Prince Whipple: The Enslaved African Who Served in The American Revolution


According to American history, African-Americans have played a critical role in the development and growth of the United States. Besides, black Americans have also contributed to the rapid growth of American civilization. In American history, there has been a time when the country experienced wars and the white army leaders forced some of the black Americans to fight for the country, which resulted in the deaths of many black people. An example of an African who fought or served in such War (the American Revolution) was Prince Whipple.

Brief Description of the American Revolution

The American Revolution was a political and ideological revolt in colonial N. America between 1765 and 1783. The Americans in the 13 Colonies defeated the British in the American Revolutionary War, gaining self-governance from the British Crown and establishing the USA, the 1st modern constitutional liberal democracy.

American colonists objected to the British Parliament taxing them. Prior to the 1760s, Britain’s American colonies had enjoyed the highest level of autonomy in their affairs, which colonial legislatures managed. The passage of the Stamp Act of 1765 resulted in colonial protest and the meeting of representatives of many colonies in the Stamp Act Congress. Tensions reduced with the British revoke or repeal of the Stamp Act but flared again with the passage of the Townshend Acts in 1767.

The British authority deployed soldiers to Boston in 1768 to suppress unrest, resulting in the Boston Massacre in 1770. The Gaspee burning in Rhode Island in 1772 and the Boston Tea Party in 1773 increased tensions. The British responded by closing Boston Harbor and passing or enacting multiple punitive laws which canceled Massachusetts Bay Colony’s self-government privileges. The other colonies united behind Massachusetts, and a group of American Patriot leaders established their government in 1774 at the Continental Congress to organize Britain’s resistance. Other colonists maintained their loyalty to the Crown and were called Tories or Loyalists.

Open War arose when British regulars sent to take or capture a cache of military supplies encountered a local Patriot armed force at Lexington and Concord in 1775. The Patriot armed force and the Continental Army put the British troops in Boston under siege. Each territory established a Provincial Congress, which assumed power from the earlier colonial authorities and contributed to the Continental Army in which General George Washington led. The Continental Congress declared King George the 3rd a tyrant who crushed the colonists’ rights as Englishmen and pronounced the territories free and independent in 1776.

The Patriot leadership admitted or professed the political philosophies of republicanism and liberalism to reject aristocracy and monarchy, and they proclaimed that all men are equal.

The Patriots unsuccessfully tried to attack Quebec during the winter of 1775 to 1776. The new Continental Army forced the British army out of Boston in 1776. However, the British force captured New York City and its harbor, which they held for the War duration. The Royal Navy blockaded ports and took over other towns for short periods, but they did not destroy Washington’s forces. The Continental Army took over a British military at the Saratoga Battle in 1777, and the French force entered the War as a friend of the US. Britain then refocused its War to make the French power the central foe.  The British force also tried to hold the Southern states with Loyalists’ help, and the War went South.

Charles Cornwallis took over an army at Charleston in 1780 but failed to enlist enough volunteers from Loyalist civilians to take charge of the colony. Eventually, a combined French and American force took over a 2nd British army at Yorktown in 1781, ending the War.

The significant outcomes or results of the Revolution were American independence and economic alliance with Britain. The Americans adopted the US Constitution, forming a strong national authority that comprised a national Judiciary, an elected executive, and an elected bicameral Congress representing states in the Senate and the House of Representatives’ population. More than 55000 Loyalists moved or migrated to other British colonies, especially Canada or British North America. However, the great majority remained in the US.


Who is Prince Whipple?

Prince Whipple was a black American slave and later a freedman. Prince Whipple was a bodyguard and a soldier during the American Revolution under his master General William Whipple of the New Hampshire Militia, who gave or granted him his freedom after the War.

His Early Life

In his mid-19th century (1855) book ‘Colored Patriots of the American Revolution,’ the 19th-century black American abolitionist and author, William Cooper Nell, related some unrecorded anecdotes concerning Whipple and his life.

William Cooper Nell said that: Prince Whipple was born in Africa to rich parents. When he was 10 years, they sent him to America to get an education in a company with a relative. An elder brother had returned 4 years before, and his parents wanted him to receive the same benefits. The captain who brought the two children over was a treacherous villain and carried them to Baltimore, where he exposed them for sale. Portsmouth men bought them, Prince falling to General William Whipple. He got freed during the Revolutionary War.

The General once entrusted him with a lot of money to carry from Salem to Portsmouth. Two Ruffians attacked him on the road near Newburyport, and he struck one with a loaded whip and the other one he shot. All who knew Prince loved him. He was also called Caleb Quotom of Portsmouth, where he died, leaving Dinah a freed person and more than one child.

During Prince’s early life, he joined General William as a servant in big dinners, balls, weddings, and parties that the white population of New Hampshire organized.



Prince in the American Revolution

When the Revolution began, William Whipple got assigned as a Captain in the Continental Army and took Prince with him. As mentioned earlier, he served as a bodyguard to William due to military rules and regulations that prohibited Africans from serving in the militia. Despite the prohibitions, reports had reported that the Africans or Blacks fought alongside the colonists in several battles, including Bunker Hill and Lexington. The British offered liberation to American slaves if they served in the British Army against the American territories or colonies. In the late 18th century (1780), the Southern Colonies started to draft free Africans and a selected number of enslaved men for military service as a response to the British’s acts. The Africans’ conscription was an answer to the reducing labor of the 13 Colonies. The increased need for men permitted Prince to serve as a military aide to General William Whipple and a fighter in the New Hampshire Militia.

Prince’s Service Under William Whipple

In 1777, William got promoted to brigadier general and got ordered to go to Vermont. Prince joined him but challenged his position as a slave. He argued with William, and William offered him his liberation if he continued his military service. Prince agreed, and by the end of the War, as mentioned earlier, William ended Prince’s servitude. According to the Portsmouth Town records, General William Whipple gave Prince Whipple the rights of a free person on February 22nd, 1781, Prince Whipple’s wedding day. General William Whipple legally manumitted him on February 26th, 1784.

About the Freedom Petition

Before General William gave Prince a free person’s rights in 1781, 2 years ago (1779), Prince joined with 19 other freed slaves who called themselves the Natives of Africa in Portsmouth. They went to the House and Council sitting of New Hampshire and petitioned for their liberation to be kept.  Their plea for liberty went public in the New Hampshire Gazette.

Prince Whipple’s Legacy

Prince Whipple’s legacy during the American Revolution didn’t go unnoticed among artists. His service with General William Whipple and George Washington is depicted in 2 art pieces. These pieces are Washington Crossing Delaware and the Passage of Delaware.

Washington Crossing Delaware

According to legend, Prince accompanied George Washington and General William Whipple in the popular crossing River Delaware and is the African man portrayed fending office using an oar at Washington’s knee in the painting. Emanuel Leutze, a German-American artist, has painted the picture more than 70 years after the event. Most historians are skeptical or doubt that there’s any basis for the story. It is unlikely that either Prince Whipple or General Whipple was present at the Trenton Battle. At that time, General William Whipple was in the Continental Congress, which had fled Philadelphia and resumed in Baltimore.

Moreover, Prince was not popular when the painting got commissioned, and it’s unlikely that Emanuele Leutze would have heard of him.

The Passage of Delaware

In the early 19th century (1819), Thomas Sully, an American painter, created his interpretation of the Trenton Battle. The painting shows Washington on a white horse around 3 white officers and an African man. The African soldier in the painting is wearing red clothing talking to an officer. The man in this picture is Prince Whipple as Thomas Sully had heard about Prince Whipple and added him into his painting.


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