Prince. Prince fought by William’s side all through the war, and did not leave him until America had earned its independence.

After the Revolutionary War, he served as a judge for a short time. However, he died while he was in office from a heart attack. He passed away on November 28, 1785.

Whipple, William - History

Sometimes the wrong facts tell the right story. It seems that way with Prince Whipple of POrtsmouth, NH.. Although Prince , historians now say, is not the African soldier crossing the Delaware with Washington, he still symbolizes black patriots in the American Revolution.

Getting Prince Whipple Right

Look carefully at the most famous painting in American history. In "Washington Crossing the Delaware", just beside General Washington’s right knee, is one African American soldier among a sea of white faces. He is wearing a large hat and red shirt and rowing frantically in the icy river from Valley Forge towards Washington’s critical victory against the British at Trenton.

It has been suggested that the black man in the red shirt represents Prince Whipple, an enslaved African from Portsmouth, NH. And for a while local historians, myself included, believed that might be true. I heard it a dozen years ago from Valerie Cunningham, who discovered it in the writings of historian William C. Nell. Nell heard about Prince Whipple while writing his breakthrough book Colored Patriots of the American Revolution that was published in 1855, just four years after the famous painting of Washington was put on display to the American public.

Nell’s amazing volume chronicles the lives of black revolutionaries who fought and died in the war that freed Americans from the shackles of British tyranny – white Americans, at least. Enslaved black veterans who fought in the Revolution remained slaves in a system of bondage that survived another century, and continues to impact American society today.

Who was Prince?

Prince Whipple did accompany William Whipple of Portsmouth during the Revolution. William was one of three New Hampshire men to sign the Declaration of Independence. As a founding father, he has been elevated to a position of honor in American history. Like most founders, he was also a slave owner. The Whipples, who lived for a time at the historic Moffatt-Ladd House on Market Street, purchased Prince at auction when he was a child. Nell suggests that the boy was descended from royalty, but there is no way to verify that Prince was really a "prince" from Amabou, Africa. Prince was a name commonly given to slaves who were stripped of their African or Caribbean identity and assigned the owner’s surname. Classical names like Pompey, Caesar, Venus and Prince may have been a means of further segregating blacks in the household from their white "family" members.

Nell placed William and Prince Whipple with Washington in the famous camp at Valley Forge. As everyone knows, Washington crossed the icy Delaware River secretly at night in 1776 and surprised and defeated the Hessian forces encamped at Trenton in a turning point in the Revolution. The dramatic painting "Washington Crossing the Delaware" by Emmanuel Leutze has been hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art for more than a century. It measures over 12 by 21 feet and is a copy of an earlier painting by Leutze that was damaged by fire. Critics point out that Leutze shows the wrong flag and the wrong type of boat in his painting. Washington could not have been standing dramatically in the boat, the floating blocks of ice are inaccurate and the crossing was at night, not in daylight. Defenders point out that it is a symbolic representation, a work of art, not history.

Spreading the wrong word

I never actually said Prince was in the painting. I simply suggested in a 1997 essay that the black man in the hat might be Prince. Although the melodramatic painting is not a factual depiction of the event, German artist Emmanuel Leutze was very concerned with the figures he placed in the boat. He chose to include a black figure because there were African Americans at Valley Forge. Although Leutze likely never heard the Prince Whipple story, there have been art critics and historians since who made the connection. Other slave names from other states have been suggested, but Prince Whipple has been the most popular.

I simply jumped on the bandwagon back in ’97 and began waving the New Hampshire flag. My article ran in a local newspaper and I posted the story on the Internet among hundreds of other essays. A few months later I got an email from historian Blaine Whipple who explained that, according to his exhaustive research, William Whipple was 130 miles away in Baltimore while Washington and his ragged, starving troops crossed the Delaware. I posted Blaine’s letter on my web site with a promise to correct my original story. I didn’t get around to it for nine years.

A lot happened in that decade. The Web grew up. What was a slow clunky operation is now quick and ubiquitous. America was seeking black heroes, and as millions of people visited my web site, word about Prince Whipple got around, thanks largely to a search engine called Google that appeared in 1998. As years passed, the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail grew in status. Most of the stops on the walking tour are now marked by exquisite brass plaques. Valerie Cunningham wrote a resource guide for the trail, then expanded the information into the book Black Portsmouth. In it, she and co-author Mark Sammons state clearly that Prince was probably not at Valley Forge. William Whipple would not likely have sent Prince 130 miles on his own to serve with Washington.

Portsmouth legend "wrongly claims" that Prince is the figure in the famous painting, the authors note in Black Portsmouth. But, they added, Prince was very likely with William Whipple in battles at Saratoga and in Rhode Island. And they remind us that there were at least 180 African Americans from New Hampshire serving in the Revolution, at a time when only 630 enslaved blacks – men, women and children – were living in the state.

Although another legend says that William Whipple freed Prince after the war – he did not. Prince and others petitioned for their freedom. His came seven years later. Prince married, lived in Portsmouth and died in his mid-30s. He is buried in the Old North Cemetery. His little wooden cross was placed not far from the granite sarcophagus of William Whipple and the large tomb of revolutionary John Langdon. In 1905 Prince Whipple was recognized inaccurately by local veterans as "New Hampshire's foremost, if not only colored representative of the war for Independence."

African American Revolutionary

Blaine Whipple has also written a book that brings the often underrated Gen. William Whipple to life. In it he politely disputes the Prince Whipple legend. David Hackett Fischer, author of the popular book Washington’s Crossing says that many have attempted to identify figures in the famous painting with historical names, but without success. Fischer points to WC Nell’s reference to Prince Whipple, and dismisses the idea. Some suggest the black figure is William Lee, Washington’s trusted and enslaved valet. Washington was, after all, among the largest slaveholders in the new nation.

While most accounts now dispute the Prince Whipple story, other scholars didn’t get the memo. In his lively account of George Washington and his slaves, An Imperfect God, author Henry Wiencek clearly identifies the black soldier in the Leutze painting as Prince Whipple. Perhaps he read my web site. Tourists who visit the historic park where Washington crossed the Delaware are told that Prince is "widely accepted" as the man in the painting. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of school children have since written essays about Prince. I know because they still write to me.

Thanks to the unstoppable and often incorrect Internet, the Prince Whipple legend is now more deeply embedded in history than ever. His appearance in "Washington Crossing the Delaware" is noted in scholarly papers, on history web sites, in Wikipedia and on PBS. Often I am listed as the source of the information and often the articles note definitively that Prince Whipple is the man in the painting.

This is, after all, how history really works. It is a flawed process. We study all the facts we can lay our hands on, then we take a flying leap at the truth. One historian relies on the work of another, then the next generation feeds on the work of the former. The real professionals track the story back to its roots. But most historians and journalists take the word of others as fact, recycle it, and move on. The Internet merely speeds up the process.

Nell was technically wrong, it seems, about Prince Whipple’s appearance in Leutze’s painted boat. But he was right about the big picture. African Americans, estimates run as high as 5,000, fought in the American Revolution, and in every American war since.

Maybe no one in the boat is real. George Washington symbolizes the indomitable human spirit. The boat symbolizes America. Critics point out that the people rowing seem to be immigrants from different nations. One looks like a Native American. Another appears to be a woman. If so, the black man represents all colored patriots. He may not be Prince Whipple with the historic accuracy required to place him in an encyclopedia or textbook. But he is Prince in a simpler purer way that every human heart can understand.


  1. Manfried

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    You are not right. Write to me in PM, we'll talk.

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