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Commodore Abraham Whipple of the Continental Navy

Privateer, Patriot, Pioneer

Sheldon S. Cohen

Publication Year: 2010

Abraham Whipple (1733-1819) commanded insurgents who destroyed HMS Gaspee in Narragansett Bay and helped direct the successful invasion of the Bahamas. This little-known, yet intrepid and frequently successful Continental Navy officer contributed significantly to the War for Independence. An esteemed officer of the fleet, he spent his last years in frontier Ohio where he was respected and appealed to younger generations as a "representative of the Revolution."

Sheldon Cohen's biography of Whipple presents a look inside the life of a Continental officer. He illustrates at a personal level the complexities of naval warfare, including Whipple's reliance on personal finances and family connections to outfit his ships and pay his crew. Cohen also reveals the commander’s treatment as a British prisoner of war, and his eventual migration west, shedding light on experiences shared by many Revolutionary War veterans.

Published by: University Press of Florida


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Title Page, Copyright

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List of Illustrations

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p. xi

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pp. xiii-xiv

Water is unquestionably the most important natural feature on earth. By volume the world’s oceans compose 99 percent of the planet’s living space; in fact, the surface of the Pacific Ocean alone is larger than that of the total land bodies. Water is as vital to life as air. Indeed, to test whether the moon...

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pp. xv-xvii

On May 27, 1819, death claimed the life of an aged man at his farmstead near the growing community of Marietta, Ohio. His name was Abraham Whipple, and he was then in his eighty-sixth year—a rather remarkable life span for that particular time in America. His wife of almost fifty-seven...

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pp. xix-xxi

This study of the long life and far-ranging career of Abraham Whipple took over three years to complete and involved research at many locales within the United States and abroad. My visits there were pleasant and rewarding, and I remain especially grateful to the individuals working at several...

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1. Rhode Island Beginnings

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pp. 1-18

The Whipple family in New England could trace its origins back to England. The name Whipple, which some family genealogists claim meant “clear” or “fresh” stream, apparently had origins in Norman times, although the surname then appeared with several variant spellings, including Wipple...

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2. The Passage from Peacetime to Rebellion, 1763–1775

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pp. 19-50

Sarah and Abraham Whipple, along with their two daughters, settled into their Providence community after the French and Indian War had ended. A manuscript map of 1770 details residences for part of the growing town. It shows the Whipple home situated on a lot alongside the town “highway” running south...

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3. Whipple’s War, at Home and Abroad, 1775–1778

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pp. 51-93

The two-ship Rhode Island Navy that Abraham Whipple commanded surely must have appeared an unlikely fighting force to their adversaries as they began their mid-August 1775 cruise. Both Katy and Washington seemed to be no match for the larger and more heavily armed British warships then...

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4. War’s Fortunes and Misfortunes, 1779–1783

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pp. 94-129

Captain Abraham Whipple found himself spending many of the bleak, sunlight- limited days of January 1779 at his Providence home with Sarah and their two maturing daughters. In some ways, this may have seemed a repeat of his previous year’s stay: then, as now, the British occupied Newport, and...

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5. Postwar Discontentments, 1783–1789

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pp. 130-154

The years of nonbelligerency following the Paris Peace Treaty of September 1783 were replete with disappointments for Abraham Whipple. The former commodore had already endured delays and frustrations with Rhode Island’s legislature. Despite his devoted wartime service and his family’s lengthy ties...

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6. Final Years in Ohio, 1789–1819

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pp. 155-178

When Sarah and Abraham Whipple reached Marietta in November 1789, they may well have regarded this settlement in the Ohio Territory as the locale where they might thereafter achieve security, prosperity, and respect. And simultaneously, the existing states were endeavoring to provide similar...


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pp. 179-212


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pp. 213-224


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pp. 225-232

E-ISBN-13: 9780813040288
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813034331
Print-ISBN-10: 0813034337

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 16 b&w illustrations
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 763157815
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Commodore Abraham Whipple of the Continental Navy

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Subject Headings

  • Whipple, Abraham, 1733-1819.
  • Ship captains -- United States -- Biography.
  • United States. Continental Navy -- Biography.
  • United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Naval operations.
  • United States -- History -- French and Indian War, 1754-1763 -- Naval operations.
  • Privateering -- United States -- History -- 18th century.
  • Pioneers -- Ohio -- Biography.
  • Ohio -- Biography.
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