Esek Whipple, Marine, Seaman

Oldest son of Benajah Whipple (1734-1817) and his wife Tabitha, Esek Whipple was born 3 June 1760 at Fruit Hill in North Providence, RI. Benajah Whipple served as Captain of the 1st Militia Company from Gloucester during the Revolutionary War for the years 1775 through 1780, excepting 1777 and 1778 when he served as Captain in Col. Archibald Crary’s Regiment of the Rhode Island Brigade. The name Esek, or Eseck, may have been a shortened form of the Biblical Ezekial as suggested by one genealogical source and seconded by the Goff & Spencer Survey of 1814 which records the Dekalb resident Ezekial O. Whipple. Early during the War for Independence in August 1775, fifteen year old Gloucester resident Esek Whipple enlisted in Captain James Williams’ Company of Col. Daniel Hitchcock’s Regiment. Hitchcock’s Regiment was organized in the Rhode Island Army of Observation on 8 May 1775 as eight companies of volunteers from Providence and was adopted into the Continental Army five weeks later on 14 June 1775 as the 14th Continental Regiment. The regiment was re-organized on 28 June 1775 as ten companies and attached to General Nathaniel Greene’s Rhode Island Brigade of the main Continental Army prosecuting the siege of Boston. According to his pension records, Whipple was marched to Prospect Hill near Boston where he served until discharged at the end of his enlistment on 1 January 1776. On that same day, Hitchcock’s Regiment was re-organized as the 11th Continental Regiment and later again as the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment.

Esek Whipple testifies in his 1818 pension application, he next enlisted in Nathaniel Blackmore’s Company of Col. Christopher Lippitt’s Continental Regiment from Rhode Island in February or March 1776. Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Lippitt (1744–1824), previously in command of a regiment defending Prudence Island in the Narragansett Bay from British warships, was ordered by General Washington to join the Continental Army assembling at Harlem Heights at New York. According to Whipple, he “was marched to the Island of Rhode Island and thence to Kingsbridge soon after the American Army passed over from Long Island to the main- from thence to White Plains, thence to the State of New Jersey.” Discharged again at the expiration of his enlistment on 1 January 1777, by his own reckoning Esek Whipple served as private during that year for a period exceeding nine months. Lippitt commanded the regiment at the Battle of White Plains on 28 October 1776, Second Battle of Trenton on 2 January 1777 and the Battle of Princeton on the following day. Whipple makes no mention of these last two engagements which occurred just days after the stated expiration of his enlistment. However, unlike many of the other Continental Army soldiers whose enlistments expired on the last day of 1776, Lippitt’s Regiment was known to have enlistments that carried eighteen days into the new year.

In 1822 Esek Whipple writes in his pension application #S-44048, during May or June of 1777 “I was enlisted aboard the Sloop Providence commanded by Captain John Peck Rathburn… until the next fall when I was regularly dismissed.” Although one genealogical source suggests he enlisted at the port of New Bedford, MA and served as a mariner”, although that coastal village was the sloop’s homeport, no supporting documentary evidence concerning his place of enlistment has surfaced. Whipple’s rate on the vessel in fact is listed as marine in “A Muster Roll of all the Officers, Seamen & Marines belonging to the Continental armed Sloop Providence Commanded by John Peck Rathbun Esqr. dated June 19, 1777” in the collection of Col. George L. Shepley and transcribed in a January 1921 publication of Rhode Island Historical Society. According to the same muster roll, Whipple’s superior on the Providence was newly promoted Captain of Marines John Trevett who later distinguished himself at the second expedition and taking of New-Providence in the Bahamas. An excellent bio of Trevett by Bud Hannings has been posted online at: According to his date of enlistment, Esek Whipple entered on board the sloop Providence after a brief cruise during which she captured the British transport ship Mellish about the same time that Captain John Peck Rathbun assumed command. After fitting out for another cruise, the sloop Providence apparently got to sea at least once during Whipple’s first naval hitch. The New England Chronicle of 11 September 1777 carries the notice of libel action for the 100 ton schooner Loyalty on behalf of John Peck Rathburn against her late master Henry Atkins at Bedford in Dartmouth to be held on 24 September, suggesting the prize vessel was taken late in the Summer of 1777. Volume 17 of the “Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the War of the Revolution” notes that marine Esek Whipple appears on a list of officers and men entitled to prize shares in the “Loyalty and Wreck” captured by the sloop Providence while under the command of Rathbun.

According to the pension record, Whipple left the ship prior to the Providence’s embarkation from New Bedford in November on a cruise to the Carolinas. Eventually the 14-gun vessel and her compliment of 75 sailors and marines sans Whipple arrived at New Providence, known today as Nassau, on 25 January 1778. Captain of Marines John Trevett with 23 men in company were landed that evening and marched to Fort Nassau, capturing it’s small garrison by surprise. In the morning of 26 January, Captain Trevett sent some men in a boat to make a prize of the merchant ship Mary in the harbor and then sent others to the governor to secure the surrender of nearby Fort Johnson. After spiking over fifty guns in the two forts, on 28 January 1778, Trevett and his marines abandoned Fort Nassau and returned to the sloop Providence with thirty-two prisoners. In a twist of irony, both the schooner Loyalty and ship Mary were burned at New Bedford in a raid of Old Dartmouth by British troops in September 1778. Captain of Marines Trevett was in Pennsylvania at the time of the raid arguing with the Eastern Naval Board over prize money he felt due his crew. Returning to New England, Trevett was informed the Naval Board had inexplicably chosen to dismiss him from service. This is about the time when, according to his pension testimony, eighteen year old Esek Whipple ceased to refer to the Providence hometown that he grew up in as his place of residence.

Esek Whipple testifies in the pension application, “In March 1778 I enlisted & shipped on board the Providence frigate of thirty guns of which Abraham Whipple was the Commander, where I continued in the said Service on board the said ship and other ships under various commanders in the naval service of the United States, until I was taken prisoner by the British at Charleston South Carolina from on board the Ship called the Queen of France commanded by John Peck Rathburn.” Not to be confused with the sloop of earlier service, this second Providence built by Silvester Bowes at the city of her name, had been launched two years earlier but blockaded in the Providence River for over a year. Esek Whipple would have been on board the vessel under Captain Abraham Whipple’s command on the night of 30 April 1778 when she ran the British blockade engaging two enemy warships in the escape. Sailing for France to obtain arms and supplies for other Continental Navy ships under construction, the frigate Providence arrived at Paimboeuf on 30 May. Departing that place on 8 August, Providence rendezvoused with the frigate Boston at Brest before the two sailed for America on 22 August 1778. The two frigates took three prizes on the homeward bound voyage before making port at Portsmouth, NH on 15 October 1778. The Providence was then sailed to Boston in order to man her crew where one genealogical source claims Esek Whipple was discharged in May 1779, prior to the frigate’s next departure in June.

Whipple’s intimation of service on other Continental Navy vessels before his ill-fated cruise on the frigate Queen of France suggests he may have also done a short hitch on the Ranger. The sloop Ranger sailed in company with the frigates Providence and Queen of France from Boston on 18 June 1779 on the celebrated cruise which infiltrated the Jamaican merchant fleet in mid-July during which the American squadron captured eleven prizes. Afterward, the three Continental Navy ships and eight of their prizes returned to Boston where Esek Whipple apparently went on board the Queen of France under John Peck Rathbun who had taken command of the frigate just prior to the preceding cruise. The Queen of France, in company with frigates Providence and Boston and the sloop Ranger, departed Boston again on 23 November 1779 for a cruise east of Bermuda. The squadron arrived at Charleston, SC on 23 December 1779 to assist in the defense of the city besieged by the British. In time, the frigate Queen of France was sunk in the Cooper River there to avoid falling into enemy hands prior to the city’s loss on 12 May 1780. The crew including Esek Whipple were transferred to man defensive fortifications prior to their surrender. According to his pension testimony, Esek Whipple remained a prisoner until June or July 1780. A statement of claims allowed by the Treasury Department in 1792, records Esek Whipple’s rate as Seaman on the Queen of France, his last pay of $67.83 adjusted to the date of his release on 15 July 1780. After making his way to Philadelphia, Whipple shipped on the armed sloop Argo under Captain Silas Talbot (1751-1813) until the fall of that year.

Like Esek Whipple, Silas Talbot served during the War of Independence in both the Continental Army and Continental Navy. In fact, Whipple may have even served with troops under Talbot’s command as captain in the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment. Commissioned a captain in the Continental Army on 1 July 1775, he too participated in the siege of Boston and marched to New York. As an Army officer, Talbot took command of the Pigot which he had captured from the British and subsequently the Continental sloop Argo. Previously known as sloop Sally, the Argo was contracted by General John Sullivan on 24 March 1779 from Providence merchants Clarke and Nightingale acting as agent for absent owner Nicolas Law of New York for the purpose of clearing Rhode Island Sound of threatening British vessels. On 9 August 1779 Law petitioned Congress for the return of his vessel, seized without his permission, which was not ordered until December of that year. Upon his return to Providence after opening the sound to navigation and taking twelve prizes, Silas Talbot was ordered to surrender command of the Argo. Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in the Army in recognition of his naval success, Congress had meanwhile commissioned Talbot as Captain in the Continental Navy on 17 September 1779, albeit without a replacement command. In February 1780, the Argo was returned to the agent Clarke and Nightingale who temporarily granted custody of the vessel to the Rhode Island Council of War for another two months.

The sloop was commissioned as a Rhode Island privateer under the command of Captain Silas Talbot on 14 April 1780. Low’s interest in the vessel is not ascertained as Providence merchant John Brown and others are then identified as the Argo’s owners. Talbot took the sloop on a short cruise, returning to Providence on 29 May 1780. The vessel apparently remained at Providence at least until mid-July when when Talbot advertised for the return of a runaway slave, probably a member of her crew. Shortly after their departure from Providence, the Argo captured the small prize sloop Surprize bound from New Providence to New York with a cargo of fruit. The Surprize was sent in to Providence, arriving on 21 July 1780 while it is presumed the Argo continued on to Philadelphia. The privateer Argo made port a short time later at Philadelphia where Esek Whipple entered on board, probably in late July. A second commission to Silas Talbot as commander of the privateer sloop Argo dated 27 July 1780 signed by John Jay and RI Governor William Greene is reposited in the Pennsylvania State Archives. Whipple’s cruise on the sloop Argo under Captain Silas Talbot would have been a very short one probably ending by 19 August when Argo’s prize Surprize was advertised for libel. By late August or jjearly September 1780, Talbot was in command of John Brown’s newly constructed privateer General Washington at Providence. At sea by 30 September on her first cruise, Talbot and his 20-gun cruiser with her compliment of 125 men took a valuable merchantman bound from Charleston to London, sending the prize into Boston. He then captured another prize bound for Ireland which was soon retaken before inadvertently sailing into the British fleet off Sandy Hook. Chased by the 74-gun enemy warship Culloden, Talbot and the General Washington were taken off Newport on 16 October 1780. Captain Talbot and twenty of his hands were taken to New York where he remained a prisoner until exchanged in December 1781.

Twenty-seven year old Esek Whipple was married to Meribah Sprague on 3 January 1788 at Gloucester in Providence County, RI. The ceremony was performed by Philemon Hines, an elder of the Six Principle Baptist order who pastored the congregation meeting at Chepachet. Daughter of Gloucester yeoman Jedediah Sprague (1791-1819) and his wife Freelove Jenckes, the twenty-four year old Meribah was born on 23 May 1763. Three months after his wedding, on 5 April 1788 Esek Whipple was counted among the two hundred and twenty-eight Gloucester Freemen who voted resoundingly nay against adopting the Constitution for the United States. Only nine Gloucester men and two hundred and twenty-eight in all of Rhode Island voted in favor with two thousand seven hundred and eight against.

According to his 1818 pension testimony, Esek Whipple moved from Gloucester, RI to Cooperstown in Otsego County, NY in 1792 “where he lived about 11 years when he removed into Dekalb” about 1803. Frank Mackey in “Steamboat Connections: Montreal to Upper Canada, 1816-1843” (2000) reveals Esek Whipple first purchased land at Cooperstown from Judge William Cooper, father of celebrated American writer James Fenimore Cooper, on 23 May 1792. A clue as to where near Cooperstown Esek Whipple lived may be found in a 24 February 1814 letter from surveyor Potter Goff who indicates Whipple owed him $4.58 since 27 January 1810. Goff originally recorded Whipple’s place of residence as Burlington, twelve miles west of Cooperstown, but then crossed out the town suggesting a correction with Whipple’s move to Dekalb. It is hypothesized Whipple’s father and mother lived even closer to Cooperstown as they are buried in a privately owned family cemetery off of Glimmer Glen Road about 3 miles north of town on a farm owned by Howard J. Gage in 1912. Their final resting place was described in 1996 as about one hundred feet west across an open field near the tallest pine tree at the edge of a woods on the south side of Glimmer Glen Road, 1.3 miles from Interstate 80, just before Windy Meadows Farm.

Referencing the earlier work of Cyrus Thomas “William Cooper’s Town, Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic” (1995), Mackey also identifies Esek Whipple as one of thirty-four original settlers of the Oswegatchie River town of Dekalb led by Cooper in May 1803. The exploits of this settlement expedition are recorded in the “History of De Kalb, NY” (1894) edited by Gates Curtis. “A number of the party, with two wagons and spans of horses and a cart drawn by two yoke of oxen, proceeded by way of the Black River country and the old State road to the clearing of Abram Vrooman, near the site of the little village of Oxbow, There they found the roads in such a condition that it was necessary to build boats for a part of their loads, and two canoes were constructed from logs…Their first night was passed in a deserted shanty five miles from Oxbow, where they narrowly escaped being crushed by a falling tree which they had fired to keep off mosquitos. On the second night they reached Bristol’s tavern, half a mile north of the Corners, in the present town of De Peyster. There the women were left while the men cleared a road and bridged Beaver Creek in order to reach their future homes. This was accomplished in eight days, the distance being seven or eight miles, and the settlement was made on the banks of the Oswegatchie, just above Cooper’s Falls. Alexander McCollom, Peter Goff and Stephen Cook, of the original party, went in boats up the Mohawk River with goods which Judge Cooper had purchased in Albany with which to open a store, and they reached their destination by way of Oneida Lake, Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence and the Oswegatchie, arriving with others of the party on the site of De Kalb village June 12, 1803. The usual custom of putting up log houses was begun, and the first night was passed within the waIls of one without a roof. On the second day another house was built, and on the third a building for the store, all roofed with bark or boughs.” Whipple’s deed for land at Dekalb is dated five days later on 17 June 1803. These documentary sources are supplemented with the family history revealed by the Civil War letters of Sergeant John Whipple now in the De Kalb Historical Association collection. When the Town of Dekalb held its first public election in 1806, Esek Whipple and Timothy Utley were elected “Overseers of the Poor”, responsible for the care of the town’s needy and charged with care of the town grave cloth. The following year at a meeting held in the village hotel on 3 March 1807, Whipple was elected 1st Fence Viewer with responsibility for insuring all residents fenced their property legally, mediated boundary disputes between neighbors and made determinations regarding equitable division of maintenance of boundary line fences.

Esek’s wife of twenty-two years, Meribah Sprague Whipple died on 23 June 1810 at the age of forty-seven leaving the widower in the care of at least four children still at home between the ages of eight and fifteen. Eighteen months later, her father Jedediah Sprague of Gloucester remembered the children of his beloved daughter in a will not proved until after his death in 1819; “I hereby order and my will is that my Executor sell one certain lot of land of about two hundred and twenty five acres lying in the Town of Norwich in the State of New York and is in that part commonly called Heflin Steers Purchase and is the lot number of thirteen in said purchase and deed or deeds by them given shall convey to the purchaser or purchasers a good title thereunto, and that out of the money arising from the sale of the before above described lands that my Executor shall pay unto the children of my Daughter Mariba Whipple, lately the wife of Esek Whipple but is now deceased, the sum of one hundred dollars to be equally divided between them all, but if either of them shall die before they arrive of full age, then the part and share that would have belonged to that or them shall go to and be equally divided between the surviving children of her and to be paid to them in one year after my decease”.

According to Mackey in “Steamboat Connections: Montreal to Upper Canada, 1816-1843”, Revolutionary War veteran Esek Whipple “served six months under arms at Ogdensburg in the War of 1812”. Ogdensburg is where the Oswegatchie River empties into the St. Lawrence River about twenty miles downstream from Whipple’s home at Dekalb. It is not presently known if Esek Whipple achieved the rank of Captain noted in his mortuary notice during this wartime capacity or if it was earned in a Gloucester maritime career prior to his move to New York, as nothing has been ascertained concerning his occupation while living in Massachusetts. The enterprising fifty-two year old may also have been the person referred to when a militia officer addressed the adjutant in charge of the Ogdensburg Barracks on 25 May 1812 and quoted by Mackey as stating “You will receive by Whipple, four bbls. of pork, four axes, and one frying pan, which belong to the troops, together with one bbl. Of whiskey for their use”. Esek’s seventeen year old son Esek, Jr. apparently served as a private in Capt. Henry B. Turner’s Company of Col. George Fleming’s Regiment from July to September of that same year, serving at Oswego, NY. Two years older, brother Elisha Whipple also served as Sergeant at Sackett’s Harbor in Capt. Jehiel Dimock’s Company of Major Benjamin Forsythe’s Calvary between January and April 1813.

Esek Whipple’s father Benajah died on 17 March 1816, his will probated on 8 June mentioning his oldest son, “As to the remainder of my estate, both real and personal, I give and bequeath to my sons, Eseck Whipple, Barnet Whipple and Reuben Whipple, to be equally divided among them within one year after my death, and I do hereby appoint my son Barnet Whipple to be Executor of this my last will and testament, hereby revoking all former wills by me made.” Based on his pension application filed two years later stating “I am unable to do much labor being constantly lame and afflicted with Rheumatism, And at times unable to walk”, Esek Whipple was granted Pension Certificate #2407 for his Continental Navy service as a mariner on 17 September 1818 in the amount of $96 per year. At the time, Whipple listed his personal assets in a ‘Schedule of Property’ reading “Real estate I have none. Personal estate 1 cow, 8 sheep, 1 ax, 2 iron wedges, necessary wearing apparel which is however for the most part old and poor”. The fifty-eight year old farmer also listed his creditors including: Reuben Whipple; Esek Whipple, my son; Geo. N. Seymour, merchant and Orry Lord. This close brother Reuben Whipple was also married to Meribah’s sister Alice Sprague. Four years later, Esek updated his personal financial situation for the pension record listing his assets as one (cow), 15 old sheep & lambs, one old mare and one yearling heifer. Also updated was the list of those he was indebted naming: Reuben Whipple; Geo. A. Spencer; Orrin (Orrel E.) Lord; Esek Whipple, Junior and Asa (Asa D.) Sprague, junior. In both the 1818 and 1822 pension testimonies, Esek Whipple mentions a wife, the latter referring to her as sixty-four years old and infirm. The 1830 Federal Census records only one female between the ages of 70 and 79, consistent with the previously noted unnamed second wife born about 1758, living in the Dekalb household of the seventy year old pensioner.

According to pension testimony offered in 1822, Esek Whipple had six living children at the time, four sons and two daughters. By that time, oldest son Olney (1788-1813) and oldest daughter Mary (born 1792) had already passed away. According to Whipple’s testimony, three of his sons were in Canada and the last he had heard from the fourth, he was in Louisiana. Apparently the three who had traveled north were Asahel (1790-1844), Elisha (1793-1868) and Daniel (1798-1855); as Esek Whipple, Junior (1795-1831) died at the age of thirty-five on 15 April 1831 at Jackson in East Feliciana County, LA. The lack of detailed knowledge about his sons’ whereabouts is explained by the senior Whipple, “I am not well informed concerning their primary circumstance, But suppose them in rather indigent circumstances” With regards to his two living daughters, Esek Whipple notes that one is married and both reside in Dekalb “in low circumstances.” It is presumed that the married daughter referred to is Rhoda (1800-1837), wife of Asa Sprague who is also listed in the pension application as a creditor of the aged veteran. It is hypothesized the unmarried daughter is Elizabeth (1802-1838), who shortly thereafter married Gabriel Redmond and also moved to Canada.

Esek Whipple died on 21 December 1833 at DeKalb in St. Lawrence County, NY- his last pension payment recorded in the third quarter of that year. His mortuary notice appearing in the Geneva Gazette of 1 January 1834 reads, “in Dekalb, 21st ult. Capt. Esek Whipple, 74, a Revolutionary patriot”. His resting place is not yet known but may be with his parents on Glimmer Glen Road near Cooperstown or in the cemetery associated with the Brick Chapel near Langdon Corners in St. Lawrence County, fifteen miles Northeast of Dekalb. It is known that Esek Whipple made a five dollar donation toward the erection of that edifice at South Canton in 1819 although his relationship to the church family there is a mystery. Originally built by the Methodist Church Society of Canton, the chapel was rebuilt by Methodists in 1858 prior to the congregation’s 1910 merger with the local Presbyterian church. The Continental Navy veteran’s association with that locale is also supported by the newspaper reporting of a 10 September 1824 political meeting of the Democratic Republicans at the Canton home of Medad Moody, in which Esek Whipple’s attendance is recorded. Mackey in “Steamboat Connections: Montreal to Upper Canada, 1816-1843” references his Whipple Family sources as the New York Historical Society at Cooperstown and Hartwick College at Oneonta, NY.

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