Whipple I (Destroyer No. 15)
(Destroyer No. 15: dp. 600; l. 259'6"; b. 23'3"; dr. 6' (mean); s. 28.24 k.; cpl. 73; a. 2 3", 6 6-pdrs., 2 18" tt.; cl. Bainbridge)
Abraham Whipple, born on 26 September 1733, near Providence, R.I., chose to be a seafarer early in his life and embarked upon a career in the lucrative West Indies trade. In the French and Indian War period, he became a privateersman and commanded privateer Game Cock from 1759 to 1760. In one six-month cruise, he captured 23 French ships.
As American colonists began to resist what they considered unfair oppression by the British crown, acts of defiance became more and more prevalent. One such occurrence happened on 18 June 1772, when Whipple led 50 Rhode Islanders in the capture and burning of British revenue cutter Gaspee, which had run aground off Pawtucket while chasing the packet Hannah.
Three years later, the Rhode Island Assembly appointed Whipple commodore of two ships fitted out for the defense of the colony's trade. On the day the sea captain received his commission, 15 June 1775, he led his men to capture the tender to frigate HMS Rose. After cruising in the vicinity of Narragansett Bay, he headed south to Bermuda to procure gunpowder for use by the colony and, on the return voyage, transported naval recruits to Philadelphia. Upon her arrival there, his ship, Katy, was taken over by agents of the Continental Congress and was fitted out as sloop-of-war Providence.
Whipple was commissioned a captain in the Continental Navy on 22 December and was given command of 24-gun frigate Columbus. During the period from 17 February to 8 April 1776, he commanded that ship during the first American Navy-Marine Corps amphibious expedition-the cruise to New Providence, in the Bahamas, to seize essential military supplies from the British garrison at Nassau.
After returning north to New England, Whipple captured five British prizes before 27 March 1778, when his ship ran aground off Judith Point. After stripping the ship, the wily captain and his crew abandoned her and escaped capture ashore.
Next assigned to command 28-gun frigate Providence, Whipple ran the British blockade on the night of 30 April 1778, damaging HMS Lark and outrunning another Britisher during the escape. Tacking for France, Whipple's Providence crossed the Atlantic unmolested, bearing important dispatches relating to agreements between France and the American colonies, and reached Paimboeuf. After acquiring needed guns and supplies for the Continental Army, Providence and Boston sailed home to the colonies, taking three prizes en route.
Upon his return, Whipple received command of a small squadron: Providence, Ranger, and Queen of France. On one occasion in mid-July 1779, this group of ships encountered a large British convoy in dense fog off the Newfoundland Banks. Whipple cagily concealed his guns and ran up the British flag. Like a wolf among sheep, he cut 11 prizes out of the convoy, eight of which contained spoils of war valued together at over one million dollars, easily one of the richest captures of the entire war.
Following this adventure, Whipple cruised off Bermuda before arriving at Charleston, S.C., on 23 December 1779. British forces threatened that key Continental port, causing the guns and crews from the Continental Navy ships in port to be moved on shore to reinforce the land batteries to repulse the expected British assault.
However, after a rugged four-month siege, the overwhelming pressure of British arms forced the Continental forces to surrender on 12 May 1780. Whipple remained a prisoner of the British until he was paroled to Chester, Pa., and he took no further part in the war. Upon the conclusion of hostilities, Whipple took up farming near Cranston, R.I.
For the remainder of his life, he remained a farmer, with the exception of two spells of seafaring as master of merchantmen, first of General Washington and then of St. Clair. With the formation of the Ohio Company in 1788 and the initial westward migration into that territory, Whipple and his family became pioneers on the American frontier and were among the founders of the town of Marietta, Ohio. Granted a pension by Congress in recognition of his distinguished service in helping to win American independence, Whipple died at Marietta on 27 May 1819.
The first Whipple (Destroyer No. 15) was laid down on 13 November 1899 at Sparrows Point, Md., by the Maryland Steel Co.; launched on 15 August 1901; sponsored by Miss Elsie Pope; and commissioned on 17 February 1903, Lt. Jehu V. Chase in command.
After training in Chesapeake Bay, Whipple was assigned to the 2d Torpedo Flotilla, Atlantic Fleet, and was based at Norfolk. The destroyer periodically served as flagship of the flotilla and operated off the east coast and in the Caribbean until she was placed in reserve at Norfolk on 5 September 1905.
Returning to active service on 16 July 1906, the ship conducted tactical exercises and routine training operations through November of 1907. On 2 December, Whipple stood out of Hampton Roads and headed south toward the Caribbean for goodwill visits, "showing the flag."
Subsequently following in the wake of the 16 battleships of the Great White Fleet, Whipple and her flotilla-mates called at Rio de Janeiro; rounded Cape Horn for ports on the Chilean and Peruvian coasts; and conducted target practice at Magdalena Bay, Mexico. After participating in a fleet review at San Francisco on 8 May 1908, Whipple remained on the west coast, based at San Diego, as a unit of the Pacific Torpedo Flotilla.
Departing San Francisco at the end of a towline on 24 August, the destroyer subsequently took part in fleet battle problems in Hawaiian waters. Upon completion of the exercises, she steamed back to the west coast via Samoa and Magdalena Bay, Baja California, before arriving at San Diego on 1 December.
For the next six years, the destroyer operated off the west coast between San Diego and Magdalena Bay and made one cruise to Alaskan waters for maneuvers. The ship received the Mexican Service Medal for service off the Mexican coast in 1914 and 1916. While that country suffered in the throes of revolution and civil strife, the destroyer conducted patrols and stood ready to protect American lives and property.
On 6 April 1917, America entered World War I on the side of Britain, France, and Italy. Whipple soon commenced patrols off the approaches to the vital Panama Canal before departing the Canal Zone on 5 July.
Refitted for "distant service," the destroyer put to sea on 28 August, bound for the Atlantic war zone, and put into the Azores on 17 September. Whipple operated on escort duties, convoying ships to and from the strategic islands for the next three months.
She then received orders to report at Brest, France. Antisubmarine patrols and convoy escort duties occupied Whipple through the early spring of 1918. On 17 April, munition ship Florence H. blew up off Quiberon Bay. Braying flying debris from the exploding ship, Whipple joined Stewart (Destroyer No. 13) and Truxtun (Destroyer No. 14) in rescuing 32 men of the 77-man crew of that doomed vessel.
Whipple carried out her routine wartime patrol duties through the end of hostilities. On 9 December, the destroyer departed the French coast and headed homeward, touching at the Azores and Bermuda before making port at Philadelphia on 3 January 1919.
The destroyer was decommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 7 July 1919, and her name was struck from the Navy list on 15 September. On 3 January 1920, J. G. Hitner, of Philadelphia, purchased the ship for scrapping.