African Americans in the Revolutionary War
Courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art.
According to tradition Prince Whipple was born free in Africa and sent abroad to North America, where he was sold into slavery as a young man. He accompanied his master, a brigadier general named William Whipple, on military campaigns to Saratoga, New York, in 1777 and Rhode Island in 1778. In spite of his service he remained a slave during the Revolution, and in 1779 he was among twenty enslaved men who signed a petition to the New Hampshire legislature asking for the abolition of slavery in the state. Nineteenth-century tradition later placed him with George Washington at the crossing of the Delaware, although no documentation exists to verify this story. Indeed, according to other versions of the tale Washington was accompanied not by Whipple but by Prince Estabrook of Lexington, Massachusetts. Nevertheless, the tradition that a black man was present with Washington at the historic crossing is depicted in Emanuel Leutze's famous 1851 painting, "George Washington Crossing the Delaware."