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Biographical Sketches

New Hampshire
William Whipple
William Whipple

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.

Drawing: Oil, 1888, by Ulysses D. Tenney, after John Trumbull, hangs in the Moffatt-Ladd House, Portsmouth, N.H. Photographer, Douglas Armsden, Kittery Point, Maine.

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Last Updated: 04-Jul-2004