If you’ve ever seen a copy of Emmanuel Leutze's 1851 painting, "Washington Crossing the Delaware," at the New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art, you’ll notice a black soldier at the helm, helping to row. The soldier is said to be Prince “Caleb Quotem” Whipple. His original name is unknown.
Quotem was an African prince born in 1750 to wealthy parents in Ambou, Africa. At age 10, he and his cousin were offered the opportunity to go to America and be educated by a ship captain. His parents had no reason to feel uneasy about the trip, as they sent an older son years prior on the same expedition. But when they arrived to America, Quotem was sold into slavery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to General William Whipple, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. His life story, now as Prince Whipple, would become one of military history and a court struggle for freedom in 1779.
When General Whipple was called to the Revolutionary war, Prince Whipple was forced to accompany him. As a slave, Whipple worked for the military’s prominent soldiers, who were impressed with his literacy and eloquent manner. One of those men included then-General George Washington. It was said that General Washington trusted him so much, that he was once given a large amount of money to transport from Salem to Portsmouth. During his trip, he was attacked on the road, by two men, both of whom he defeated with a whip and a gun.
In 1779, Prince Whipple, along with 19 other slaves, petitioned the courts for freedom, based on their kidnapping from Africa as children. The petition was set aside, and the prince was not freed until 1784.
Prince Whipple married a freed slave named Dinah in 1781 before he was freed, and had seven children. He died in 1796, and his grave is located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.