Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Amiel Weeks Whipple

I just received a note from Blaine Whipple, noting that Fort Whipple in Prescott, Arizona, was named after General Amiel Weeks Whipple. Blaine's note cites an article in The Daily Courier entitled Days Past: The First Christmas in Prescott - Part I.

This is a good excuse to say a few other things about General Amiel. He was born 21 Oct 1817 in Greenwich, Hampshire County, Massachusetts. He died on 7 May 1863 in Washington, D.C. from wounds received while defending Washington at the battle of Chancellorsville during the U.S. Civil War.

During the decade preceding his death, Amiel was a first lieutenant in the Army Corps of Topographical Engineers. He led a government expedition in 1854 to determine the most practical route for the Pacific Railroad. (Note: This was more than 10 years before the first Pacific Railroad--the Union Pacific Railroad--was completed further north in the United States.) Instructed to follow the 35th Parallel of north latitude, Whipple traveled east to west. In western Arizona, he drifted south of the 35th Parallel because of the scarcity of water between today's Kingman and the Colorado River. He then went upstream to present-day Needles and continued along the 35th Parallel to Cajon Pass and the Los Angeles basin.

Amiel has left his mark numerous places in the U.S. Here are a few:
  • Fort Whipple, Prescott, Arizona. Fort Whipple, established to protect Prescott, Arizona's first territorial capital, is now the site of a Veterans Administration Hospital. See also the North American Forts web site.
  • Whipple Mountains and Whipple Bay, California. The Havasu Magazine mentions both. It also mentions the plant Yucca Whipplei (also known as Our Lord's Candle), named after Whipple.
  • Fort Myer, Virginia, was originally named Fort Whipple. The fourth paragraph of the Fort Myer page of the Arlington National Cemetery web site begins a discussion of that Fort Whipple.
I'm still trying to verify whether the flower Whipple's Penstemon (Penstemon whippleanus) is named after Amiel Whipple. It is found in Arizona and many places in the western United States.

For a deeper look into the life of Amiel Weeks Whipple, you might start with these:
  • Shelburne, John P., and Gordon, Mary McDougall. Through Indian Country to California : John P. Sherburne's Diary of the Whipple Expedition, 1853-1854. -- Stanford : Stanford University Press, 1988. ISBN: 0804714479
  • Furgurson, Ernest B. Chancellorsville 1863 : The Souls of the Brave. -- Vintage Books, 1993. ISBN: 0679728317
Amiel Weeks Whipple appears in the Whipple Genweb.

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