In June 1772, Whipple and John Brown led a party of Rhode Islanders in the scandalous and successful foray down Narragansett Bay to burn the English revenue schooner Gaspee. Whipple's experience and reputation as a seaman and patriot made him the logical choice to command the two-vessel Rhode Island navy when it was formed by the General Assembly in June, 1775. His Rhode Island flagship, Katy, was then taken into the Continental navy and renamed Providence, with Whipple still in command. Later Whipple was given another ship and joined father-in-law Esek Hopkins in the American attack on the Bahamas in March, 1776.
In 1778, Whipple again took command of the Providence which made a successful voyage to France to obtain valuable supplies of arms and uniforms. Whipple's most famous wartime exploit occurred in July, 1779. Providence was cruising in company with Queen of France and Ranger off the coast of Newfoundland. Early in the morning of July 18, through heavy fog, the Americans heard the sound of ship bells. Whipple soon realized that he had sailed into the British Jamaica fleet consisting of sixty vessels heavily laden with cargo. The three American frigates cut out several prizes, seven of which they brought safely to Boston, where they were auctioned. The proceeds were divided between the captors and the Congress. It was the richest haul of the Revolution; Whipple and his crew shared nearly $1 million.
Toward the end of the war Whipple was sent to Charleston, South Carolina, to help defend it against British attack. When the city fell on May 12, 1780, he was taken prisoner. Later released on parole, he never resumed his duties as a naval officer. After the war, Whipple returned to Rhode Island, but in 1788, he headed west with James Mitchell Varnum and settled on a farm in Marietta, Ohio with his family. Aside from a voyage to New Orleans and Havana in 1801, Whipple lived uneventfully in Marietta, where he died in 1819.
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