Pardon Mawney Whipple
Dates of Service: -
Birth Date: 1790
Death Date: 5/11/1827
Pardon Mawney Whipple was born to William and Abigail Whipple in 1790 in New York, possibly the 12th of 14 children. While born in New York, he was raised in Providence, Rhode Island. His father William had been an officer in the War for Independence.
Whipple joined the Navy in 1812 as a midshipman and was posted to Constitution in 1813. As a midshipman, an officer in training, Whipple would have been formerly tutored in math, languages and literature, but most of his training in seamanship and leadership would have been received on the job. For his pay of $19.00 a month, he was required to do whatever was asked of him, which ranged from standing watch to supervising work crews to co-commanding a division in battle. His battle station was 3rd Division, Gun Deck, assisting the Officer in Charge.
Each midshipman was also expected to keep a journal for recording essential information and observations. In addition to his official journal, Whipple kept a letterbook from 1813 to 1821, in which he wrote copies of letters he sent to friends and family. The letterbook was passed down through his family, preserving a record of his experiences on Constitution and subsequent postings.
Whipple served two tours aboard Constitution. The first began in May 1813, after the ship spent several months in repair at the Charlestown Navy Yard. Whipple expressed his impatience in a letter to a friend:
“…you can well imagine how anxiously I looked forward to the moment when we shall unfurl our sails & launch into the bosom of the ocean, after having been kept so long in suspense, it is like emancipation from slavery, to have my name enroled on the list with this gallant crew…”
Once at sea, Constitution captured several ships, including Lovely Ann, which Whipple was ordered to sail with British prisoners aboard to Barbados. Eager for action, Whipple was disappointed by this assignment:
“…how fondly I looked forward to the moment when we should meet the enemy…judge, then, what must have been my disappointment when I received orders to take charge of the prisoners & leave the ship at this interesting moment, where I had expected to gain so much; all my hopes were blasted at one dash.”
Whipple was detained by the British in Barbados for political reasons before making his way back to the United States. Rejoining Constitution in 1815, he was aboard during the battles against HMS Cyane and Levant on February 20, and acted as a boat officer transferring prisoners of war from the former. He shared with the crew $45,000 in prize money for the victory. In a letter he describes the grim realities of war, witnessed when he boarded the defeated Levant:
“…this being the first action I was ever in, you can imagine to yourself what were my feelings to hear the horrid groans of the wounded & dying, & the scene that presented itself the next morning at daylight on board of the Levant, the quarter deck seemed to have the appearance of a slaughter house…the mizenmast for several feet was covered with brains & blood; pieces of bones, fingers, & large pieces of flesh were picked up from off the deck.”
Whipple left the Constitution on September 10, 1815 and served in the Mediterranean on USS Washington and USS Spark. He attained the rank of lieutenant in March 1820 and was paid $40.00 a month. In February 1821 he heroically rescued two Swedish sailors off the coast of Spain.
His second cruise aboard Constitution began October 8, 1821 from Gibraltar, as the ship sailed to protect American commerce in the Mediterranean. He went on leave from December 1821 to November 1823 due to his declining health and left for good on September 30, 1824.
Whipple died at age 37 on May 11, 1827 from tuberculosis. He was buried near his parents in Providence, Rhode Island.