The Colored Cadet at West Point.
Autobiography of Lieut. Henry Ossian Flipper, U.S.A.,
First Graduate of Color from the U.S. Military Academy
by Henry Ossian Flipper
The Faculty of Atlanta University, Atlanta, Ga.,
THE PRESIDENT IN PARTICULAR,
TO WHOSE CAREFUL
MENTAL AND MORAL TRAINING OF MYSELF IS DUE ALL
MY SUCCESS AT THE MILITARY ACADEMY
AT WEST POINT, N. Y.,
I AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATE THIS VOLUME,
AS IN SOME SORT
A TOKEN OF THAT HEARTFELT GRATITUDE WHICH
I SO DEEPLY FEEL, BUT CAN SO
RETROSPECT, . . . . . . . . . . 7
COMMUNICATIONS, ETC., . . . . . 17
REPORTING, . . . . . . . . . . .29
CANT TERMS, . . . . . . . . . . 49
PLEBE CAMP, . . . . . . . . . . 57
STUDIES, ETC., . . . . . . . . .73
YEARLING CAMP, . . . . . . . . 102
FIRST CLASS CAMP, . . . . . . .108
OUR FUTURE HEROES, . . . . . . 114
TREATMENT, . . . . . . . . . . 117
RESUME, . . . . . . . . . . . .166
PLEASURES AND PRIVILEGES, . . .187
FURLOUGH, . . . .. . . . . . . .203
INCIDENT, HUMOR, ETC., . . . . 207
GRADUATION--IN THE ARMY, . . . 238
SMITH AT WEST POINT, . . . . . 288
THE following pages were written by request. They claim to give an accurate and impartial narrative of my four years' life while a cadet at West Point, as well as a general idea of the institution there. They are almost an exact transcription of notes taken at various times during those four years. Any inconsistencies, real or apparent, in my opinions or in the impressions made upon me, are due to the fact that they were made at different times at a place where the feelings of all were constantly undergoing material change.
They do not pretend to merit. Neither are they written for the purpose of criticising the Military Academy or those in any way connected with it.
My "notes" have been seen and read. If I please those who requested me to publish them I shall be content, as I have no other object in putting them
before the public.
H. O. F.
FORT SILL, INDIAN TER., 1878.
THE COLORED CADET
HENRY OSSIAN FLIPPER, the eldest of five brothers, and the subject of this narrative, was born in Thomasville, Thomas County, Georgia, on the 21st day of March, 1856. He and his mother were the property (?) of Rev. Reuben H. Lucky, a Methodist minister of that place. His father, Festus Flipper, by trade a shoemaker and carriage-trimmer, was owned by Ephraim G. Ponder, a successful and influential slave-dealer.
In 1859 Mr. Ponder, having retired from business, returned to Georgia from Virginia with a number of mechanics, all slaves,and among whom was the father of young Flipper. He established a number of manufactories in Atlanta, then a growing inland town of Georgia. He married about this time a beautiful, accomplished, and wealthy lady. "Flipper," as he was generally called, had married before this, and had been taken back alone to his native Virginia to serve an apprenticeship under a carriage-trimmer. This served, Mr. Ponder joined his wife in Thomasville, bringing with him, as stated, a number of mechanics.
All were soon ready for transportation to Atlanta except "Flipper." As he and his wife were each the property (?) of different persons, there was, under the circumstances, every probability of a separation. This, of course, would be to them most displeasing. Accordingly an application was made to Mr. Ponder to purchase the wife and son. This he was, he said, unable to do. He had, at an enormous expense, procured and fitted up a home, and his coffers were nearly, if not quite, empty. Husband and wife then appealed to Mr. Lucky. He, too, was averse to parting them, but could not, at the great price asked for him, purchase the husband. He was willing however, to sell the wife. An agreement was finally made by which the husband paid from his own pocket the purchase-money of his own wife and child, this sum to be returned to him by Mr. Ponder whenever convenient. The joy of the wife can be conceived. It can not be expressed.
In due time all arrived at Atlanta, where Mr. Ponder had purchased about twenty-five acres of land and had erected thereon, at great expense, a superb mansion for his own family, a number of substantial frame dwellings for his slaves, and three large buildings for manufacturing purposes.
Of sixty-five slaves nearly all of the men were mechanics. All of them except the necessary household servants, a gardener, and a coachman, were permitted to hire their own time. Mr. Ponder would have absolutely nothing to do with their business other than to protect them. So that if any one wanted any article of their manufacture they contracted with
the workman and paid him his own price. These bond people were therefore virtually free. They acquired and accumulated wealth, lived happily, and needed but two other things to make them like other human beings, viz., absolute freedom and education. But
"God moves in a mysterious way
And through that very mysteriousness this people was destined to attain to the higher enjoyment of life. The country, trembling under the agitation of the slave question, was steadily seeking a condition of equilibrium which could be stable only in the complete downfall of slavery. Unknown to them, yet existing, the great question of the day was gradually being solved; and in its solution was working out the salvation of an enslaved people. Well did that noblest of women, Mrs. Julia Ward Howe, sing a few years after:
His wonders to perform."
"Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
Another influence was as steadily tending to the same end. Its object was to educate, to elevate intellectually, and then to let the power thus acquired act.
He is tramping out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword;
This truth is marching on.
"I have seen him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read his righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.
"I have read a fiery gospel, writ in burnished rows of steel;
'As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.'
"He hath sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before his judgment-seat;
Oh! be swift my soul to answer him! be jubilant my feet!
Our God is marching on.
"In the beauty of the lilies, Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me;
As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on."
The mistress of this fortunate household, far from discharging the duties and functions of her station, left them unnoticed, and devoted her whole attention to illegitimate pleasures. The outraged husband appointed a guardian and returned broken-hearted to the bosom of his own family, and devoted himself till death to agricultural pursuits.
The nature of the marriage contract prevented the selling of any of the property without the mutual consent of husband and wife. No such consent was ever asked for by either. No one was, therefore, in that state of affairs, afraid of being sold away from his or her relatives, although their mistress frequently threatened so to sell them. "I'll send you to Red River," was a common menace of hers, but perfectly harmless, for all knew, as well as she did, that it was impossible to carry it into execution.
In this condition of affairs the "servants" were even more contented than ever. They hired their time, as usual, and paid their wages to their mistress, whose only thought or care was to remember when it became due, and then to receive it.
The guardian, an influential stockholder in several railroads, and who resided in another city, made periodical visits to inspect and do whatever was necessary to a proper discharge of his duties.
Circumstances being highly favorable, one of the mechanics, who had acquired the rudiments of an education, applied to this dissolute mistress for permission to teach the children of her "servants." She readily consented, and, accordingly, a night-School was opened in the very woodshop in which he worked by day. Here young Flipper was initiated into the first of the three mysterious R's, viz., "reading 'riting and 'rithmetic." Here, in 1864, at eight years of age, his education began. And the first book he ever studied--I dare say ever saw--was a confederate reprint of Webster's
"Blueback Speller." His then tutor has since graduated at Westminster College in Pennsylvania, and is, at the time of this writing, United States Consul at Malaga, Spain, having served in the same capacity for four years at Port Mahon, Spain.
But alas! even this happy arrangement was destined to be disturbed. This dissolute mistress and her slaves, with all valuable movable property, were compelled to flee before Sherman's victorious arms. Macon, a city just one hundred and three miles south-east of Atlanta, became the new home of the Flippers. A spacious dwelling was secured in West Macon. In a part of this was stored away Mrs. Ponder's plate and furniture, under the guardianship of Flipper, who with his family occupied the rest of the house. Here all was safe. The terrible fate of Atlanta was not extended to Macon. The only cause of alarm was Wilson, who approached the city from the east, and, having thrown in a few shells, withdrew without doing further damage or being molested. Every body was frightened, and it was deemed advisable to transfer Mrs. Ponder's effects to Fort Valley, a small place farther south. However, before this could be done, it became indisputably known that Wilson had withdrawn.
After an uneventful stay--other than this incident just related--of nine months in Macon, the office of custodian was resigned, and although yet a
slave, as far as he knew, and without permission from any one, Flipper returned to Atlanta with his wife and two sons, Henry, the elder, and Joseph, the younger. This was in the spring of 1865. Atlanta was in ruins, and it appeared a dreary place indeed to start anew on the unfinished journey of life. Every thing was not destroyed, however. A few houses
remained.. One of these was occupied. The people were rapidly returning, and the railroads from Atlanta were rapidly being rebuilt.
During all this time the education of the young Flippers had been necessarily neglected. In the early spring of 1865, the family of an ex-rebel captain became neighbors of the Flippers, now well to do, and were soon on the most, friendly terms with them. With remarkable condescension
the wife of this ex-rebel offered to instruct Henry and Joseph for a small remuneration. The Offer was readily and gladly accepted, and the
education of the two, so long neglected, was taken up again. This private school of only two pupils existed but a short time. The American
Missionary Association having opened better
schools, the Flippers were, in March, 1866,
transferred to them. They attended school there
till in 1867 the famous Storrs' School was opened
under the control of the American Missionary
Association, when they went there. In 1869, the
Atlanta University having been opened under the
same auspices, they entered there. At the time of
receiving his appointment Henry was a member of
the freshman class of the collegiate department.
His class graduated there in June, 1876, just one
year before he did at West Point.
The following article from a Thomasville paper,
published in June, 1874, will give further
information concerning his early life:
"'It is not generally known that Atlanta has a negro
cadet at the United States National Military Academy
at West Point. This cadet is a mulatto boy named
Flipper. He is about twenty years old, a stoutish
fellow, weighing perhaps one hundred and fifty
pounds, and a smart, bright, intelligent boy. His
father is a shoemaker, and gave him the euphonious
name of Henry Ossian Flipper.
"'Flipper has been at the great soldier factory of
the nation for a year. He was recommended there by
our late Congressman from the Fifth District, the
Hon. J. C. Freeman. Flipper has made a right booming
student. In a class of ninety-nine he stood about
the middle, and triumphantly passed his examination,
and has risen from the fourth to the third class
"'The only two colored boys at the Academy were the
famous Smith and the Atlanta Flipper. It is thought
that Smith at the last examination failed. If so,
Atlanta will have the distinguished honor of having
the sole African representative at West Point.
"'Flipper has had the privilege of eating at the
same table with the poor white trash; but Smith
and Flipper bunked together in the same room alone,
without white companions.
"'It is an astonishing fact that, socially, the
boys from the Northern and Western States will
have nothing to do with these colored brothers.
Flipper and Smith were socially ostracized. Not
even the Massachusetts boys will associate with
them. Smith has been a little rebellious, and
attempted to thrust himself on the white boys;
but the sensible Flipper accepted the situation,
and proudly refused to intrude himself on the
"'The feeling of ostracism is so strong that a
white boy who dared to recognize a colored cadet
would be himself ostracized by the other white
cubs, even of radical extraction.'
"We copy the above from the Atlanta Herald of last
week, for the purpose of remarking that among
colored men we know of none more honorable or more
deserving than Flipper, the father of the colored
West Point student of that name. Flipper lived for
many years in Thomasville as the servant of Mr. E.
G. Ponder--was the best bootmaker we ever knew, and
his character and deportment were ever those of a
sensible, unassuming, gentlemanly white man. Flipper
possessed the confidence and respect of his master
and all who knew him. His wife, the mother of young
Flipper, was Isabella, a servant in the family of
Rev. R. H. Lucky, of Thomasville, and bore a character
equal to that of her husband. Young Flipper was
baptized in his infancy by the venerable Bishop Early.
From these antecedents we should as soon expect young
Flipper to make his mark as any other colored youth
in the country."
(From the Louisville Ledger.)
"It is just possible that some of our readers may
not know who Flipper is. For their benefit we make
haste to explain that Flipper is the solitary
colored cadet now at West Point. He is in the
third class, and stands forty-six in the class,
which numbers eighty- five members. This is a
very fair standing, and Flipper's friends declare
that he is getting along finely in his studies,
and that he is quite up to the standard of the
average West Point student. Nevertheless they
intimate that he will never graduate. Flipper, they
say, may get as far as the first class, but there
he will be 'slaughtered.'
"A correspondent of the New York Times takes issue
with this opinion. He says there are many 'old
heads' who believe Flipper will graduate with honor,
and he thinks so too. The grounds for his belief,
as he gives them, are that the officers are
gentlemen, and so are the professors; that they
believe merit should be rewarded wherever found;
and that they all speak well of Flipper, who is a
hard student, as his position in his class proves.
From this correspondent we learn that Flipper is
from Georgia; that he has a light, coffee-colored
complexion, and that he 'minds his business and
does not intrude his company upon the other cadets,'
though why this should be put down in the list of
his merits it is not easy to understand, since, if
he graduates, as this writer believes he will, he
will have the right to associate on terms of perfect
equality with the other cadets, and may in time come
to command some of them. We are afraid there is some
little muddle of inconsistency in the brain of the
"The Chicago Tribune seems to find it difficult to
come to any conclusion concerning Flipper's chances
for graduating. It says: 'It is freely asserted that
Flipper will never be allowed to graduate; that the
prejudice of the regular army instructors against
the colored race is insurmountable, and that they
will drive away from the Academy by persecution of
some petty sort any colored boy who may obtain
admittance there. The story does not seem to have any
substantial basis; still, it possesses considerable
"We don't profess to understand exactly what sort
of a story that is which has 'considerable vitality'
without any substantial basis, and can only conclude
that the darkness of the subject has engendered a
little confusion in the mind of the Tribune as well
as in that of the writer of the Times. But the Tribune
acquires more confidence as it warms in the discussion,
and it assures us finally that 'there is, of course,
no doubt that some colored boys are capable of
receiving a military education; and eventually the
presence of colored officers in the regular army
must be an accepted fact.' Well, we don't know about
that 'accepted fact.' The white man is mighty uncertain,
and the nigger won't do to trust to, in view of which
truths it would be unwise to bet too high on the
'colored officers,' for some years to come at least.
"But let not Flipper wring his flippers in despair,
notwithstanding. Let him think of Smith, and take
heart of hope. Smith was another colored cadet who
was sent to West Point from South Carolina. Smith
mastered readin', 'ritin', and 'rithmetic, but
chemistry mastered Smith.* They gave him three trials,
but it was to no purpose ; so they had to change his
base and send him back to South Carolina. But what
of that? They've just made him inspector of militia
in South Carolina, with the rank of brigadier-general.
How long might he have remained in the army before
he would have become 'General Smith?' Why, even Fred
Grant's only a lieutenant-colonel. Smith evidently
has reason to congratulate himself upon being
'plucked;' and so the young gentleman from Georgia,
with the 'light, coffee-colored complexion,' if he
meets with a similar misfortune, may console himself
with the hope that to him also in his extremity will
be extended from some source a helping flipper."
*Cadet Smith failed in Natural and Experimental
Philosophy. In Chemistry he was up to the average.
He was never appointed Inspector-General of South
Carolina. He was Commandant of Cadets in the South
Carolina Agricultural Institute at Orangeburg, S. C.,
Which position he held till his death November 29th,
HAVING given in the previous chapter a brief account
of myself--dropping now, by permission, the third
person--prior to my appointment, I shall here give
in full what led me to seek that appointment, and
how I obtained it. It was while sitting "in his
father's quiet shoeshop on Decatur Street"--as a
local paper had it--that I overheard a conversation
concerning the then cadet from my own district. In
the course of the conversation I learned that this
cadet was to graduate the following June; and that
therefore a vacancy would occur. This was in
the autumn of 1872, and before the election. It
occurred to me that I might fill that vacancy,
and I accordingly determined to make an endeavor
to do so, provided the Republican nominee for
Congress should be elected. He was elected. I
applied for and obtained the appointment. In
1865 or 1866--I do not now remember which:
perhaps it was even later than either--it was
suggested to my father to send me to West Point.
He was unwilling to do so, and, not knowing very
much about the place, was reluctant to make any
inquiries. I was then of course too young for
admission, being only ten or twelve years old;
and knowing nothing of the place myself, I did
not care to venture the attempt to become a
At the time I obtained the appointment I had quite
forgotten this early recommendation of my father's
friend; indeed, I did not recall it until I began
compiling my manuscript.
The suggestion given me by the conversation above
mentioned was at once acted upon, and decision
made in a very short time; and so fully was I
determined, so absolutely was my mind set on
West Point, that I persisted in my desire even
to getting the appointment, staying at the Academy
four years, and finally graduating. The following
communications will explain how I got the
*It has been impossible for the author to obtain
copies of his own letters to the Hon. Congressman
who appointed him, which is to be regretted. The
replies are inserted in such order that they will
readily suggest the tenor of the first
Reply No. 1
GRIFFIN, January 23,1873.
MR. H. O. FLIPPER.
DEAR SIR: Your letter of the 21st, asking me, as member-elect to Congress from this State, to appoint you cadet to West Point, was received this morning. You are a stranger to me, and before I can comply with your request you must get your teacher, Mr. James L. Dunning, P.M., Colonel H. P. Fanorr, and other Republicans to indorse for you. Give me assurance you are worthy and well qualified and I will recommend you.
J. C. FREEMAN.
Reply No. 2.
GRIFFIN, March 22, 1873.
MR. H. O. FLIPPER.
DEAR SIR: On my arrival from Washington I found your letter of the 19th. I have received an invitation from the War Department to appoint, or nominate, a legally qualified cadet to the United States Military Academy from my district.
As you were the first applicant, I am disposed to give you the first chance; but the requirements are rigid and strict, and I think you had best come down and see them. If after reading them you think you can undergo the examination without doubt, I will nominate you. But I do not want my
nominee to fail to get in.
Yours very respectfully,
J. C. FREEMAN.
Reply No. 3.
GRIFFIN, GA., March 26, 1873.
MR. H. O. FLIPPER.
DEAR SIR: Your letter of the 24th to hand, and contents noted. While your education may be sufficient, it requires many other qualifications--such as age, height, form, etc.; soundness of lungs, limbs, etc. I will send you up the requirements, if you desire them, and call upon three competent gentlemen to examine you, if you desire it. Let me hear from you again on the subject.
J. C. FREEMAN.
Reply No. 4.
GRIFFIN, March 28, 1873.
MR. H. O. FLIPPER.
DEAR SIR: Yours of 26th at hand. I have concluded to send the paper sent me to J. A. Holtzclaw, of Atlanta, present Collector of Internal Revenue.
You can call on him and examine for yourself. If you then think you can pass, I will designate three men to examine you, and if they pronounce
you up to the requirements I will appoint you.
J. C. FREEMAN.
Reply No. 5.
GRIFFIN, April 5, 1873.
MR. H. O. FLIPPER.
DEAR SIR: The board of examiners pronounce you qualified to enter the Military Academy at West Point. You will oblige me by sending me your
given name in full, also your age to a month, and the length of time you have lived in the Fifth District, or in or near Atlanta. I will appoint you, and send on the papers to the Secretary of War, who will notify you of the
same. From this letter to me you will have to be at West Point by the 25th day of May, 1873.
J. C. FREEMAN.
P.S.--You can send letter to me without a stamp.
Reply No. 6.
GRIFFIN, April 17, 1873.
MR. HENRY O. FLIPPER.
DEAR SIR: I this day inclose you papers from the War Department. You can carefully read and then make up your mind whether you accept the position assigned you. If you should sign up, direct and forward to proper authorities, Washington, D. C. If you do not accept, return
the paper to my address, Griffin, Ga.
I am yours very respectfully,
J. C. FREEMAN.
The papers, three in number, referred
to in the above letter, are the following:
WASHINGTON, April 11, 1873.
SIR: You are hereby informed that the President has conditionally selected you for appointment as a Cadet of the United States Military Academy
at West Point.
Should you desire the appointment, you will report in person to the Superintendent of the Academy between the 20th and 25th days of May,
1873, when, if found on due examination to possess the qualifications required by law and set forth in the circular hereunto appended, you will be admitted, with pay from July 1st, 1873, to serve until the following January, at which time you will be examined before the Academic Board of the Academy. Should the result of this examination be favorable, and the reports of your personal, military, and moral deportment be satisfactory, your warrant of appointment, to be dated July 1st, 1873, will be delivered to you; but should the result of your examination, or your conduct reports be unfavorable, you will be discharged from the military service, unless otherwise recommended, for special reasons, by the Academic Board, but will receive an allowance for travelling expenses to your home.
Your attention is particularly directed to the accompanying circular, and it is to be distinctly understood that this notification confers upon you no right to enter the Military Academy unless your qualifications agree fully with its requirements, and unless you report for examination within the time specified.
You are requested to immediately inform the Department of your acceptance or declination
of the contemplated appointment upon the conditions annexed.
GEO. M. ROBESON,
Acting Secretary of War.
HENRY O. FLIPPER, Atlanta, Georgia.
Through Hon. J. C. FREEMAN, M.C.
I. Candidates must be actual bona fide residents of the Congressional district or Territory for which their appointments are made, and must be over seventeen and under twenty-two years of age at
the time of entrance into the Military Academy;
but any person who has served honorably and
faithfully not less than one year as an officer
or enlisted man in the army of the United States,
either as a Volunteer, or in the Regular service,
during the war for the suppression of the
rebellion, shall be eligible for appointment up
to the age of twenty-four years. They must be at
least five feet in height, and free from any
infectious or immoral disorder, and, generally,
from any deformity, disease, or infirmity which
may render them unfit for arduous military service.
They must be proficient in Reading and Writing; in
the elements of English Grammar; in Descriptive
Geography, particularly of our own country, and in
the History of the United States.
In Arithmetic, the various operations in addition,
subtraction, multiplication, and division, reduction,
simple and compound proportion, and vulgar and
decimal fractions, must be thoroughly understood
and readily performed.
The following are the leading physical disqualifications:
1. Feeble constitution and muscular tenuity; unsound health from whatever cause; indications of former disease; glandular swellings, or other symptoms
2. Chronic cutaneous affections, especially of the scalp.
3. Severe injuries of the bones of the head; convulsions.
4. Impaired vision, from whatever cause; inflammatory affections of the eyelids; immobility or irregularity of the iris; fistula,
lachrymalis, etc., etc.
5. Deafness; copious discharge from the ears.
6. Loss of many teeth, or the teeth generally unsound.
7. Impediment of speech.
8. Want of due capacity of the chest, and any other indication of a liability to a pulmonic disease.
9. Impaired or inadequate efficiency of one or both of the superior extremities on account of fractures, especially of the clavicle, contraction
of a joint, extenuation, deformity, etc., etc.
10. An unusual excurvature or incurvature of the spine.
12. A varicose state of the veins of the scrotum or spermatic cord (when large), sarcocele, hydroccle, hemorrhoids, fistulas.
13. Impaired or inadequate efficiency of one or of both of the inferior extremities on account of varicose veins, fractures, malformation (flat feet, etc.), lameness, contraction, unequal length, bunions, overlying or supernumerary toes, etc., etc.
14. Ulcers, or unsound cicatrices of ulcers likely to break out afresh.
Every person appointed, upon arrival at West Point, is submitted to a rigid medical examination, and if any causes of disqualification are found to exist in him to such a degree as may now or hereafter
impair his efficiency, he is rejected.
No person who has served in any capacity in the military or naval service of the so-called Confederate States during the late rebellion can
receive an appointment as cadet at the Military Academy.
II. The pay of a cadet is $500 per annum, with one ration per day, to commence with his admission into the Military Academy, and is sufficient,
with proper economy, for his support.
III. Each cadet must keep himself supplied with the following mentioned articles, viz.:
One gray cloth coatee; one gray cloth riding-jacket; one regulation great-coat; two pairs of gray cloth pantaloons, for winter; six
pairs of drilling pantaloons for summer; one
fatigue-jacket for the encampment; one black
dress cap; one forage cap; one black stock;
*two pairs of ankle-boots; *six pairs of white
gloves; two sets of white belts; *seven shirts
and twelve collars; *six pairs winter socks;
*six pairs summer socks; *four pairs summer
drawers; *three pairs winter drawers; *six
pocket-handkerchiefs; *six towels; *one clothes-
bag, made of ticking; *one clothes-brush; *one
hair-brush; *one tooth-brush; *one comb; one
mattress; one pillow; *two pillow-cases; *two
pairs sheets; one pair blankets; *one quilted
bed-cover; one chair; one tumbler; *one trunk;
one account-book; and will unite with his room-
mate in purchasing, for their common use, one
looking-glass, one wash-stand, one wash-basin,
one pail, and one broom, and shall he required
to have one table, of the pattern that may be
prescribed by the Superintendent.
The articles marked thus * candidates are required
to bring with them; the others are to be had at
West Point at regulated prices, and it is better
for a candidate to take with him as little clothing
of any description as is possible (excepting what
is marked), and no more money than will defray his
travelling expenses; but for the parent or guardian
to send to "The Treasurer of the Military Academy"
a sum sufficient for his necessary expenses until
he is admitted, and for his clothes, etc.,
The expenses of the candidate for board, washing,
lights, etc., prior to admission, will be about $5
per week, and immediately after being admitted to
the Institution he must be provided with an outfit
of uniform, etc., the cost of which will be $88.79.
If, upon arrival, he has the necessary sum to his
credit on the books of the Treasurer, he will start
with many advantages, in a pecuniary point of view,
over those whose means are more limited, and who
must, if they arrive, as many do, totally unprovided
in this way, go in debt on the credit of their pay
--a burden from which it requires many months to
free themselves; while, if any accident compels
them to leave the Academy, they must of necessity
be in a destitute condition.
No cadet can receive money, or any other supplies,
from his parents, or from any person whomsoever,
without permission from the Superintendent.
IV. If the candidate be a minor, his acceptance
must be accompanied by the written consent of
his parent or guardian to his signing articles,
binding himself to serve the United States eight
years from the time of his admission into the
Military Academy, unless sooner discharged.
V. During the months of July and August the cadets
live in camp, engaged only in military duties and
exercises and receiving practical military
The academic duties and exercises commence on the
1st of September, and continue till about the end
The newly appointed cadets are examined at the
Academy prior to admission, and those not properly
qualified are rejected.
Examinations of the several classes are held in
January and June, and at the former such of the
new cadets as are found proficient in studies
and have been correct in conduct are given the
particular standing in their class to which their
merits entitle them. After either examination
cadets found deficient in conduct or studies are
discharged from the Academy, unless, for special
reasons in each case, the Academic Board should
These examinations are very thorough, and require
from the cadet a close and persevering attention
to study, without evasion or slighting of any part
of the course, as no relaxations of any kind can be
made by the examiners.
VI. A sound body and constitution, a fixed degree
of preparation, good natural capacity, an aptitude
for study, industrious habits, perseverance, an
obedient and orderly disposition, and a correct
moral deportment are such essential qualifications
that candidates knowingly deficient in any of these
respects should not, as many do, subject themselves
and their friends to the chances of future
mortification and disappointment, by accepting
appointments to the Academy and entering upon a
career which they can not successfully pursue.
Method of Examining Candidates for Admission
into the Military Academy.
Candidates must be able to read with facility
from any book, giving the proper intonation
and pauses, and to write portions that are
read aloud for that purpose, spelling the words
and punctuating the sentences properly.
In ARITHMETIC they must be able to perform with
facility examples under the four ground rules,
and hence must be familiar with the tables of
addition, subtraction, multiplication, and
division, and be able to perform examples in
reduction and in vulgar and decimal fractions,
Add 2/3 to 3/4; subtract 2/5 from 5/6; multiply 3/4 by 7/8; divide 2/5 by 3/8;
Add together two hundred and thirty-four thousandths
(.234), twenty-six thousandths (.026), and three
Subtract one hundred and sixty-one ten thousandths
(.0161) from twenty-five hundredths (.25).
Multiply or divide twenty-six hundredths (.26) by
sixteen thousandths (.016).
They must also be able to change vulgar fractions
into decimal fractions, and decimals into vulgar
fractions, with examples like the following:
Change 15/16 into a decimal fraction of the same
Change one hundred and two thousandths (.102) into
a vulgar fraction of the same value.
In simple and compound proportion, examples of
various kinds will be given, and candidates will
be expected to understand the principles of the
rules which they follow.
In ENGLISH GRAMMAR candidates will be required
to exhibit a familiarity with the nine parts of
speech and the rules in relation thereto; must
be able to parse any ordinary sentence given to
them, and, generally, must understand those
portions of the subject usually taught in the
higher academies and schools throughout the
country, comprehended under the heads of
Orthography, Etymology, Syntax, and Prosody.
In DESCRIPTIVE GEOGRAPHY they are to name,
locate, and describe the natural grand and
political divisions of the earth, and be able
to delineate any one of the States or Territories
of the American Union, with its principal cities,
rivers, lakes, seaports, and mountains.
In HISTORY they must be able to name the periods
of the discovery and settlement of the North
American continent, of the rise and progress of
the United States, and of the successive wars
and political administrations through which the
country has passed.
THE COURSE OF STUDY AND BOOKS USED AT THE MILITARY ACADEMY.
[Books marked thus * are for reference only.]
First Year--Fourth Class.
Davies' Boudon's Algebra.
Davies' Legendre's Geometry and Trigonometry.
Church's Descriptive Geometry.
Bolmar's Levizac's Grammar and Verb Book.
Tactics of Artillery
Agnel's Tabular System.
Berard's Lecons Francaises.
*Spier's and Surenne's Dictionary.
Practical Instruction in the Infantry Schools of the Soldier, Company, and Battalion.
Use of Small Arms
Practical Instruction in Artillery.
Instruction in Fencing and Bayonet Exercise.
Second Year--Third Class.
Church's Descriptive Geometry, with its applications to Spherical Projections.
Church's Shades, Shadows and Perspective.
Church's Analytical Geometry.
Bolmar's Levizac's Grammar and Verb Book.
Berard's Lecons Francaises.
Chapsal's Lecons Et Modeles de Litterature Francaise.
Agnel's Tabular System.
Rowan's Morceaux Choisis des Auteurs Modernes.
*Spier's and Surenne's Dictionary.
Morales' Progressive Reader.
Ollen-Dorff's Oral Method applied to the Spanish, by Velasquez and
Seoane's Neuman and Baretti's Dictionary.
Tactics of Infantry,
Art of Penmanship.
Practical Instruction in the Artillery, and Cavalry Schools of the Soldier, Company, and Battalion.
Third Year--Second Class.
Practical Instruction in Artillery and Cavalry.
Natural and Experimental
Bartlett's Philosophy Acoustics and Optics.
Chemical Physics, from Miller.
Tactics of Infantry
Pencil and Colors.
Practical Instruction in the Artillery, and Cavalry Schools of the Soldier, Company, and Battalion.
Practical Instruction in Artillery and Cavalry.
Myers' Manual of Signals.
Fourth Year--First Class.
Engineering Practical and Theoretical Instruction in Military Signaling and Telegraphy.
Military and Civil
Mahan's Field Fortification.
Mineralogy and Geology
Engineering, and Mahan's Outlines of Sciences of War.
Mahan's Fortification and Stereotomy.
Mahan's Advanced Guard and Outpost, etc.
*Moseley's Mechanics of Engineering.
Ethics and Law
French's Practical Ethics.
Tactics of Artillery
Halleck's International Law.
Kent's Commentaries (portion on Constitutional Law).
Law and Military Law, by Prof. French.
Benet's Military Law and the Practice of Courts-Martial.
United States Tactics for Cavalry, and Infantry Calvary.
Ordnance and Gunnery
Practical Instruction in the Schools of the Soldier, Company, and Battalion.
Practical Instruction in Artillery and Cavalry.
Benton's Ordnance and Gunnery..
Practical Instruction in Engineering fabricating Fascines, Sap Faggots, Gabions, Hurdles, Sap-rollers, etc.; manner of laying out and constructing Gun and Mortar Batteries, Field Fortifications and Works of Siege; formation of Stockades, Abatis, and other military obstacles; and throwing and dismantling Pontoon Bridges.
Myer's Manual of Signals.
Practical Instruction in Military Signaling and Telegraphy.
The second paper was a printed blank, a letter of
acceptance or non-acceptance, to be filled up, as
the case may be, signed by myself, countersigned
by my father, and returned to Washington, D. C.
The third, which follows, is simply a memorandum
for use of the candidate.
It is suggested to all candidates for admission into the Military Academy that, before leaving
their place of residence for West Point, they should cause themselves to be thoroughly examined
by a competent physician, and by a teacher or instructor in good standing By such an examination
any serious physical disqualification, or deficiency in mental preparation, would be revealed, and the
candidate probably spared the expense and trouble of a useless journey and the mortification of
rejection. The circular appended to the letter of appointment should be carefully studied by the
candidate and the examiners.
It should be understood that the informal examination herein recommended is solely for the convenience and benefit of the candidate himself, and can in no manner affect the decision of the Academic and Medical Examining Boards at West Point.
NOTE.--There being no provision whatever for the payment of the travelling expenses of either
accepted or rejected candidates for admission, no candidate should fail to provide himself in advance
with the means of returning to his home, in case of his rejection before either of the Examining Boards,
as he may otherwise be put to considerable trouble, inconvenience, and even suffering, on account of his
destitute situation. If admitted, the money brought by him to meet such a contingency can be deposited
with the Treasurer on account of his equipment as a cadet, or returned to his friends.
After I had secured the appointment the editor of one of our local papers, which was at the time
publishing-- weekly, I think--brief biographies of some of the leading men of the city, together with
cuts of the persons themselves, desired to thus bring me into notoriety. I was duly consulted, and,
objecting, the publication did not occur. My chief reason for objecting was merely this: I feared some
evil might befall me while passing through Georgia en route for West Point, if too great a knowledge
of me should precede me, such, for instance, as a publication of that kind would give.
At this interview several other persons--white, of
course--were present, and one of them--after
relating the trials of Cadet Smith and the
circumstances of his dismissal, which, apropos,
had not yet occurred, as he would have me believe--
advised me to abandon altogether the idea of going
to West Point, for, said he, "Them northern boys
wont treat you right." I have a due proportion of
stubbornness in me, I believe, as all of the negro
race are said to have, and my Southern friend might
as well have advised an angel to rebel as to have
counselled me to resign and not go. He was convinced,
too, before we separated, that no change in my
determination was at all likely to occur. Next day,
in a short article, the fact of my appointment was
mentioned, and my age and degree of education. Some
days after this, while in the post-office, a gentleman
beckoned to me, and we withdrew from the crowd. He
mentioned this article, and after relating--indeed,
repeating, to my amusement, the many hardships to
which I should be subjected, and after telling me he
had a very promising son--candid, wasn't he?--whom he
desired to have educated at West Point, offered me
for my appointment the rather large sum of five
thousand dollars. This I refused instantly. I had
so set my mind on West Point that, having the
appointment, neither threats nor excessive bribes
could induce me to relinquish it, even if I had not
possessed sufficient strength of character to resist
them otherwise. However, as I was a minor, I referred
him to my father. I have no information that he ever
consulted him. If he had, my reply to him would have
been sustained. I afterward had reason to believe
the offer was made merely to test me, as I received
from strangers expressions of confidence in me and
in my doing faithfully all that might devolve upon
me from my appointment.
MAY 20th, 1873! Auspicious day! From the deck of the little ferry-boat that steamed its way across from Garrison's on that eventful afternoon I viewed the hills about West Point, her stone structures perched thereon, thus rising still higher, as if providing access to the very pinnacle of fame, and shuddered. With my mind full of the horrors of the treatment of all former cadets of color, and the dread of inevitable ostracism, I approached
tremblingly yet confidently.
The little vessel having been moored, I stepped
ashore and inquired of a soldier there where
candidates should report. He very kindly gave me
all needed information, wished me much success,
for which I thanked him, and set out for the
designated place. I soon reached it, and walked
directly into the adjutant's office. He received
me kindly, asked for my certificate of appointment,
and receiving that--or assurance that I had it: I
do not now remember which--directed me to write in
a book there for the purpose the name and occupation
of my father, the State, Congressional district,
county and city of his residence, my own full name,
age, State, county, and place of my birth, and my
occupation when at home. This done I was sent in
charge of an orderly to cadet barracks, where my
"plebe quarters" were assigned me.
The impression made upon me by what I saw while
going from the adjutant's office to barracks was
certainly not very encouraging. The rear windows
were crowded with cadets watching my unpretending
passage of the area of barracks with apparently
as much astonishment and interest as they would,
perhaps, have watched Hannibal crossing the Alps.
Their words, jeers, etc., were most insulting.
Having reached another office, I was shown in by
the orderly. I walked in, hat in hand--nay, rather
started in-- when three cadets, who were seated in
the room, simultaneously sprang to their feet, and
welcomed me somewhat after this fashion:
"Well, sir, what do you mean by coming into this
office in that manner, sir? Get out of here, sir."
I walked out, followed by one of them, who, in a
similar strain, ordered me to button my coat, get
my hands around--"fins" he said--heels together,
and head up.
"Now, sir," said he, leaving me, "when you are
ready to come in, knock at that door," emphasizing
the word "knock."
The door was open. I knocked. He replied, "Come in."
I went in. I took my position in front of and facing
him, my heels together, head up, the palms of my
hands to the front, and my little fingers on the
seams of my pantaloons, in which position we
habitually carried them. After correcting my
position and making it sufficiently military
to suit himself, one of them, in a much milder
tone, asked what I desired of them. I told him
I had been sent by the adjutant to report there.
He arose, and directing me to follow him, conducted
me to the bath-rooms. Having discharged the necessary
duty there, I returned and was again put in charge of
the orderly, who carried me to the hospital. There I
was subjected to a rigid physical examination, which
I "stood" with the greatest ease. I was given a
certificate of ability by the surgeon, and by him
sent again to the adjutant, who in turn sent me to
the treasurer. From him I returned alone to barracks.
The reception given to "plebes" upon reporting is
often very much more severe than that given me.
Even members of my own class can testify to this.
This reception has, however, I think, been best
described in an anonymous work, where it is thus
"How dare you come into the presence of your
superior officer in that grossly careless and
unmilitary manner? I'll have you imprisoned.
Stand, attention, sir!" (Even louder than before.)
"Heels-together-and-on- the-same-line, toes-equally
pantaloons, button-your-coat, draw-in-your-chin,
collars-again. Stand-steady, sir. You've evidently
mistaken your profession, sir. In any other service,
or at the seat of war, sir, you would have been shot,
sir, without trial, sir, for such conduct, sir."
The effect of such words can be easily imagined.
A "plebe" will at once recognize the necessity
for absolute obedience, even if he does know all
this is hazing, and that it is doubtless forbidden.
Still "plebes" almost invariably tremble while it
lasts, and when in their own quarters laugh over
it, and even practise it upon each other for mutual
On the way to barracks I met the squad of "beasts"
marching to dinner. I was ordered to fall in, did so,
marched to the mess hall, and ate my first dinner at
West Point. After dinner we were marched again to
barracks and dismissed. I hastened to my quarters,
and a short while after was turned out to take
possession of my baggage. I lugged it to my room,
was shown the directions on the back of the door
for arrangement of articles, and ordered to obey
them within half an hour. The parts of the regulations
referred to are the following:
SPECIAL REGULATIONS FOR BARRACKS.
ORDERLIES OF ROOMS.
The particular attention of Orderlies is directed
to those paragraphs of the Regulations for the
U. S. Military Academy specifying their duties.
The hours of Recitation of each Cadet will be
posted on the back of the door of his room. When
a room is being washed out by the policeman, on
reporting to the Officer of the Day, and stating
to him the number of some room in his own Division
he wishes to visit, a Cadet will be permitted to
visit that particular room until his own can be
occupied. The uniform coat will be worn from 8
till 10 A.M.; at Inspection before 10 A.M. the
coat will be buttoned throughout; at Sunday
Morning Inspection gloves and side-arms will
also be worn. After 10 A.M. any uniform garment
or dressing-gown may be worn in their own rooms,
but at no time will Cadets be in their shirt-
sleeves unnecessarily. During the "Call to
Quarters," between "Inspection Call" in the
morning and "Tattoo," the following Arrangement
of Furniture, etc., will be required:
Dress Cap--On gun-rack shelf.
Cartridge Boxes, Waist Belts, Sabres, Forage Caps
--Hung on pegs near gun-rack shelf.
Muskets--In gun--rack, Bayonets in the scabbards.
Spurs--Hung on peg with Sabres.
BEDSTEADS AND BEDDING.
Bedsteads--In alcove, against side wall of the room,
the head against the back wall.
Bedding--Mattress to be folded once; Blankets and
Comforters, each one to be neatly and separately
folded, so that the folds shall be of the width of
an ordinary pillow, and piled at the head of the
BEDSTEAD in the following order, viz.: MATTRESS,
SHEETS, PILLOWS, BLANKETS, and COMFORTERS, the
front edge of sheets, pillows, etc., to be vertical.
On Sunday afternoons the BEDS may be made down and
Books--On the top of the Press, against the wall,
and with the backs to the front. BRUSHES (tooth
and hair), COMBS, SHAVING IMPLEMENTS and MATERIALS,
such small boxes as may be allowed, vials, etc.,
to be neatly arranged on the upper shelf. BELTS,
COLLARS, GLOVES, HANDKERCHIEFS, SOCKS, etc., to be
neatly arranged on the second shelf from the top.
SHEETS, PILLOW-CASES, SHIRTS, DRAWERS, WHITE PANTS,
etc., to be neatly arranged on the other shelves,
the heaviest articles on the lower shelves.
Arrangement--All articles of the same kind are to
be carefully and neatly placed in separate piles.
The folded edges of these articles to be to the
front, and even with the front edge of the shelf.
Nothing will be allowed between these piles of
clothing and the back of the press, unless the
want of room on the front edge renders it necessary.
Dirty Clothes--To be kept in clothes-bag.
Shoes and Over-Shoes--To be kept clean, dusted,
and arranged in a line where they can be seen by
the Inspector, either at the foot of the bedstead
or at the side near the foot.
Woollen Clothing, Dressing-Gown, and Clothes-Bag--
To be hung on the pegs in alcove in the following
general order, from the front of the alcove to the
back: Over-Coat, Dressing-Gown, Uniform Coats,
Jackets, Pants, Clothes-Bag.
Broom--To be kept behind the door. TIN BOX for
CLEANING MATERIALS--To be kept clean and in the
fire-place. SPITTOON-- To be kept on one side of
the hearth near mantel-piece. CHAIRS and TABLES--
On no occasion to be in alcoves, the chairs, when
not in use, to be against the owners' tables.
LOOKING-GLASS--At the centre of the mantel-piece.
WASH-STAND--To be kept clean, in front and against
alcove partition. WASH-BASIN--To be kept clean, and
inverted on the top of the Wash-stand. WATER-BUCKET
--To be kept on shelf of wash-stand. SLOP-BUCKET--
To be kept near to and on side of Wash-stand, opposite
door. Baskets, Pictures, Clocks, Statues, Trunks, and
large Boxes will NOT be allowed in quarters.
Curtains--WINDOW-CURTAINS--Only uniform allowed, and
to be kept drawn back during the day. ALCOVE--
CURTAINS--Only uniform allowed, and to be kept drawn,
except between "Tattoo" and "Reveille" and when
dressing. CURTAINS OF CLOTHES-PRESS--To be kept drawn,
except when policing room.
To be kept clean, and free from grease-spots and stains.
WALLS AND WOOD-WORK.
To be kept free from cobwebs, and not to be injured
by nails or otherwise.
HEATING APPARATUS, SCREEN AND TOP.
To be kept clean, and not to be scratched or defaced.
These Regulations will be strictly obeyed and
By order of LIEUT.-COLONEL UPTON,
GEORGE L. TURNER,
Cadet Lieut. and Adjutant.
HEADQUARTERS, CORPS OF CADETS,
West Point, N. Y., Sept. 4, 1873.
At the end of the time specified every
article was arranged and the cadet corporal
returned to inspect. He walked deliberately to
the clothes-press, and, informing me that every
thing was arranged wrong, threw every article
upon the floor, repeated his order, and withdrew.
And thus three times in less than two hours did
I arrange and he disarrange my effects. I was
not troubled again by him till after supper,
when he inspected again, merely opening the door,
however, and looking in. He told me I could not
go to sleep till "tattoo." Now tattoo, as he
evidently used it, referred in some manner to
time, and with such reference I had not the
remotest idea of what it meant. I had no knowledge
whatever of military terms or customs. However, as
I was also told that I could do any thing--writing,
etc.--I might wish to do, I found sufficient to
keep me awake until he again returned and told me
it was then tattoo, that I could retire then or at
any time within half an hour, and that at the end
of that time the light must be extinguished
and I must be in bed. I instantly extinguished it
Thus passed my first half day at West Point, and
thus began the military career of the fifth colored
cadet. The other four were Smith of South Carolina,
Napier of Tennessee, Howard of Mississippi, and
Gibbs of Florida.
What I had seen and experienced during the few hours
from my arrival till tattoo filled me with fear and
apprehension. I expected every moment to be insulted
or struck, and was not long in persuading myself that
the various reports which I had heard concerning Smith
were true--I had not seen him yet, or, if I had, had
not recognized him--and that my life there was to be
all torture and anguish. I was uneasy and miserable,
ever thinking of the regulations, verbal or written,
which had been given me. How they haunted me! I kept
repeating them over and over, fearful lest I might
forget and violate them, and be dismissed. If I wanted
any thing or wished to go anywhere, I must get permission
of the cadet officers on duty over us. To get such
permission I must enter their office cleanly and neatly
dressed, and, taking my place in the centre of the room,
must salute, report my entrance, make known my wants,
salute again, and report my departure.* At the instant
I heard the sound of a drum I must turn out at a run
and take my place in the ranks.
*Somewhat after this fashion:
"Candidate F----, United States Military Academy,
reports his entrance into this office, sir."
"Well, sir, what do you want in this office?"
"I desire permission, sir, to walk on public lands
"No, sir, you can't walk on public lands till
retreat. Get out of my sight."
"Candidate F----, United States Military Academy,
reports his departure from this office, sir."
At five o'clock the next morning two unusual sounds
greeted my ears--the reveille, and a voice in the
hall below calling out in a loud martial tone:
"Candidates, turn out promptly!" In an astonishingly
short time I had dressed, "turned out," and was in
ranks. We stood there as motionless as statues till
the fifers and drummers had marched up to barracks,
the rolls of the companies had been called, and
they themselves dismissed. We were then dismissed,
our roll having been also called. We withdrew at a
run to our quarters and got them ready for inspection,
which, we were informed, would take place at the
expiration of half an hour. At the end of this time
our quarters were inspected by a corporal. In my own
room he upset my bedding, kicked my shoes into the
middle of the room, and ordered me to arrange them
again and in better order. This order was obeyed
immediately. And this upsetting was done in every room,
as I learned afterward from the occupants, who, strange
to say, manifested no prejudice then. 'Twas not long
ere they learned that they were prejudiced, and that
they abhorred even the sight of a "d--d nigger."
Just before, or perhaps just after breakfast, our
quarters were again inspected. This time I was
somewhat surprised to hear the corporal say, "Very
well, Mr. Flipper, very well, sir."
And this with other things shows there was a friendly
feeling toward me from the first. After having thus
expressed himself, he directed me to print my name on
each of four pieces of paper, and to tack them up in
certain places in the room, which he indicated to me.
I did this several times before I could please him;
but at last succeeded. Another corporal visited me
during the day and declared everything out of order,
although I had not touched a single thing after once
satisfying the first corporal. Of course I had to
rearrange them to suit him, in which I also finally
At eleven o'clock the mail came. I received a letter,
and to my astonishment its postmark was "West Point,
N. Y., May 21st." Of course I was at a loss to know
who the writer was. I turned it over and over, looked
at it, studied the postmark, finally opened it and
*This letter by some means has been misplaced, and
all efforts to find it, or to discover what its
exact contents were, have failed. However, it was
from James Webster Smith, the first and then only
cadet of color at West Point. It reassured me very
much, telling me not to fear either blows or insults,
and advising me to avoid any forward conduct if I
wished also to avoid certain consequences, "which,"
said the writer, "I have learned from sad experience,"
would be otherwise inevitable. It was a sad letter.
I don't think any thing has so affected me or so
influenced my conduct at West Point as its melancholy
tone. That "sad experience" gave me a world of warning.
I looked upon it as implying the confession of some
great error made by him at some previous time, and of
its sadder consequences.
This was another surprise--a welcome surprise,
however. I read it over several times. It showed
me plainly that Smith had not been dismissed, as
had been reported to me at home. I at once formed
a better opinion of West Point than I before had,
and from that day my fears gradually wore away.
The candidates now reported rapidly, and we, who
had reported the day previous, were comparatively
undisturbed. At four o'clock I visited Smith at
his quarters by permission. My visit was necessarily
a short one, as he was then preparing for drill. It
sufficed, however, for us to become acquainted, and
for me to receive some valuable advice. An hour and
place were designated for us to meet next day, and I
took my leave of him. The "plebes" turned out en
masse, walked around the grounds and witnessed the
drilling of the battalion. We enjoyed it immensely.
They were that day skirmishing and using blank
cartridges. We thought the drill superb. I was asked
by a fellow-"plebe," "Think you'll like that?"
"Oh yes," said I, "when I can do it as easily as
We had quite a lengthy conversation about the fine
appearance of the cadets, their forms, so straight
and manly, evoking our greatest admiration. This,
alas! was our only conversation on any subject. The
gentleman discovered ere long that he too was
prejudiced, and thus one by one they "cut" me,
whether for prudential reasons or not I can not
presume to say.
I went into the office one day, and standing
uncovered at about the middle of the room, in
the position of the soldier, saluted and thus
addressed a cadet officer present:
"Candidate Flipper, United States Military Academy,
reports his entrance into this office, sir."
"Well, what do you want?" was the rather gruff
"I desire permission to visit Smith, sir," answered
I, thoughtlessly saying "Smith," instead of "Mr" or
He instantly sprang from his seat into rather close
proximity to my person and angrily yelled:
"Well, sir, I want to hear you say 'Mr. Smith.' I
want you to understand, sir, he is a cadet and
you're a 'plebe,' and I don't want to see such
familiarity on your part again, sir," putting
particular emphasis on "Mr."
Having thus delivered himself he resumed his seat,
leaving me, I imagine, more scared than otherwise.
"What do you want?" asked he again, after a pause
of a moment or so.
"Permission to visit Mr. Smith."
Without condescending to notice for the time my
request he gave the interview a rather ludicrous
turn, I thought, by questioning me somewhat after
"Can you dance, Mr. Flipper?"
Having answered this to his entire satisfaction,
he further asked:
"Expect to attend the hops this summer?"
"Oh no, sir," replied I, smiling, as he also was,
for I had just discovered the drift of his questions.
After mischievously studying my countenance for a
moment, he returned to the original subject and
queried, "Where do you want to go?"
I told him.
"Well, get out of my sight."
I considered the permission granted, and hastily
withdrew to take advantage of it.
Between breakfast and supper those of us
who had been there at least a day had quite a
pleasant time. We were not troubled with incessant
inspections or otherwise. We either studied for
examination or walked around the grounds. At or near
seven o'clock, the time of retreat parade, we were
formed near our barracks and inspected. Our ranks
were opened and the cadet lieutenant inspected our
clothing and appearance generally. A not infrequent
occurrence on these occasions was:
"Well, mister, what did you shave with--a shoehorn?"
At this we would smile, when the lieutenant,
sergeant, or corporal would jump at us and yell:
"Wipe that smile off your face, sir! What do you
mean, sir, by laughing in ranks?"
If any one attempted to reply he was instantly
"Well, sir, don't reply to me in ranks."
The inspection would be continued. Some one, unable
to restrain himself--the whole affair was so ridiculous--
would laugh right out in ranks. He was a doomed man.
"What do you mean, sir, by laughing in ranks, sir?"
Having been once directed not to reply in ranks, the
poor "plebe" would stand mute.
"Well, sir, don't you intend to answer me?"
"Well, sir, step it out. What were you grinning at?"
"Nothing! Well, sir, you're a pretty thing to be
grinning at nothing. Get in ranks."
The inspection would, after many such interruptions,
be continued. Ranks would at length be closed and the
command, "In place, rest!" given. The battalion would
march in from parade at double time and form in the
area to our rear. The delinquencies of the day previous
would then be published by the cadet adjutant.
What most strikes a "plebe" is this same publication.
He hasn't the remotest idea of what it is. Not a word
uttered by the adjutant is understood by him. He stands
and wonders what it is. A perfect jargon of words,
unintelligible and meaningless to him! I remember
distinctly how I used to wonder, and how I was laughed
at when I asked for information concerning it. We
"plebes" used to speak of it often, and wonder if it
was not French. When we were better acquainted with
the rules and customs of the Academy we learned what
it was. It was something of this nature, read from the
DELINQUENCIES, TUESDAY, OCT. 12.
ADAMS.--Late at reveille roll-call.
BEJAY.--Sentinel not coming to "Arms, Port," when
addressed by the officer of the day.
SAME.--Not conversant with orders at same.
BARNES.--Same at same.
SAME.--Sentinel, neglect of duty, not requiring
cadet leaving his post to report his departure and
SAME.--Hanging head, 4 P.M.
BULOW.--Dust on mantel at inspection, 9.30 A.M.
SAME.--Executing manual of arms with pointer in
section-room, 9 A.M.
SAME.--Using profane expression, 1 P.M.
CULLEN.--Out of bed at taps.
DOUNS.--Light in quarters, 11 p.m.
SAME.--Not prepared on 47 Velasquez.*
*For these delinquencies the cadets are allowed to
write explanations. If the offence is absence from
quarters or any duty without authority, or is one
committed in the Academical Department, called an
Academical Delinquency, such as not being prepared
on some lesson, an explanation is required and must
be written. For all other offences the cadet can
write an explanation or not as he chooses. If the
explanation is satisfactory, the offence is removed
and he gets no demerits, otherwise he does. For form
of explanation see Chapter X., latter part.
On the 26th of May, another colored candidate
reported. It is said he made the best show at the
preliminary examination. Unfortunately, however,
he was "found" at the following semi-annual
examination. He was brought up to my quarters by
a corporal, and I was ordered to give him all
instruction which had previously been given me.
This I did, and his first days at West Point were
much more pleasant than mine had been.
The candidates had now all reported, and Monday
afternoon, May 28th, we were each given by the
Adjutant in person a slip of paper upon which was
written the number of each man's name in an
alphabetically arranged roll. This we had special
directions to preserve. The next day we were
marched up to the Drawing Academy, and examined
in grammar, history, and geography; the following
day in orthography and reading. On the same day,
also, we were required to write out a list of all
the textbooks we had used in our previous school-
days. The day following we were divided into
sections and marched to the library, where the
Academic Board was in readiness to examine us in
mathematics. It took quite a while to examine our
class of more than one hundred members thus orally.
I am not positive about the dates of the examination.
I know it occurred in the immediate vicinity of
Not many days after this the result of the examination
was made known to us. The familiar cry, "Candidates,
turn out promptly," made at about noon, informed us
that something unusual was about to occur. It was a
fearful moment, and yet I was sure I had "passed."
The only questions I failed on were in geography. I
stood motionless while the order was being read until
I heard my name among the accepted ones. I felt as if
a great burden had been removed from my mind. It was
a beginning, and if not a good one, certainly not a
bad one. What has been the ending? Let the sequel
Now that the examination was over and the deficient
ones gone, we were turned out for drill every morning
at half--past five o'clock and at four in the afternoon.
We were divided into squads of one each, and drilled
twice a day in the "settings up" until about June
20th. After a few drills, however, the squads were
consolidated into others of four, six, and eight each.
The surplus drill-masters were "turned in." Their
hopes were withered, for it was almost a certainty
that those who were "turned in" would not be "made."
They expected to be "made" on their proficiency in
drilling, and when it was shown by being "turned in"
that others had been thought better drill-masters,
they were not a little disappointed. How they "boned"
tactics! What proficiency they manifested! How they
yelled out their commands! What eagerness they showed
to correct errors, etc. And yet some could not overcome
their propensity for hazing, and these were of course
turned in. Not always thus, however. Those who were
not "turned in" were not always "made" corporals.
Often those who were so treated "got the chevrons"
"Plebe drill," or, more familiarly, "squad drill,"
has always been a source of great amusement to
citizens, but what a horror to plebes. Those
torturous twistings and twirlings, stretching
every nerve, straining every sinew, almost
twisting the joints out of place and making
life one long agonizing effort. Was there ever
a "plebe," or recruit, who did not hate, did not
shudder at the mere mention of squad drill? I did.
Others did. I remember distinctly my first experience
of it. I formed an opinion, a morbid dislike of it
then, and have not changed it. The benefit, however,
of "squad drill" can not be overestimated. It makes
the most crooked, distorted creature an erect, noble,
and manly being, provided, of course, this distortion
be a result of habit and not a natural deformity, the
result of laziness in one's walking, such as hanging
the head, dropping the shoulders, not straightening
the legs, and crossing them when walking.
Squad drill is one of the painful necessities of
military discipline, and no one regrets his
experience of it, however displeasing it may
have been at the time. It is squad drill and
hazing that so successfully mould the coarser
characters who come to West Point into officers
and gentlemen. They teach him how to govern and
be governed. They are more effectual in polishing
his asperities of disposition and forming his
character than any amount of regulations could be.
They tame him, so to speak.
Squad drill was at once a punishment, a mode of
hazing, and a drill. For the least show of
grossness one was sure to be punished with
"settings up, second time!" "settings up,
fourth time! "Continue the motion, settings
up second (or fourth) time!" We would be kept
at these motions until we could scarcely move.
Of course all this was contrary to orders. The
drill-master would be careful not to be "hived."
If he saw an officer even looking at him, he
would add the command "three," which caused a
discontinuance of the motion. He would change,
however, to one of the other exercises immediately,
and thus keep the plebes continually in motion.
When he thought the punishment sufficient he would
discontinue it by the command, "three," and give
"place, rest." When the "place, rest" had been just
about sufficient to allow the plebe to get cool and
in a measure rested, the drill would be resumed by
the command "'tion, squad" (abbreviated from
"attention" and pronounced "shun"). If the plebe
was slow, "place, rest" was again given, and
"When I give the command ''tion, squad,' I want to
see you spring up with life."
Plebe is slow again.
"Well, mister, wake up. This is no trifling matter.
"Well, sir, don't reply to me in ranks."
And many times and terms even more severe than these.
Now that Williams and myself were admitted, the
newspapers made their usual comments on such
occurrences. I shall quote a single one from The
New National Era and Citizen, published in Washington,
D.C., and the political organ of the colored people.
The article, however, as I present it, is taken from
another paper, having been by it taken from the Era
"COLORED CADETS AT WEST POINT.
"The New National Era and Citizen, which is the
national organ of the colored people, contains
a sensible article this week on the status of
colored cadets at West Point. After referring
to the colored young men, 'Plebes' Flipper of
Georgia, and Williams of Virginia, who have
passed the examination requisite for entering
the Academy, the Era and Citizen says: 'Now that
they are in, the stiff and starched protègès of
the Government make haste to tell the reporters
that "none of the fellows would hurt them, but
every fellow would let them alone." Our reporter
seems to think that "to be let alone" a terrible
doom. So it is, if one is sent to Coventry by
gentlemen. So it is, if one is neglected by those
who, in point of education, thrift, and morality
are our equals or superiors. So it is not, if done
by the low-minded, the ignorant, and the snobbish.
If it be possible, among the four hundred young
charity students of the Government, that Cadet
Smith, for instance, finds no warm friends, and
has won no respect after the gallant fight he has
made for four years--a harder contest than he will
ever have in the sterner field--then we despair of
the material which West Point is turning out. If
this be true, it is training selfish, snobbish
martinets--not knightly soldiers, not Havelocks,
Hardinges, and Kearneys--but the lowest type of
disciplined and educated force and brutality--the
Bluchers and Marlboroughs. We scarcely believe
this, however, and we know that any young man,
whether he be poor or black, or both, may enter
any first-class college in America and find warm
sympathetic friends, both among students and
faculty, if he but prove himself to be possessed
of some good qualities . . . . If the Smiths,
Flippers, and Williamses in their honorable school
-boy careers can not meet social as well as
intellectual recognition while at West Point, let
them study on and acquit themselves like men, for
they will meet, out in the world, a worthy reception
among men of worth, who have put by the prejudices
of race and the shackles of ignorance. Emerson says
somewhere that "Solitude, the nurse of Genius, is the
foe of mediocrity." If our young men of ability have
the stuff in them to make men out of, they need not
fear "to be let alone" for a while; they will
ultimately come to the surface and attain worthy
"That is plain, practical talk. We like it. It
has the ring of the true metal. It shows that
the writer has faith in the ultimate triumph of
manhood. It is another form for expressing a firm
belief that real worth will find a reward. Never
has any bond people emerged from slavery into a
condition full of such grand opportunities and
splendid possibilities as those which are within
the reach of the colored people of the United
States; but if those opportunities are to be made
available, if those possibilities are to be
realized, the colored people must move into the
fore-front of action and study and work in their
own behalf. The colored cadets at West Point, the
colored students in the public schools, the colored
men in the professions, the trades, and on the
plantations, can not be idlers if they are to
compete with the white race in the acquisition of
knowledge and property. But they have examples of
notable achievements in their own ranks which
should convince them that they have not the
slightest reason to despair of success. The doors
stand wide open, from the plantation to the National
Capitol, and every American citizen can, if he will,
attain worthy recognition.."
And thus, ere we had entered upon our new duties,
were we forewarned of the kind of treatment we
should expect. To be "sent to Coventry," "to be
let severely alone," are indeed terrible dooms,
but we cared naught for them. "To be let alone"
was what we wished. To be left to our own
resources for study and improvement, for enjoyment
in whatever way we chose to seek it, was what we
desired. We cared not for social recognition. We
did not expect it, nor were we disappointed in not
getting it. We would not seek it. We would not
obtrude ourselves upon them. We would not accept
recognition unless it was made willingly. We would
be of them at least independent. We would mark out
for ourselves a uniform course of conduct and follow
it rigidly. These were our resolutions. So long as
we were in the right we knew we should be recognized
by those whose views were not limited or bound by
such narrow confines as prejudice and caste, whether
they were at West Point or elsewhere. Confident that
right on our own part would secure us just treatment
from others, that "if we but prove ourselves possessed
of some good qualities" we could find friends among
both faculty and students.
I came to West Point, notwithstanding I had heard
so much about the Academy well fit to dishearten
and keep one away. And then, too, at the time I
had no object in seeking the appointment other
than to gratify an ordinary ambition.. Several
friends were opposed to my accepting it, and even
persuaded me, or rather attempted to persuade me,
to give up the idea altogether. I was inexorable.
I had set my mind upon West Point, and no amount
of persuasion, and no number of harrowing narratives
of bad treatment, could have induced me to relinquish
the object I had in view. But I was right. The work I
chose, and from which I could not flinch without
dishonor, proved far more important than either my
friends or myself at first thought it would be.
Let me not, however, anticipate. Of this importance
CANT TERMS, ETC.
AS a narrative of this description is very apt to
be dry and uninteresting, I have thought it possible
to remove in a measure this objection by using as
often as convenient the cant lingo of the corps. A
vocabulary which shall contain it all, or nearly
all, becomes necessary. I have taken great care to
make it as full as possible, and at the same time
as intelligible as possible.
There are a few cant words and expressions which are
directly personal, and in many cases self-explanatory.
They are for such reasons omitted.
"Animal," "animile," "beast," "reptile."-- Synonymous
terms applied to candidates for admission into the
"Plebe."--A candidate after admission, a new cadet.
After the candidates are examined and the proficient
ones admitted, these latter are known officially as
"new cadets," but in the cant vernacular of the corps
they are dubbed "plebes," and they retain this
designation till the candidates of the next year
report. They are then called "yearlings," a title
applied usually to them in camp only. After the
encampment they become "furloughmen" until they
return from furlough in August of the following
year. They then are "second-classmen," and are so
officially and à la cadet throughout the year.
From this time till they graduate they are known
as the "graduating class," so that, except the
second class, each class has its own peculiar cant
Candidates generally report in May--about the 20th
--and during July and August are in camp. This is
their "plebe camp." The next is their, "yearling
camp." During the next, they are en congé, and the
next and last is their "first-class camp." Of "plebe
camp," "yearling camp," and "first-class camp," more
"Rapid."--A "plebe" is said to be "rapid" when he
shows a disposition to resist hazing, or to "bone
familiarity" with older cadets--i.e., upper classmen.
"Sep."--A cadet who reported for admission in
"Fins."--A term applied to the hands generally,
of course to the hands of "plebes."
"Prelim."--A preliminary examination.
"Pony."--A key, a corrigé.
"To bone."--To study, to endeavor to do well in any
particular; for instance, to "bone demerits" is to
strive to get as few as possible.
"To bone popularity."--This alludes to a habit
practised, especially by, "yearlings" while in
camp, and is equivalent to our every-day expression
in civil life, viz., "to get in with."
"To bugle it."--To avoid a recitation. To avoid a
recitation is an act seldom done by any cadet. It
is in fact standing at the board during the whole
time of recitation without turning around, and thus
making known a readiness to recite. At the Academy
a bugle takes the place of the bell in civil schools.
When the bugle is blown those sections at recitation
are dismissed, and others come in. Now, if one faces
the board till the bugle blows, there is not then
enough time for him to recite, and he is said to have
"bugled it." Some instructors will call on any one who
shows a disposition to do so, and will require him to
tell what he knows about his subject.
"Busted," "broken."--These words apply only to cadet
officers who are reduced to ranks.
"A cold case."--A sure thing, a foregone conclusion.
To "get chevrons."--To receive an appointment in the
battalion organization. Each year, on the day the
graduates receive their diplomas, and just after--
possibly just before--they are relieved from further
duty at the Academy, the order fixing the appointments
for the next year is read, and those of the year
previous revoked. It has been customary to appoint the
officers, captains, and lieutenants from the first
class, the sergeants from the second, and the corporals
from the third. This custom has at times, and for
reasons, been departed from, and the officers chosen as
For any offence of a grave nature, any one who has
chevrons is liable to lose them, or, in other words,
to be reduced to ranks.
"A cit."--Any citizen.
"To crawl over."--To haze, generally in the severest
"A chapel."--An attendance at church.
"To curse out."--To reprimand, to reprove, and also
simply to interview. This expression does not by any
means imply the use of oaths.
"To cut," "To cut cold."--To avoid, to ostracize.
"Debauch."--Any ceremony or any thing unusual. It may
be a pleasant chat, a drill, or any thing that is out
of the usual routine.
"To drive a squad."--To march it.
"To eat up."--See "To crawl over."
"Exaggerations."--It is a habit of the cadets to
exaggerate on certain occasions, and especially
when policing. "A log of wood," "a saw-mill," "a
forest," and kindred expressions, are applied to
any fragment of wood of any description that may
be lying about. A feather is "a pillow;" a straw,
"a broom factory;" a pin, an "iron foundry;" a
cotton string, "a cotton factory;" and I have
known a "plebe" to be told to "get up that sugar
refinery," which "refinery" was a cube of sugar
crushed by some one treading upon it.
Any thing--whatever it may be--which must be
policed, is usually known by some word or term
suggested by its use or the method or the place
of its manufacture.
"To find."--To declare deficient in studies or
An "extra" is an extra tour of guard duty given
as punishment. Cadets on "extra" are equipped as
for parade, and walk in the area of Cadet Barracks
from two o'clock until retreat, or from two to five
hours, on Saturday or other days of the week. An
"extra" is sometimes called a "Saturday Punishment."
"A fem," "femme."--Any female person.
"A file."--Any male person.
"Fessed," "fessed cold," "fessed frigid," "fessed
out," and "fessed through."--Made a bad recitation,
"To get off."--To perpetrate.
"A gag," "Grin," "Grind."--Something witty, a
"To hive."--To detect, used in a good and bad sense.
Also to take, to steal.
"To hoop up."--To hasten, to hurry.
"H. M. P."--Hop manager's privileges.
"A keen."--See "Gag," etc.
"To leap on."--See "To crawl over."
"Made."--Given an appointment, given chevrons as an
officer in the battalion organization.
"A make."--Such an appointment.
"Maxed."--Made a thorough recitation.
"Ath."--The last one.
"To pile in."--To retire.
"To pink."--To report for any offence.
"To plant.."--To bury with military honors.
"To police one's self."--To bathe.
"To pot."--"To pink," which see.
"To put in."--To submit in writing.
"To put into the battalion."--To assign to a company,
as in case of new cadets.
"Ragged," "ragged out."--Made a good recitation.
"Reveilles."--Old shoes, easy and comfortable,
worn to reveille roll-call.
"Reekless, ricochet."--Careless, indifferent.
"To run it."--To do any thing forbidden. To risk.
"To run it on."--To impose upon.
"Shout."--Excellent, i.e., will create much comment
"Sketch-house."--The Drawing Academy.
"To skin."--See "To pink" (most common).
"To be spooney."--To be gallant.
"To spoon."--To be attentive to ladies.
"A spoon."--A sweetheart.
"To step out."--See "To hoop up."
"Topog."--A topographical drawing.
"To turn in."--To repair to one's quarters.
"To be sent in."--To order any thing sent in.
"To turn out."--To come out, or send out.
"To be white," "To treat white."--To be polite,
courteous, and gentlemanly.
"To wheaten."--To be excused by surgeon.
"To yank."--To seize upon violently.
"O. G. P."--Old guard privileges.
"To get out of."--To shun, to shirk.
"To extinguish."--To distinguish.
"To go for."--To haze.
"To freeze to."--To hold firmly.
"To wipe out."--To destroy.
"Plebeskin."--A rubber overcoat issued to new cadets.
"Turnbacks."--Cadets turned back to a lower class.
"Div," "subdiv."--Division, subdivision.
"Tab."--Tabular system of French.
"To celebrate."--To do.
"A stayback."--A graduate detained at graduation to
instruct the new cadets.*
*When the cadets are in barracks, the officer of the
guard on Sundays either has or assumes authority to
detain from church, for any emergency that might
arise, one or two or more members of his guard, in
addition to those on post on duty. Cadets so detained
are called "staybacks.
"Scratch day."--A day when lessons are hard or
"Gum game."--A joke.
"To fudge."--To copy.
BENNY HAVENS O.
[A number of cadets sitting or lounging about the
room. One at table pouring out the drinks. As soon
as he is done he takes up his own glass, and says
to the others, "Come, fellows," and then all together
--Stand up in a row,
For sentimental drinking we're going for to go;
In the army there's sobriety, promotion's very slow,
So we'll cheer our hearts with choruses of Benny
Of Benny Havens' O, of Benny Havens' O,
We'll cheer our hearts with choruses of Benny Havens' O.
When you and I and Benny, and General Jackson too,
Are brought before the final Board our course of life t' review,
May we never "fess" on any point, but then be told to go
To join the army of the blest at Benny Havens' O.
At Benny Havens' O, at Benny Havens' O,
To join the army of the blest at Benny Havens' O.
To the ladies of the army let our bumpers ever flow,
Companions of our exile, our shield 'gainst every woe,
May they see their husbands generals with double pay
And indulge in reminiscences of Benny Havens' O.
Of Benny Havens O, of Benny Havens' O,
And indulge in reminiscences of Benny Havens' O.
'Tis said by commentators, in the land where we
We follow the same handicraft we followed here
If this be true philosophy (the sexton, he says no),
What days of dance and song we'll have at Benny
At Benny Havens' O, at Benny Havens' O,
What days of dance and song we'll have at Benny
To the ladies of the Empire State, whose hearts
and albums too
Bear sad remembrance of the wrongs we stripling
We bid you all a kind farewell, the best recompense
Our loves and rhymings had their source at Benny
At Benny Havens' O, at Benny Havens' O,
Our loves and rhymings had their source at Benny
[Then, with due solemnity, every head uncovered and
bowed low, they sing:]
There comes a voice from Florida, from Tampa's
It is the wail of gallant men, O'Brien is no more;
In the land of sun and flowers his head lies
No more to sing petite coquille at Benny Havens' O.
At Benny Havens' O, at Benny Havens' O,
No more to sing petite coquille at Benny Havens' O,
"PLEBE CAMP!" The very words are suggestive. Those
who have been cadets know what "plebe camp" is. To
a plebe just beginning his military career the first
experience of camp is most trying. To him every thing
is new. Every one seems determined to impose upon him,
and each individual "plebe" fancies at times he's
picked out from all the rest as an especially good
subject for this abuse (?). It is not indeed a very
pleasant prospect before him, nor should he expect
it to be. But what must be his feelings when some
old cadet paints for his pleasure camp scenes and
experiences? Whatever he may have known of camp
life before seems as naught to him now. It is a new
sort of life he is to lead there, and he feels
himself, although curious and anxious to test it,
somewhat shy of entering such a place. There is no
alternative. He accepts it resignedly and goes ahead.
It is not always with smiling countenance that he
marches out and surveys the site after reveille.
Indeed, those who do have almost certainly received
A highly colored sketch of camp life, and are
hastening to sad disappointment, and not at all to
the joys they've been led to expect. He marches
into the company streets. He surveys them carefully
and recognizes what is meant by "the plebes have to
do all the policing," servants being an unknown
luxury. He also sees the sentry-boxes and the paths
the sentinels tread, and shudders as he recollects
the tales of midnight adventure which some wily
cadet has narrated to him. Imagination begins her
cruel work. Already he sees himself lying at the
bottom of Fort Clinton Ditch tied in a blanket, or
perhaps fetterless and free, but helpless. Or he
may imagine his hands are tied to one, and his feet
to the other tent-pole, and himself struggling for
freedom as he recognizes that the reveille gun has
been fired and those merciless fifers and drummers
are rapidly finishing the reveille. And, horror of
horrors! mayhap his fancies picture him standing
tremblingly on post at midnight's solemn hour, his
gun just balanced in his hands, while numbers of
cadets in hideous sheets and other ghostly garb
approach or are already standing around torturing
him. And again, perchance, he challenges some
approaching person in one direction, and finds to
his dismay the officer of the day, the officer of
the guard, and a corporal are crossing and recrossing
his post, or having already advanced without being
challenged, are demanding why it is, and why he has
been so negligent.
Just after reveille on the morning of June 22d the
companies were marched to their company streets,
and the "plebes" assigned to each followed in rear.
At the time only the tent floors and cord stays were
on the ground. These former the plebes were ordered
to align. This we did while the old cadets looked on,
occasionally correcting or making some suggestion. It
required considerable time to do this, as we were
inexperienced and had to await some explanation of
what we were to do.
When at last we were done, tents, or rather tent
floors, were assigned to us. We thence returned to
barracks and to breakfast. Our more bulky effects
were carried into camp on wagons before breakfast,
while the lighter articles were moved over by our
own hands. By, or perhaps before, eleven o'clock
every thing had been taken to camp. By twelve we
were in ranks ready to march in. At the last stroke
of the clock the column was put in march, and we
marched in with all the "glory of war." We stacked
arms in the company streets, broke ranks, and each
repaired to the tent assigned him, which had by this
time been brought over and placed folded on the tent
floors. They were rapidly prepared for raising, and
at a signal made on a drum the tents were raised
simultaneously, 'mid rousing cheers, which told that
another "camp" was begun.
After this we had dinner, and then we put our tents
in order. At four o'clock the police-call was sounded,
and all the "plebes" were turned out to police the
company streets. This new phase of West Point life--
and its phases rapidly developed themselves--was a
hard one indeed. The duties are menial, and very few
discharge them without some show of displeasure, and
often of temper. None are exempt. It is not hard work,
and yet every one objects to doing it. The third and
fourth classes, by regulations, are required to do the
policing. When I was a plebe, the plebes did it all.
Many indeed tried to shirk it, but they were invariably
"hived." Every plebe who attempted any such thing was
closely watched and made to work. The old cadets
generally chose such men for "special dutymen," and
required them to bring water, pile bedding, sweep the
floor, and do all sorts of menial services. Of course
all this last is prohibited, and therefore risky.
Somebody is "hived" and severely punished almost
every year for allowing plebes to perform menial
duties for him. But what of that? The more dangerous
it becomes the more is it practised. Forbidden things
always have an alluring sweetness about them. More
caution, however, is observed. If, for instance, a
cadet should want a pail of water, he causes a plebe
to empty his (the plebe's) into his own (the cadet's).
If it should be empty, he sends him to the hydrant to
fill it, and, when he returns, gets possession of it
as before. An officer seeing a plebe with his own
pail--recognizable by his own name being on it in
huge Roman characters--going for water would say
nothing to him. If the name, however, should be that
of a cadet, the plebe would be fortunate if he
escaped an investigation or a reprimand on the spot,
and the cadet, too, if he were not put in arrest for
allowing a new cadet to perform menial services for
him. If he wants a dipper of iced-water, he calls
out to the first plebe he sees in some such manner
as this: "Oh! Mr.--, don't you want to borrow my
dipper for a little while?" The plebe of course
understands this. He may smile possibly, and if not
serving some punishment will go for the water.
Plebes are also required to clean the
equipments of the older cadets. They do it
cheerfully, and, strange to say, are as careful
not to be "hived" as the cadet whose accoutrements
they are cleaning. I say "required." I do not mean
that regulations or orders require this of the new
cadets, but that the cadets by way of hazing do.
From the heartrending tales of hazing at West Point,
which citizens sometimes read of, one would think
the plebes would offer some resistance or would
complain to the authorities. These tales are for
the most part untrue. In earlier days perhaps
hazing was practised in a more inhuman manner than
now. It may be impossible, and indeed is, for a
plebe to cross a company street without having some
one yell out to him: "Get your hands around, mister.
Hold your head up;" but all that is required by
tactics. Perhaps the frequency and unnecessary
repetition of these cautions give them the appearance
of hazing. However that may be, there seems to be no
way to impress upon a plebe the necessity of carrying
his "palms to the front," or his "head up." To report
him and give him demerits merely causes him to laugh
and joke over the number of them that have been
recorded against him.
I do not mean to defend hazing in any sense of the
word; but I do believe that it is indispensable as
practised at the Academy. It would simply be
impossible to mould and polish the social amalgamation
at West Point without it. Some of the rough specimens
annually admitted care nothing for regulations. It is
fun to them to be punished. Nothing so effectually
makes a plebe submissive as hazing. That contemptuous
look and imperious bearing lowers a plebe, I sometimes
think, in his own estimation. He is in a manner cowed
and made to feel that he must obey, and not disobey;
to feel that he is a plebe, and must expect a plebe's
portion. He is taught by it to stay in his place, and
not to "bone popularity" with the older cadets.
It is frequently said that "plebe camp" and "plebe
life" are the severest parts of life at West Point.
To some they are, and to others they are not. With
my own self I was almost entirely free from hazing,
and while there were features in "plebe life" which
I disliked, I did nevertheless have a far easier
and better time than my own white classmates. Even
white plebes often go through their camp pleasantly
and profitably. Only those who shirk duty have to
suffer any unusual punishment or hazing.
I have known plebes to be permitted to do any thing
they chose while off duty. I have known others to
have been kept working on their guns or other
equipments whole days for several days at a time. It
mattered not how clean they were, or how soon the work
was done. I've known them to be many times interrupted
for the mere sake of hazing, and perhaps to be sent
somewhere or to do something which was unnecessary
and would have been as well undone. Plebes who tent
with first-classmen keep their own tents in order,
and are never permitted by their tentmates to do any
thing of the kind for others unless when wanted, are
entirely unoccupied, and then usually their services
are asked for. A classmate of mine, when a plebe,
tented with a first-classman. He was doing something
for himself one day in a free-and-easy manner, and
had no thought of disturbing any one. A yearling
corporal, who was passing, saw him, thought he was
having too good and soft a time of it, and ordered
him out to tighten cords, an act then highly uncalled
for, save as a means of hazing. The first-classman
happened to come up just as the plebe began to
interfere with the cords, and asked him who told him
to do that. He told him, and was at once directed to
leave them and return to whatever he was doing before
being interrupted. The yearling, confident in his red
tape and his mightiness, ordered the plebe out again.
His corporalship soon discovered his mistake, for the
first-classman gave the plebe full information as to
what could be required of him, and told him to disobey
any improper order of the corporal's which was plainly
given to haze him. The affair was made personal. A
fight ensued. The corporal was worsted, to the delight,
I imagine, of the plebes.
Again, I've known plebes to be stopped from work--if
they were doing something for a cadet--to transfer it
to some other one who was accustomed to shirk all the
duty he could, or who did things slowly and slovenly.
Indeed I may assert generally that plebes who are
willing to work have little to do outside of their
regular duty, and fare in plebe camp quite as well
as yearlings; while those who are stubborn and careless
are required to do most all the work. Cadets purposely
select them and make them work. They, too, are very
frequently objects of hazing in its severest form.
At best, though, plebe camp is rather hard, its
Numerous drills, together with guard and police duty,
make it the severest and most undesirable portion of
the four years a cadet spends at the Academy.
To get up at five o'clock and be present at reveille
roll-call, to police for half an hour, to have squad
drill during the next hour, to put one's tent in
order after that, and then to prepare one's self for
breakfast at seven, make up a rather trying round of
duties. To discharge them all--and that must
certainly be done--keeps one busy; but who would not
prefer little extra work--and not hard work at that--
in the cooler part of the day to an equal amount in
the heated portion of it? I am sure the plebes do. I
know the corporals and other officers who drill them
do, although they lose their after-reveille sleep.
After breakfast comes troop parade at eight o'clock,
guard mounting immediately after, and the establishment
of the "color line." Arms and accoutrements must be in
perfect order. The plebes clean them during the
afternoon, so that before parade it is seldom necessary
to do more than wipe off dust, or adjust a belt, or
something of the kind.
After establishing the "color line," which is done
about 8.30 A.M., all cadets, save those on guard
and those marching on, have time to do whatever
they choose. The cadets generally repair to the
guard tents to see lady friends and other
acquaintances, while the plebes either interest
themselves in the inspection of "color men," or
make ready for artillery drill at nine. The latter
drill, commencing at 9 A.M., continues for one hour.
The yearlings and plebes receive instruction in the
manual and nomenclature of the piece. The drill is
not very trying unless the heavy guns are used--I
mean unless they are drilled at the battery of
twelve-pounders. Of late both classes have been
drilled at batteries of three-inch rifles. These
are light and easily manoeuvred, and unless the
heat be intense the drill is a very pleasant one.
The first class, during this same hour, are drilled
at the siege or seacoast battery. The work here is
sometimes hard and sometimes not. When firing, the
drill is pleasant and interesting, but when we have
mechanical manoeuvres all this pleasantness vanishes.
Then we have hard work. Dismounting and mounting is
not a very pleasant recreation.
At eleven o'clock, every day for a week or ten days,
the plebes have manual drill. This is entirely in the
shade, and when "In place, rest," is frequently given,
is not at all displeasing, except when some yearling
corporal evinces a disposition to haze. At five
o'clock this drill is repeated Then comes parade,
supper, tattoo, and best of all a long night's rest.
The last two drills continue for a few days only, and
sometimes do not take place at all.
The third class, or the yearlings, have dancing from
eleven to twelve, and the plebes from then till one.
In the afternoon the plebes have nothing to do in the
way of duty till four o'clock. The camp is then
policed, and when that is done there may or may not
be any further duty to discharge till retreat parade.
After the plebes are put in the battalion--that is,
after they begin drilling, etc., with their companies
--all cadets attend company drill at five o'clock.
After attending a few of these drills the first class
is excused from further attendance during the
encampment. One officer and the requisite number of
privates, however, are detailed from the class each
day to act as officers at these drills.
I omitted to say that the first class received in the
forenoon instruction in practical military engineering
What most tries plebes, and yearlings, too, is
guard duty. If their classes are small, each member
of them is put on guard every third or fourth day.
To the plebes, being something entirely new, guard
duty is very, very obnoxious.
During the day they fare well enough, but as soon as
night comes "well enough" disappears. They are liable
at any moment to be visited by cadets on a hazing
tour from the body of the camp, or by the officers
and non- commissioned officers of the guard. The
latter generally leave the post of the guard in groups
of three or four. After getting into camp they
separate, and manage to come upon a sentinel
simultaneously and from all points of the compass.
If the sentinel isn't cool, he will challenge and
Advance one, and possibly let the others come upon
him unchallenged and unseen even. Then woe be to him!
He'll be "crawled over" for a certainty, and to make
his crimes appear as bad as possible, will be reported
for "neglect of duty while a sentinel, allowing the
officers and non--commissioned officers of the guard
to advance upon him, and to cross his post repeatedly
without being challenged." He knows the report to be
true, and if he submits an explanation for the offence
his inexperience will be considered, and he will
probably get no demerits for his neglect of duty.
But the best joke of all is in their manner of
calling off the half-hours at night, and of
challenging. Sometimes we hear No. 2 call off,
"No. 2, ten o'clock, and all is well," in a most
natural and unconcerned tone of voice, while No.
3 may sing out, "No. 3, ten o'clock and all is
well-l-l," changing his tone only on the last
word. Then No. 4, with another variation, may
call off, "No. 4, ten o'clock, and all-l-l-l's
well," changing his tone on "all-l-l-l's," and
speaking the rest, especially the last word, in
a low and natural manner of voice, and sometimes
abruptly. And so on along the entire chain of
sentinels, each one calls off in a manner different
from that of the rest. Sometimes the calling off is
scarcely to be heard, sometimes it is loud and full,
and again it is distinct but squeakish. It is indeed
most delightful to be in one's tent and here the
plebes call off in the still quiet hours of the
night. One can't well help laughing, and yet all
plebes, more or less, call off in the same manner.
Plebe sentinels are very troublesome sometimes to
the non-commissioned officers of the guard. They
receive their orders time after time, and when
inspected for them most frequently spit them out
with ease and readiness; but just as soon as night
comes, and there is a chance to apply them, they
"fess utterly cold," and in the simplest things
at that. Nine plebes out of ten almost invariably
challenge thus, "Who comes here?" "Who stands here?"
"Who goes here?" as the case may be, notwithstanding
they have been repeatedly instructed orally, and have
seen the words, as they should be, in the regulations.
If a person is going, and is a hundred yards or so
off, it is still, "Who goes here?" Everything is
One night the officer of the day concealed himself
near a sentinel's post, and suddenly appeared on it.
The plebe threw his gun down to the proper position
and yelled out, "Who comes here?" The officer of
the day stopped short, whereupon the plebe jumped
at him and shouted, "Who stands here?" Immediately
the officer started off, saying as he did so, "I'm
not standing; I'm going." Then of course the
challenge was again changed to, "Who goes here? "I'm
not going; I'm coming," said the officer, facing
about and approaching the sentinel. This was kept
up for a considerable time, till the officer of the
day got near a sentry-box and suddenly disappeared.
The plebe knew he was there, and yelled in a louder
tone than before, "Who stands here? "Sentry-box," was
the solemn and ghostly response.
It is hardly reasonable, I think, to say the plebe
was frightened; but he actually stood there
motionless, repeating his challenge over and over
again, "Who stands here?"
There was a light battery in park near by, and
through this, aided by the gloom, the officer
of the day managed to pass unobserved along, but
not on the sentinel's post. He then got upon it
and advanced on him, making the while much noise
with his sword and his heavy tread. He walked
directly up to the sentinel unchallenged, and
startled him by asking, "What are you standing
here yelling for?"
The plebe told him that the officer of the day had
been upon his post, and he had seen him go behind
the sentry-box. And all this to the officer of the
day, standing there before him, "Well, sir, whom
do you take me to be?"
The plebe looks, and for the first time brought to
full consciousness, recognizes the officer of the
day. Of course he is surprised, and the more so
when the officer of the day inspects for his--the
plebe's--satisfaction the sentry-box, and finds
no one there. He "eats" that plebe up entirely,
and then sends a corporal around to instruct him
in his orders. When the corporal comes it may be
just as difficult to advance him. He may, when
challenged, advance without replying, or, if he
replies, he may say, "Steamboat," "Captain Jack,
Queen of the Modocs," as one did say to me, or
something or somebody else not entitled to the
countersign. Possibly the plebe remembers this,
and he may command "Halt!" and call another corporal.
This latter may come on a run at "charge bayonets,"
and may not stop till within a foot or so of the
sentinel. He then gets another "cursing out." By
this time the corporal who first came and was halted
has advanced unchallenged and unnoticed since the
arrival of the second. And then another cursing out.
Thus it is that plebe camp is made so hard.
Surely the officers and non-commissioned officers
are right in testing by all manner of ruses the
ability of the sentinels. It is their duty to
instruct them, to see that they know their orders,
and are not afraid to apply them.
Sometimes plebes enjoy it, and like to be cursed
out. Sometimes they purposely advance toward a
party improperly, to see what will be said to them.
It is fun to some, and to others most serious. At
best it gives a plebe a poor opinion of West Point,
and while he may bear it meekly he nevertheless
sighs for the "-- touch of a vanished hand," the
caressing hand of a loving mother or sister. I know
I used to hate the very name of camp, and I had an
easier time, too, than the other plebes.
Of course the plebes, being inexperienced for the
most part, are "high privates in the rear rank."
For another reason, also, this is the case. The
first and second classes have the right established
by immemorial custom of marching in the front rank,
which right necessarily keeps the plebes in the rear
rank, and the yearlings too, except so many as are
required in the front rank for the proper formation
of the company. Another reason, perhaps, may be
given to the same end. We have what we call class
rank, or, in other words, class standing. Every
class has certain privileges and immunities, which
the junior classes do not enjoy; for example, first-
classmen, and second-classmen too--by General Orders
of September, 1876--are excused from guard duty in
the capacity of privates, and are detailed-- first-
classmen for officers of the day and officers of the
guard, and second-classmen for non-commissioned
officers of the guard. All members of the third and
fourth classes are privates, and from them the
privates of the guard are detailed. All officers,
commissioned and non-commissioned, are exempt from
"Saturday punishment." I mean they do not walk
extra tours of guard for punishment. The non-
commissioned officers are sometimes required to
serve such punishments by discharging the duties
of corporal or sergeant in connection with the
punishment squad. Third-and fourth-classmen enjoy
no such immunities. Plebes, then, having no rank
whatever, being in fact conditional cadets until
they shall have received their warrants in the
following January, must give way to those who have.
One half or more of the privates of the company must
be in the front rank. This half is made up of those
who rank highest, first-classmen and second-classmen,
and also, if necessary, a number of third-classmen.
Plebes must then, except in rare cases, march in the
rear rank, and from the time they are put in the
battalion till the close of the summer encampment,
they are required to carry their hands with palms to
the front as prescribed in the tactics.
All this is kept up till the close of camp, and makes,
I think, plebe camp the most trying part of one's cadet
On the 28th of August the furloughmen return, and
report to the commandant at two o'clock for duty.
In the afternoon the battalion is sized and quarters
are assigned under the supervision of the assistant-
instructors of tactics.
At parade the appointment of officers and non-
commissioned officers for the ensuing year is
published, and also orders for the discontinuance
of the encampment.
In the evening the "twenty-eighth hop" takes place,
and is the last of the season. On the 29th--and
beginning at reveille--the cadets move their effects
into winter quarters in barracks. All heavy articles
are moved in on wagons, while all lighter ones are
carried over by cadets themselves. By seven o'clock
every thing is moved away from camp, save each cadet's
Breakfast is served at 7 A.M., and immediately
afterward comes "troop" and guard-mounting, after
which the entire camp is thoroughly policed. This
requires an hour or more, and when all is done the
"general" is sounded. At this the companies are
formed under arm in their respective company
streets. The arms are then stacked and ranks
broken. At least two cadets repair to each tent,
and at the first tap of the drum remove and roll
up all the cords save the corner ones. At the
second tap, while one cadet steadies the tent the
other removes and rolls the corner cords nearest
him. The tents in the body of the encampment are
moved. Back two feet, more or less, from the
color line, while the guard tents and those of
the company officers are moved in a northerly
direction. At the third tap the tents fall
simultaneously toward the color line and the south
cardinal point, amid rousing cheers. The tents
being neatly rolled up and placed on the floors,
the companies are reformed and on the centre. The
battalion then marches out to take up its winter
quarters in barracks.
When camp is over the plebes are no longer required
to depress their toes or to carry their hands with
palms to the front. They are, in fact, "cadets and
gentlemen," and must take care of themselves.
THE academic year begins July 1st, and continues
till about June 20th the following year. As soon
after this as practicable--depending upon what
time the examination is finished--the corps moves
into camp, with the exception of the second class,
who go on furlough instead.
Between the 20th of August and the 1st of September,
the "Seps," or those candidates who were unable to
do so in the spring previous, report. Before the 1st
they have been examined and the deficient ones
dismissed. On the 1st, unless that be Sunday,
academic duties begin. The classes are arranged
into a number of sections, according to their class
rank, as determined at the previous annual examination,
or according to rank in some particular study--for
instance, for instruction in engineering the first
class is arranged according to merit in philosophy,
and not according to general merit or class rank. The
fourth, or "plebe" class, however, is arranged
alphabetically since they as yet have no class rank.
The first class study, during the first term,
engineering law, and ordnance and gunnery. They
recite on civil engineering from 8 to 11 A.M.
daily, on ordnance and gunnery from 2 to 4 P.M.,
alternating with law.
The second class have natural and experimental
philosophy from 8 to 11 A.M. daily, and chemistry,
alternating with riding, from 11 A.M. to 1 P.M.;
also drawing in pencil from 2 to 4 P.M. For
instruction in this department the class is divided
into two as nearly equal parts as practicable, which
alternate in attendance at the Drawing Academy.
The third class have pure mathematics, analytical
Geometry, descriptive geometry, and the principles
of shades, shadows, and perspective, from 8 to 11
A.M. daily. They also have French from 11 A.M.,
till 1 P.M., alternating with Spanish.
The entire class attend drawing daily till November
1st, when it is divided into two equal parts or
platoons, which attend drawing and riding on
alternate clays. Riding! "Yearling riding!" I must
advert to that before I go further. First let me
describe it. A platoon of yearlings, twenty, thirty,
forty perhaps; as many horses; a spacious riding-
hall, with galleries that seat but too many mischievous
young ladies, and whose interior is well supplied with
tan bark, make up the principal objects in the play.
Nay, I omit the most important characters, the
Instructor and the necessary number of enlisted, men.
Area of barracks. At guard-house door stands an
orderly, with drum in hands. In the area a number
of cadets, some in every-day attire, others dressed
à la cavalier. These à la cavalier fellows are going
to take their first lesson in riding. About four-
fifths of them were never on a horse in their lives,
and hence what dire expectations hover over their
ordinarily placid heads! They have heard from the
upper classmen what trials the novice experiences
in his first efforts, and they do not go to the
riding-hall without some dread. Four o'clock and ten
minutes. The drum is beaten.
Officer of the Day.--Form your platoon! Right, face!
Call your roll!
Section Marcher.--Bejay! Barnes! Du Furing!
Swikeheimer! Du Flicket, etc.
Platoon (answering to their names).--Here! Here-re-
re! ho-o-o! hi-i-i! har-ar-ar! Heer-r!
Section Marcher (facing about salutes).--All are
Officer of the Day (returning salute).--March off
your platoon, sir!
Section Marcher (facing about).--Left face! forward.
March! (Curtain falls.)
The riding-hall, a large, spacious, rectangular
structure, door on each side and at each end,
floor well covered with tan bark, spacious
gallery over each side door, staircases outside
leading to them. Galleries are occupied, one by
ladies, and, perhaps a number of gentlemen, and
the other by enlisted men usually. In the centre
of the hall are a number of horses, each equipped
with a surcingle, blanket, and watering bridle.
A soldier stands at the head of each one of them.
As curtain rises enter platoon by side door, and
marches around the left flank of the line of
horses and as far forward as necessary.
Section Marcher.--Platoon, halt! left, face!
(Saluting Instructor) All are present, sir!
Instructor (saluting).--The Section Marcher will
take his place on the left.
He then gives all necessary instruction.
"To mount the trooper the Instructor first causes
him to stand to horse by the command 'Stand to
horse!' At this command--" Well, see "Cavalry
We've got the trooper mounted now. After some
further explanation the Instructor forms them
into a column of files by the commands:
"By file, by the right (or left) flank. March!"
They are now going around the hall at a walk, a
slow, snail-like pace, but what figures some of
them present! Still all goes on quite well. The
Instructor is speaking:
"To trot," says he, "raise the hands" ("yearlings"
use both hands) "slightly. This is to apprise the
horse that you want his attention. Then lower the
hands slightly, and at the same time gently press
the horse with the legs until he takes the gait
desired. As soon as he does, relax the pressure."
A long pause. The occupants of the galleries are
looking anxiously on. They know what is coming next.
They have seen these drills over and over again. And
so each trooper awaits anxiously the next command.
Alas! It comes! "Trot!"
What peals of laughter from that cruel gallery! But
why? Ah! See there that trooper struggling in the
tan bark while a soldier pursues his steed. He is
not hurt. He gets up, brushes away the tan bark,
remounts and starts off again. But there, he's off
again! He's continually falling off or jumping off
purposely (?). What confusion! There comes one at a
full gallop, sticking on as best he can; but there,
the poor fellow is off. The horses are running away.
The troopers are dropping off everywhere in the hall.
No one is hurt. Alas! they pressed too hard to keep
on, and instead of relaxing the pressure at the
desired gait, the trot, they kept on pressing, the
horse taking the trot, the gallop, the run, and the
trooper, alas! the dust. Again they had the reins
too long, and instead of holding on by the flat of
the thighs with their feet parallel to the horse,
we see them making all sorts of angles. But that
gallery! that gallery! how I used to wish it wasn't
there! The very sight of a lady under such
circumstances is most embarrassing.
Fair ones, why will you thus torture the "yearlings"
by your at other times so desirable presence?
The fourth class have pure mathematics, and algebra,
daily from 8 to 11 A.M., and French also, daily,
from 2 to 4 P.M. Beginning on October 15th, or as
near that time as practicable, they have fencing,
and the use of the bayonet and small-sword.
During the month of September cadets of all classes,
or the battalion, are instructed in the infantry
tactics in the "School of the Battalion." Near the
end of the month it is customary to excuse the
officers of the first class from these drills, and
to detail privates to perform their duties for one
drill only at a time. The other classes are in ranks,
or the line of file-closers, according as they are
sergeants, guides, or privates.
During October the several classes receive practical
instruction as follows: The first class in military
engineering, the manner of making and recording the
details of a military reconnoissance, and field
sketching; the second class in siege and sea-coast
artillery, and military signalling and telegraphy.
The class is divided into two parts, composed of the
odd and even numbers, which attend drills on alternate
days--that is, artillery one day and signalling the
next; the third class in light or field artillery,
and the theory and principles of "target practice."
Sometimes this latter is given during camp, as is
most convenient. Sometimes, also, they receive
instruction in ordnance. This, however, is generally
deferred till they become first-classmen.
For further instruction of the first class the
following part of the personnel of a light battery
is detailed from that class, viz.: three chiefs
of platoon, one chief of caissons, one guidon, and
six chiefs of section. Each member of the class is
detailed for each of these offices in his proper order.
The fourth class receives instruction in field
artillery at the "foot batteries." This instruction
is limited to the nomenclature and manual of the
piece. Here, also, to assist the instructor, a chief
of piece for each piece is detailed. They are required
to correct all errors made by the plebes, and sometimes
even to drill them. Hence a knowledge of tactics is
indispensable, and the means of fixing such knowledge
in the mind is afforded.
Sometimes also two first-classmen are required to
assist at the siege or sea-coast batteries.
Every day throughout the year a guard is mounted.
It consists of two officers of the guard--sometimes
only one--one sergeant, three corporals--or more--
and twenty-four privates--sometimes, also, eighteen
or twenty-one in camp, and twenty-seven in barracks.
Every day, also, there is one officer of the day
detailed from the first class.
The weather permitting, we have "dress parade" daily.
When unfavorable, on account of snow, rain, or severe
cold, we have "undress parade"--that is, parade without
arms and in undress or fatigue uniform, the object
being to get us all together to publish the orders,
etc., for the morrow. After November 1st we usually
have "undress parade," and then "supper mess parade."
Between these two ceremonies the cadets amuse themselves
at the gymnasium, dancing or skating, or "spooneying,"
or at the library; generally, I think--the upper classmen
at any rate--at the library. After supper we have
recreation and then study. And thus we "live and do" till
The semi-annual examination begins January 1st, or as
soon thereafter as practicable. The plebes are examined
first, and started in their new studies as soon as
possible. After the plebes the other classes are examined
in the order of their rank--that is, first class, second
class, and third class--and of the importance of their
studies, engineering being first, then philosophy, and
The examination being over, the deficient ones,
after receiving orders from the Secretary of War,
are dismissed. Studies are then resumed as follows:
For the first class military engineering, ordnance,
and gunnery, constitutional law, military law, rules
of evidence, practice of courts-martial, mineralogy,
and geology, strategy, and grand tactics, and the
throwing and dismantling of pontoon bridges. For the
second class, acoustics and optics, astronomy,
analytical mechanics in review; infantry, artillery,
and cavalry tactics; drawing, riding, and signalling.
For the third class, calculus, surveying, geometry,
and riding. Immediately after the examination the
entire third class receive instruction in mechanical
drawing before they begin their other mathematical
studies. For the fourth class the studies are plane
geometry, trigonometry, descriptive geometry, and
fencing, including the use of the small-sword, broad-
sword, and bayonet.
Parades, guard duty, etc., remain as previously
described until about the middle of March usually.
At that time the ordinary routine of drills, dress
parades, etc., is resumed; but drills in this order,
viz., from March 15th to April 1st instruction in
the school of the company; in artillery tactics, as
before described during April; and in infantry
tactics, in the "School of the Battalion," during
May. The annual examination takes place in June. The
following diary, made for the purpose of insertion
here, will best explain what generally occurs during
Thursday, June 1, 1876.--Resumed white pants at 5.10
P.M. Received Board of Visitors by a review at 5.10
P.M. Examination begun at 9 A.M. First class,
engineering. Salute of fifteen guns at meridian to
Board of Visitors.
Friday, June 2.--First class, engineering finished.
Second class, philosophy commenced. Siege battery
drill at 5.10 P.M.
Saturday, June 3.--Second class, philosophy
Monday, June 5.--Light battery at 5.10 P.M. A
yearling lost his "white continuations." Plebes
went to parade.
Tuesday, June 6.--Fourth class, entire in French.
Examination written. Second class, philosophy
finished. First class, mineralogy and geology
begun. Third class, mathematics begun. Battalion
drill at 5.10 P.M.
Wednesday, June 7.--Second class turned out, marched
to sea-coast battery at 11 A.M. Three detachments
selected. Rest marched back and dismissed. Cavalry
drill at 5.10 P.M. Six second-classmen turned out.
Plebes put in battalion.
Thursday, June 8.--Plebes put on guard. Pontoon
bridging, 5.10 P. M.
Friday, June 9.--Battalion skirmish drill 5.10 P.M.
Deployed to front at double time. Second, fourth,
and seventh companies reserve. Almost all manoeuvres
at double time. Deployed by numbers and charged.
Marched in in line, band on right. Broke into
column of companies to the left, changed direction
to the right, obliqued to the left, moved forward and
formed "front into line, faced to the rear." Arms
inspected, ammunition returned. Dismissed.
Saturday, June 10.--Third class, mathematics finished.
Miss Philips sang to cadets in mess hall after supper.
First class, ordnance begun.
Sunday, June 11.--Graduating sermon by Hon.--, of
Princeton, N. J., closing "hime," "When shall we meet
again?" Graduating dinner at 2 P.M.
Monday, June 12.--Detail from first class to ride in
hall. Use of sabre and pistol on horseback. First
class, ordnance finished. Law begun.
Tuesday, June 13.--First class finished. Board divided
into committees. Second class, chemistry begun.
Graduating parade. Corps cheered by graduates after
parade. Hop in evening; also German; whole continuing
till 3 A.M. Rumor has it two first-classmen, Slocum
and Guilfoyle, are "found" in ordnance and engineering.
Wednesday, June 14.--Fourth class, mathematics begun.
Salute seventeen guns at 10 A.M. in honor of arrival
at post of General Sherman and Colonel Poe of his
staff. Graduating exercises from 11 A.M. till near
1 P.M. Addresses to graduates. Mortar practice and
fireworks at night.
This ended the "gala" days at West Point in '76.
Thursday, June 15.--Usual routine of duties resumed.
Company drills in the afternoon from 5.10 to 6.10
P.M. Rather unusual, but we're going to the Centennial.
Rumor has it we encamp Saturday the 17th for ten days.
Friday, June 16.--Dom Pedro, emperador de la Brasil
estaba recibiado para un "review" a las cuatro
horas y quarenta y cinco minutos. El embarcó por la
ciudad de Nueva York inmediatemente Second class,
chemistry finished. Third class, French begun.
Saturday, June 17.--Third class, French finished.
Third class, Spanish begun.. "Camp rumor" not true.
Monday, June 19.--Moved into camp, aligned tent
floors at 5 A. M. in the rain. Required by order
to move in effects at 9 A. M., and to march in and
pitch tents at 12 M. Rained in torrents. Marched
in, etc., at 9 A.M. Effects moved in afterwards.
Rain ceased by 12 M. Marched in. Second class,
tactics finished. Third class, Spanish finished.
Ordinarily as soon as the examination is over the
third class take advantage of the two months'
furlough allowed them, while other classes go into
camp. This encampment begins June 17th, or a day or
two earlier or later, according to circumstances.
This brings me to the end of the first year. I have
described camp life, and also, I observe, each of
the remaining years of cadet life. On July 1st the
plebes become the fourth class; the original fourth
the third; the third, now on furlough, the second;
and the second the first. I have given in an earlier
part of my narrative the studies, etc., of these
The plebe, or fourth class of the previous year, are
now become yearlings, and are therefore in their
"yearling camp." At the end of every month an extract
from the class and conduct report of each cadet is
sent to his parents or guardian for their information.
I insert a copy of one of these monthly reports.
UNITED STATES MILITARY ACADEMY,
West Point, N. Y., March 26, 1875.
EXTRACT from the Class and Conduct Reports of the
MILITARY ACADEMY for the month of February, 1875,
furnished for the information of Parents and Guardians,
THIRD CLASS--Composed of 83 Members.
Cadet Henry O. Flipper
Was, in Mathematics.........No. 48
" French..............No. 48
" Spanish,............No. 37
" Drawing.............No. 40
His demerit for the month is 2, and since the
commencement of the academic half year, 23.
Robt. H. Hall,
Captain 10th Infantry,
Adjutant Military Academy.
REGULATIONS FOR THE MILITARY ACADEMY.
Par. 71.--When any Cadet shall have a total of
numbers [of demerit] thus recorded, exceeding one
hundred in six months, he shall be declared deficient
Par. 153.--No Cadet shall apply for, or receive money,
or any other supplies from his parents, or from any
person whomsoever, without permission of the
Note.--The attention of Parents and Guardians is
invited to the foregoing Regulations. The permission
referred to in paragraph 153 must be obtained before
the shipment to the cadet of the supplies desired.
IN this chapter I shall describe only those phases
of cadet life which are experienced by "yearlings"
in their "yearling camp."
Beginning July 5th, or as soon after as practicable,
the third class receive practical instruction in the
nomenclature and manual of the field-piece. This drill
continues till August 1st, when they begin the "School
of the Battery."
The class attend dancing daily. Attendance at dancing
is optional with that part of the third class called
"yearlings," and compulsory for the "Seps," who of
course do not become yearlings till the following
September. The third class also receive instruction
in the duties of a military laboratory, and "target
practice." These instructions are not always given
during camp. They may be given in the autumn or spring.
Another delight of the yearling is to "bone colors."
Immediately in front of camp proper is a narrow path
extending entirely across the ground, and known as the
"color line." On the 1st of August--sometimes before--
the "color line" is established, this name being
applied also to the purpose of the color line. This
ceremony consists in stacking arms just in rear of the
color line, and placing the colors on the two stacks
nearest the centre of the line.
From the privates of the guard three are chosen to
guard the stacks and to require every one who crosses
the color line or passes within fifteen paces of the
colors to salute them. These three sentinels are known
as the "colors," or "color men," and are numbered
"first," "second," and "third."
Those are chosen who are neatest and most soldierlike
in their appearance. Cadets prepare themselves
specially for this, and they toss up their guns to
the adjutant at guard-mounting. This signifies that
they intend competing for "colors." The adjutant falls
them out after the guard has marched to its post, and
inspects them. Absolute cleanliness is necessary. Any
spot of dirt, dust, or any thing unclean will often
defeat one. Yearlings "bone" their guns and accoutrements
for "colors," and sometimes get them every time they
A "color man" must use only those equipments issued to
him. He cannot borrow those of a man who has "boned
them up" and expect to get colors. Sometimes-- but
rarely--plebes compete and win.
The inducement for this extra labor is simply this:
Instead of being on duty twenty-four hours, color men
are relieved from 4 P. M. till 8 A. M. the next day,
when they march off. They of course enjoy all other
privileges given the "Old Guard."
"Sentinels for the Color Line.--The sentinels for the
color line will be permitted to go to their tents from
the time the stacks are broken till 8 A.M. the following
morning, when they will rejoin the guard. They will be
excused from marching to meals, but will report to the
officer of the guard at the roll-call for each meal, and
also at tattoo and reveille."--(From Résumé of Existing
Orders, U. S. C. C.)
It is the yearling who does most of the hazing. Just
emerged from his chrysalis state, having the year
before received similar treatment at the hands of other
yearlings, he retaliates, so to speak, upon the now
plebe, and finds in such retaliation his share of
The practice, however, is losing ground. The cadets
are more generous, and, with few exceptions, never
interfere with a plebe. This is certainly an advance
in the right direction; for although hazing does
comprise some good, it is, notwithstanding, a low
practice, one which manliness alone should condemn.
None need information and assistance more than plebes,
and it is unkind to refuse it ; nay, it is even not
humane to refuse it and also to haze the asker. Such
conduct, more than any thing else, discourages and
disheartens him. It takes from him all desire to do
and earn, to study or strive for success. At best it
can be defended only as being effective where
regulations are not, viz., in the cases of rough
specimens who now not infrequently manage to win
Formerly in yearling camp the corporals were all
"acting sergeants." They were so acting in the
absence of the de facto sergeants. These corporals
got the idea into their heads that to retain their
appointments they had to do a certain amount of
"skinning," and often "skins" were more fancied
than real. This was a rather sad condition of
affairs. Plebes would find their demerits
accumulating and become disheartened. It was all
due to this unnecessary rigor, and "being military,"
which some of the yearling corporals affected. No
one bears, or rather did bear, such a reputation
as the yearling corporal. As such he was disliked
by everybody, and plebes have frequently fought
them for their unmanly treatment. This, however,
was. It is no more. We have no yearling corporals,
and plebes fare better generally than ever before.
Not because all yearling corporals thus subserved
their ambition by reporting men for little things
that might as well have been overlooked, did they
get this bad reputation, but rather because with it
they coupled the severest hazing, and sometimes even
insults. That was unmanly as well as mean. Hazing
could be endured, but not always insults.
Whether for this reason or not I cannot say, the
authorities now appoint the corporals from the
second class, men who are more dignified and courteous
in their conduct toward all, and especially toward
plebes. The advantages of this system are evident.
One scarcely appreciates cadet life--if such
appreciation is possible--till he becomes a
yearling. It is not till in yearling camp that
a cadet begins to "spoon." Not till then is he
permitted to attend the hops, and of course he
has but little opportunity to cultivate female
society, nor is he expected to do so till then,
for to assume any familiarity with the upper
classes would be considered rather in advance of
his "plebeship's" rights. How then can he--he is
little more than a stranger--become acquainted
with the fair ones who either dwell at or are
visiting West Point. Indeed, knowing "femmes" are
quite as prone to haze as the cadets, and most
unmercifully cut the unfortunate plebe. Some are
also so very haughty: they will admit only first-
classmen to their acquaintance and favor.
But Mr. Plebe, having become a yearling finds that
the "Mr." is dropped, and that he is allowed all
necessary familiarity. He then begins to enjoy his
cadetship, a position which for pleasure and happiness
has untold advantages, for what woman can resist those
glorious buttons? A yearling has another advantage. The
furlough class is absent, and the plebes--well, they
are "plebes." Sufficient, isn't it? The spooneying
must all be done, then, by the first and third classes.
Often a great number of the first class are bachelors,
or not inclined to be spooney; and that duty then of
course devolves on the more gallant part of that class
and the yearlings.
The hop managers of the third class have been mentioned
elsewhere. They enjoy peculiar facilities for pleasure,
and, where a good selection has been made, do much to
dispel the monotony of academic military life. Indeed,
they do very much toward inducing others to cultivate a
high sense of gallantry and respect for women. The
refining influence of female society has greater play,
and its good results are inevitable.
But what a wretched existence was mine when all this
was denied me! One would be unwilling to believe I had
not, from October, 1875, till May, 1876, spoken to a
female of any age, and yet it was so. There was no
society for me to enjoy--no friends, male or female,
for me to visit, or with whom I could have any social
intercourse, so absolute was my isolation.* Indeed, I
had friends who often visited me, but they did so only
when the weather was favorable. In the winter season,
when nature, usually so attractive, presented nothing
to amuse or dispel one's gloom, and when, therefore,
something or some one suited for that purpose was so
desirable, no one of course visited me. But I will not
murmur. I suppose this was but another constituent of
that mechanical mixture of ills and anxieties and
suspense that characterized my cadet life. At any rate
I can console myself in my victory over prejudice,
whether that victory be admitted or not. I know I have
so lived that they could find in me no fault different
from those at least common to themselves, and have
thus forced upon their consciences a just and merited
recognition whether or not they are disposed to follow
conscience and openly accept my claim to their brotherly
*I could and did have a pleasant chat every day, more
or less, with "Bentz the bugler," the tailor, barber,
commissary clerk, the policeman who scrubbed out my
room and brought around the mail, the treasurer's
clerk, cadets occasionally, and others. The statement
made in some of the newspapers, that from one year's
end to another I never heard the sound of my own voice,
except in the recitation room, is thus seen to be
IT is a common saying among cadets that "first-class
camp is just like furlough." I rather think the
assertion is an inheritance from former days and the
cadets of those days, for the similarity at present
between first-class camp and furlough is beyond our
conception. There is none, or if any it is chimerical,
depending entirely on circumstances. In the case of
a small class it would be greater than in that of a
large one. For instance, in "train drill" a certain
number of men are required. No more are necessary. It
would be inexpedient to employ a whole class when the
class had more men in it than were required for the
drill. In such cases the supernumeraries are instructed
in something else, and alternate with those who attend
train drill. In the case of a small class all attend the
same drill daily, and that other duty or drill is
reserved for autumn. Thus there is less drill in camp,
and it becomes more like furlough when there is none
Again, first-classmen enjoy more privileges than
others, and for this reason their camp is more like
furlough. If, however, there are numerous drills,
the analogy will fail; for how can duty, drills,
etc., coexist with privileges such as first-class
privileges? Time which otherwise would be devoted
to enjoyment of privileges is now consumed in drills.
Still there is much in it which makes first-class
camp the most delightful part of a cadet's life.
There are more privileges, the duties are lighter
and more attractive, and make it withal more enjoyable.
First, members of the class attend drill both as
assistants and as students. They are detailed as
chiefs of platoon, chiefs of section, chiefs of
caissons, and as guidons at the light battery; as
chiefs of pieces at the several foot batteries;
attend themselves at the siege or sea-coast batteries,
train drill, pontoon drill, engineering, ordnance, and
astronomy, and they are also detailed as officers of
the guard. These duties are generally not very
difficult nor unpleasant to discharge. Second, from the
nature of the privileges allowed first-classmen, they
have more opportunity for pleasure than other cadets,
and therefore avoid the rather serious consequences of
their monotonous academic military life. A solitary
monotonous life is rather apt to engender a dislike for
mankind, and no high sense of honor or respect for women.
I deem these privileges of especial importance, as they
enable one to avoid that danger and to cultivate the
highest possible regard for women, and those virtues and
other Christian attributes of which they are the better
exponents. A soldier is particularly liable to fall into
this sans-souci way of looking at life, and those to
whom its pleasures, as well as its ills, are largely
due. We are indebted to our fellows for every thing
which affects our life as regards its happiness or
unhappiness, and this latter misfortune will rarely
be ours if we properly appreciate our friends and
those who can and will make life less wretched. To
shut one's self up in one's self is merely to trust,
or rather to set up, one's own judgment as superior
to the world's. That cannot be, nor can there be
happiness in such false views of our organization as
being of and for each other.
At this point of the course many of the first-class
have attained their majority. They are men, and in
one year more will be officers of the army. It becomes
them, therefore, to lay aside the ordinary student's
rôle, and assume a more dignified one, one more in
conformity with their age and position. They leave
all cadet rôles, etc., to the younger classes, and
put on the proper dignity of men.
There are for them more privileges. They are more
independent--more like men; and consequently they
find another kind of enjoyment in camp than that
of the cadet. It is a general, a proper, a rational
sort of pleasure such as one would enjoy at home
among relatives or friends, and hence the similarity
between first-class camp and furlough.
But it is not thus with all first-classmen. Many,
indeed the majority, are cadets till they graduate.
They see every thing as a cadet, enjoy every thing
as a cadet, and find the duties, etc., of first-class
camp as irksome as those of plebe or yearling camp.
Of course such men see no similarity between first-
class camp and furlough. It is their misfortune. We
should enjoy as many things as we can, and not sorrow
over them. We should not make our life one of sorrow
when it could as well be one of comfort and pleasure.
I don't mean comfort and pleasure in an epicurean
sense, but in a moral one. Still first-classmen do
have many duties to perform, but there is withal one
consolation at least, there are no upper classmen to
keep the plebe or yearling in his place. There is no
feeling of humbleness because of junior rank, for the
first class is the first in rank, and therefore need
humble itself to none other than the proper authorities.
Again, their honor, as "cadets and gentlemen," is
relied upon as surety for obedience and regard for
regulations. They are not subject to constant watching
as plebes are. The rigor of discipline is not so severe
upon them as upon others. It was expended upon them
during their earlier years at the Academy, and, as a
natural consequence, any violation of regulations, etc.,
by a first-classman, merits and receives a severer
punishment than would be visited upon a junior classman
for a like infringement on his part.
The duties of first-classmen in first-class camp are
as follows: The officer of the day and two officers
of the guard are detailed each day from the class.
Their duties are precisely those of similar officers
in the regular army. The junior officer of the guard
daily reports to the observatory to find the error of
the tower clock. Also each day are detailed the
necessary assistants for the several light batteries,
who are on foot or mounted, as the case may require.
The remainder of the class receive instructions in
the service of the siege and sea-coast artillery.
These drills come in the early forenoon. After them
come ordnance and engineering.
The entire class is divided as equally as may be into
two parts, which alternate in attendance at ordnance
In ordnance the instructions are on the preparation
of military fireworks, fixing of ammunition and
packing it, the battery wagon and forge. This
instruction is thoroughly practical. The cadets
make the cases for rockets, paper shells, etc., and
fill them, leaving them ready for immediate use. The
stands of fixed ammunition prepared are the grape and
canister, and shell and shot, with their sabots.
The battery wagon and forge are packed as prescribed
in the "Ordnance Manual."
The instructions in engineering are also practical
and military. They are in the modes of throwing and
dismantling pontoon bridges, construction of fascines,
gabions, hurdles, etc., and revetting batteries with
them. Sometimes also during camp, more often after,
foot reconnoissances are made. A morning and night
detail is made daily from the class to receive
practical instruction in astronomy in the field
Night signalling with torches, and telegraphy by day,
form other sources of instruction for the first class.
Telegraphy, or train drill, as the drill is called,
consists in erecting the telegraph line and opening
communication between two stations, and when this is
done, in communicating so as to acquire a practical
knowledge of the instruments and their use.
These various drills--all of them occurring daily,
Sunday of course excepted, and for part of them
Saturday also--complete the course of instruction
given the first class only during their first-class
camp. It will be observed that they all of them are
of a military nature and of the greatest importance.
The instruction is thorough accordingly.
I have sufficiently described, I think, a cadet's
first-class camp. I shall, therefore, close the
OUR FUTURE HEROES.
THE WEST POINT CADETS' VACATION.
Ten Days of Centennial Sport for Prospective Warriors
--The Miseries of three hundred Young Gentlemen who
are limited to Ten Pairs of White Trousers each.
"ALMOST at the foot of George's Hill, and not far
to the westward of Machinery Hall, is the camp of
the West Point cadets. From morning till night the
domestic economy of the three hundred young gentlemen
who compose the corps is closely watched, and their
guard mountings and dress parades attract throngs of
spectators. It would be hard to find anywhere a body
of young men so manly in appearance, so perfect in
discipline, and so soldier-like and intelligent. The
system of competitive examination for admission, so
largely adopted within the past few years in many of
our large cities, has resulted in recruiting the corps
with lads of bright intellect and more than ordinary
attainments, while the strict physical examination has
rigorously excluded all but those of good form and
perfect health. The competitive system has also given
to the Academy students who want to learn, instead of
lads who are content to scramble through the prescribed
course as best they can, escaping the disgrace of being
"found" (a cadet term equivalent to the old college word
"plucked") by nearly a hair's-breadth.
"The camp.--The camp is laid out in regulation style,
and has four company streets. Near the western limit
of the Centennial grounds are the tents of the
commandant and the cadet captains and lieutenants.
Below, on a gentle incline, are the wall tents,
occupied by the cadets. Each of these has a board
floor, and it is so arranged that when desired it
may be thrown open on all sides. From two to four
narrow iron cots, a bucket for water, an occasional
chair, and now and then a mirror, comprise the
furniture. But scanty as it is, every article of this
little outfit has a place, and must be kept in it, or
woe to the unlucky wight upon whom the duty of
housekeeping devolves for the day. The bucket must
stand on the left-hand side of the tent, in front;
the beds must be made at a certain hour and in a
certain style--for the coming heroes of America have
to be their own chambermaids; while valises and other
baggage must be stowed away in as orderly a way as
possible. Every morning the tents are inspected, and
any lack of neatness or order insures for the
chambermaid of the day a misconduct mark. It may be
easily conceived that under a regime so strict as
this the cadets are particularly careful as to their
quarters, inasmuch as one hundred of these marks mean
dismissal from the Academy.
"At daybreak the reveille sounds, and the cadets turn
out for roll-call. Then come breakfast, guard mounting,
and camp and general police duty, which consume the
time until 8.30 A.M., from which hour those who are not
on guard have the freedom of the Centennial grounds. At
5 P.M. they must fall in for dress parade; at 9 they
answer to 'tattoo' roll-call, and a few minutes later
'taps' or 'lights out' consigns them to darkness and
"West Point Aristocracy.--Small as is this corps, it
is still patent that the distinction of caste is very
strong. A first-classman--cadet officers are selected
from this class--looks down upon lower grade men, while
second-class cadets view their juniors with something
nearly allied to contempt, and third-class men are
amusingly patronizing in their treatment of 'plebes'
or new-comers. For the first year of their Academy
life the 'plebes' have rather a hard time of it; but
no sooner do they emerge from their chrysalis state
than they are as hard upon their unfortunate successors
as the third-class men of the year before were upon
"The cadets are delighted with their reception and
kind treatment in Philadelphia, and look upon their
ten days' visit to the Centennial as a most pleasant
break in the monotony of Academy life. That they
maintain the reputation of the Academy for gallantry
and devotion to the fair sex is evidenced by the
presence of numbers of beautiful young ladies in
their camp after dress parade every evening. Given,
a pretty girl, the twilight of a summer evening, and
a youth in uniform, and the result is easily guessed.
"The Cadet Corps is to return to West Point to-morrow
morning. There the cadets are to go into camp until
September. General Sherman at one time purposed to
have them march from this city to the Academy, but
it was finally decided that the march would consume
time which might be more profitably devoted to drill.
"One of the complaints of the cadets is that in the
arrangements for their visit, the Quartermaster's
Department was stricken with a spasm of economy as
regarded transportation, and each of the future heroes
was limited to the miserably insufficient allowance of
ten pairs of white trousers.
"The cadets speak in warmly eulogistic terms of the
Seventh New York, to whose kindly attentions, they
say, much of their pleasure is due."
Of this article, which was taken from the Philadelphia
Times, I need only say, those "two or four narrow iron
cots" and that "occasional chair" existed solely in the
imagination of the reporter, as they were nowhere
visible within the limits of our encampment.
A brave and honorable and courteous man
"How do they treat you?" "How do you get along?" and
multitudes of analogous questions have been asked me
over and over again. Many have asked them for mere
curiosity's sake, and to all such my answers have been
as short and abrupt as was consistent with common
politeness. I have observed that it is this class of
people who start rumors, sometimes harmless, but more
often the cause of needless trouble and ill-feeling.
I have considered such a class dangerous, and have
therefore avoided them as much as it was possible. I
will mention a single instance where such danger has
been made manifest.
Will not insult me; and none other can."--Cowper.
A Democratic newspaper, published I know not where,
in summing up the faults of the Republican party,
took occasion to advert to West Point. It asserted in
bold characters that I had stolen a number of articles
from two cadets, had by them been detected in the very
act, had been seen by several other cadets who had been
summoned for the purpose that they might testify
against me, had been reported to the proper authorities,
the affair had been thoroughly investigated by them, my
guilt established beyond the possibility of doubt, and
yet my accusers had actually been dismissed while I was
retained.* This is cited as an example of Republican
rule; and the writer had the effrontery to ask, "How
long shall such things be?" I did not reply to it then,
nor do I intend to do so now. Such assertions from such
sources need no replies. I merely mention the incident
to show how wholly given to party prejudices some men
can be. They seem to have no thought of right and
justice, but favor whatever promotes the aims and
interests of their own party, a party not Democratic
but hellish. How different is the following article
from the Philadelphia North American, of July 7th,
*This article was cut from a newspaper, and, together
with the name of the paper, was posted in a conspicuous
place, where other cadets, as well as myself, saw and
"It is very little to the credit of the West Point
cadets, a body of young men in whose superior
discipline and thoroughly excellent deportment we
feel in common with nearly all others a gratified
pride, that they should be so ungenerous and unjust
as they confess themselves to be in their treatment
of the colored boy, who, like themselves, has been
made a ward of the nation. We know nothing of this
young man's personal character or habits, but we
have seen no unkind criticism of them. For that
reason we condemn as beneath contempt the spirit
which drives him to an isolation, in bearing which
the black shows himself the superior of the white.
We do not ask nor do we care to encourage any thing
more than decent courtesy. But the young gentlemen
who boast of holding only official intercourse with
their comrade should remember that no one of them
stands before the country in any different light
from him. West Point is an academy for the training
of young men, presumably representative of the people,
for a career sufficiently honorable to gratify any
ambition. The cadets come from all parts of the
country, from all ranks of the social scale. Amalgamated
by the uniform course of studies and the similarity of
discipline, the separating fragments at the end of the
student life carry similar qualities into the life
before them, and step with almost remarkable social
equality into the world where they must find their
level. It would be expecting too much to hope that the
companionship which surmounts or breaks down all the
barriers of caste, should tread with equal heel the
prejudices of color. But it would be more manly in
these boys, if they would remember how easy ordinary
courtesy would be to them, how much it would lighten
the life of a young man whose rights are equal to
their own. It is useless to ignore the inevitable.
This colored boy has his place; he should have fair,
encouragement to hold it. Heaping neglect upon him
does not overcome the principle involved in his
appointment, and while we by no means approve of
such appointments we do believe in common justice."
On the other hand, many have desired this information
for a practical use, and that, too, whether they were
prejudiced or not. That is, if friends, they were
anxious to know how I fared, whether or not I was to
be a success, and if a success to use that fact in
the interest of the people; and if enemies, they
wanted naturally to know the same things in order to
use the knowledge to the injury of the people if I
proved a failure.
I have not always been able to distinguish one class
from the other, and have therefore been quite reticent
about my life and treatment at West Point. I have, too,
avoided the newspapers as much as possible. I succeeded
in this so well that it was scarcely known that I was
at the Academy. Much surprise was manifested when I
appeared in Philadelphia at the Centennial. One gentleman
said to me in the Government building: "You are quite
an exhibition yourself. No one was expecting to see a
But I wander from my theme. It is a remarkable fact
that the new cadets, in only a very few instances,
show any unwillingness to speak or fraternize. It is
not till they come in contact with the rougher elements
of the corps that they manifest any disposition to
avoid one. It was so in my own class, and has been so
in all succeeding classes.
When I was a plebe those of us who lived on the same
floor of barracks visited each other, borrowed books,
heard each other recite when preparing for examination,
and were really on most intimate terms. But alas! in
less than a month they learned to call me "nigger,"
and ceased altogether to visit me. We did the Point
together, shared with each other whatever we purchased
at the sulter's, and knew not what prejudice was. Alas!
we were soon to be informed! In camp, brought into
close contact with the old cadets, these once friends
discovered that they were prejudiced, and learned to
abhor even the presence or sight of a "d--d nigger."
Just two years after my entrance into the Academy, I
met in New York a young man who was a plebe at the
time I was, and who then associated with me. He
recognized me, hurried to me from across the street,
shook my hand heartily, and expressed great delight at
seeing me. He showed me the photograph of a classmate,
told me where I could find him, evidently ignorant of
my ostracism, and, wishing me all sorts of success,
took his leave. After he left me I involuntarily asked
myself, "Would it have been thus if he had not been
'found on his prelim?' " Possibly not, but it is very,
There are some, indeed the majority of the corps are
such, who treat me on all occasions with proper
politeness. They are gentlemen themselves, and treat
others as it becomes gentlemen to do. They do not
associate, nor do they speak other than officially,
except in a few cases. They are perhaps as much
prejudiced as the others, but prejudice does not
prevent all from being gentlemen. On the other hand,
there are some from the very lowest classes of our
population. They are uncouth and rough in appearance,
have only a rudimentary education, have little or no
idea of courtesy, use the very worst language, and in
most cases are much inferior to the average negro. What
can be expected of such people? They are low, and their
conduct must be in keeping with their breeding. I am
not at all surprised to find it so. Indeed, in ordinary
civil life I should consider such people beneath me in
the social scale, should even reckon some of them as
roughs, and consequently give them a wide berth.
What surprises me most is the control this class seems
to have over the other. It is in this class I have
observed most prejudice, and from it, or rather by it,
the other becomes tainted. It seems to rule the corps
by fear. Indeed, I know there are many who would
associate, who would treat me as a brother cadet, were
they not held in constant dread of this class. The
bullies, the fighting men of the corps are in it. It
rules by fear, and whoever disobeys its beck is "cut."
The rest of the corps follows like so many menials
subject to command. In short, there is a fearful lack
of backbone. There is, it seems at first sight, more
prejudice at West Point than elsewhere. It is not
really so I think.
The officers of the institution have never, so far
as I can say, shown any prejudice at all. They have
treated me with uniform courtesy and impartiality.
The cadets, at least some of them, away from West
Point, have also treated me with such gentlemanly
propriety. The want of backbone predominates to such
an alarming extent at West Point they are afraid to
do so there. I will mention a few cases under this
subject of treatment.
During my first-class camp I was rather surprised on
one occasion to have a plebe--we had been to the
Centennial Exhibition and returned, and of course my
status must have been known to him--come to my tent
to borrow ink of me. I readily complied with his
request, feeling proud of what I thought was the
beginning of a new era in my cadet life. I felt he
would surely prove himself manly enough, after thus
recognizing me, to keep it up, and thus bring others
under his influence to the same cause. And I was
still further assured in this when I observed he
made his visits frequent and open. At length, sure of
my willingness to oblige him, he came to me, and, after
expressing a desire to "bone up" a part of the fourth-
class course, and the need he felt for such "boning,"
begged me to lend him my algebra. I of course readily
consented, gave him my key, and sent him to my trunk
in the trunk rooms to get it. He went. He got it, and
returned the key. He went into ecstasies, and made no
end of thanks to me for my kindness, etc. All this
naturally confirmed my opinion and hope of better
recognition ultimately. Indeed, I was glad of an
opportunity to prove that I was not unkind or ungenerous.
I supposed he would keep the book till about September,
at which time he would get one of his own, as every
cadet at that time was required to procure a full
course of text-books, these being necessary for
reference, etc., in future life. And so he did. Some
time after borrowing the book, he came to me and
asked for India ink. I handed him a stick, or rather
part of one, and received as usual his many thanks.
Several days after this, and at night, during my
absence--I was, if I remember aright, at Fort Clinton
making a series of observations with a zenith telescope
in the observatory there--he came to the rear of my
tent, raised the wall near one corner, and placed the
ink on the floor, just inside the wall, which he left
down as he found it.
I found the ink there when I returned. I was utterly
disgusted with the man. The low, unmanly way in which
he acted was wholly without my approval. If he was
disposed to be friendly, why be cowardly about it? If
he must recognize me secretly, why, I would rather
not have such recognition. Acting a lie to his fellow-
cadets by appearing to be inimical to me and my
interests, while he pretended the reverse to me,
proved him to have a baseness of character with which
I didn't care to identify myself.
September came at last, and my algebra was returned.
The book was the one I had used my first year at the
Academy. I had preserved it, as I have all of my
books, for future use and as a sort of souvenir of
my cadet life. It was for that sole reason of great
value to me. I enjoined upon him to take care of the
book, and in nowise to injure it. My name was on the
back, on the cover, and my initial, "F," in two other
places on the cover. When the book was returned he
had cut the calfskin from the cover, so as to remove
my name. The result was a horrible disfiguration of
the book, and a serious impairment of its durability.
The mere sight of the book angered me, and I found it
difficult to retrain from manifesting as much. He
undoubtedly did it to conceal the fact that the book
was borrowed from me. Such unmanliness, such cowardice,
such baseness even, was most disgusting; and I felt
very much as if I would like to--well, I don't know
that I would. There was no reason at all for mutilating
the book. If he was not man enough to use it with my
name on it, why did he borrow it and agree not to
injure it? On that sole condition I lent it. Why did
he not borrow some one else's and return mine?
I have been asked, "What is the general feeling of the
corps towards you? Is it a kindly one, or is it an
unfriendly one. Do they purposely ill-treat you or do
they avoid you merely?" I have found it rather difficult
to answer unqualifiedly such questions; and yet I
believe, and have always believed, that the general
feeling of the corps towards me was a kindly one.
This has been manifested in multitudes of ways, on
innumerably occasions, and under the most various
circumstances. And while there are some who treat me
at times in an unbecoming manner, the majority of the
corps have ever treated me as I would desire to be
treated. I mean, of course, by this assertion that
they have treated me as I expected and really desired
them to treat me, so long as they were prejudiced.
They have held certain opinions more or less
prejudicial to me and my interests, but so long as
they have not exercised their theories to my
displeasure or discomfort, or so long as they have
"let me severely alone," I had no just reason for
complaint. Again, others, who have no theory of their
own, and almost no manliness, have been accustomed "to
pick quarrels," or to endeavor to do so, to satisfy I
don't know what; and while they have had no real
opinions of their own, they have not respected those
of others. Their feeling toward me has been any thing
but one of justice, and yet at times even they have
shown a remarkable tendency to recognize me as having
certain rights entitled to their respect, if not their
As I have been practically isolated from the cadets,
I have had little or no intercourse with them. I have
therefore had but little chance to know what was
really the feeling of the corps as a unit toward
myself. Judging, however, from such evidences as I
have, I am forced to conclude that it is as given
above, viz., a feeling of kindness, restrained
kindness if you please.
Here are some of the evidences which have come under
I once heard a cadet make the following unchristian
remark about myself when a classmate had been
accidentally hurt at light-battery drill: "I wish it
had been the nigger, and it had killed him." I couldn't
help looking at him, and I did; but that, and nothing
more. Some time after this, at cavalry drill, we were
side by side, and I had a rather vicious horse, one in
fact which I could not manage. He gave a sudden jump
unexpectedly to me. I almost lost my seat in the saddle.
This cadet seized me by the arm, and in a tone of voice
that was evidently kind and generous, said to me, "For
heaven's sake be careful. You'll be thrown and get
hurt if you don't." How different from that other wish
Another evidence, and an important one, may be given
in these words. It is customary for the senior, or,
as we say, the first class, to choose, each member,
a horse, and ride him exclusively during the term.
The choice is usually made by lot, and each man
chooses according to the number he draws. By
remarkable good fortune I drew No. 1, and had
therefore the first choice of all the horses in the
As soon as the numbers drawn were published, several
classmates hastened to me for the purpose of effecting
an exchange of choice. It will at once be seen that
any such change would in no manner benefit me, for
if I lost the first choice I might also lose the
chance of selecting a good horse. With the avowed
intention of proving that I had at least a generous
disposition, and also that I was not disposed to
consider, in my reciprocal relations with the cadets,
how I had been, and was even then treated by them, I
consented to exchange my first choice for the
This agreement was made with the first that asked for
an exchange. Several others came, and, when informed
of the previous agreement, of course went their way.
A day or two after this a number of cadets were
discussing the choice of horses, etc., and reverted to
the exchange which I had made. One of them suggested
that if an exchange of a choice higher than fourteen
were suggested to me, I might accept it.
What an idea, he must have had of my character to
suppose me base enough to disregard an agreement I
had already made!
However, all in the crowd were not as base as he was,
and one of them was man enough to say:
"Oh no! that would be imposing upon Mr. Flipper's
good nature." He went on to show how ungentlemanly
and unbecoming in a "cadet and gentleman" such an
act would be. The idea was abandoned, or at least
was never broached to me, and if it had been I would
never have entertained it. Such an act on the part
of the cadet could have arisen only from a high sense
of manly honor or from a feeling of kindness.
There are multitudes of little acts of kindness
similar to these, and even different ones. I need
not--indeed as I do not remember them all I cannot
--mention them all. They all show, however, that
the cadets are not avowedly inclined to ill-treat
me, but rather to assist me to make my life under
the circumstances as pleasant as can be. And there
may be outside influences, such as relatives or
friends, which bias their own better judgments and
keep them from fully and openly recognizing me. For
however hard either way may be, it is far easier to
do as friends wish than as conscience may dictate,
when conscience and friends differ. Under such
conditions it would manifestly be unjust for me to
expect recognition of them, even though they
themselves were disposed to make it. I am sure this
is at least a Christian view of the case, and with
such view I have ever kept aloof from the cadets. I
have not obtruded myself upon them, nor in any way
attempted to force recognition from them. This has
proved itself to be by far the better way, and I
don't think it could well be otherwise.
The one principle which has controlled my conduct
while a cadet, and which is apparent throughout my
narrative, is briefly this: to find, if possible,
for every insult or other offence a reason or motive
which is consistent with the character of a gentleman.
Whenever I have been insulted, or any thing has been
done or said to me which might have that construction,
I have endeavored to find some excuse, some reason
for it, which was not founded on prejudice or on
baseness of character or any other ungentlemanly
attribute; or, in other words, I wanted to prove that
it was not done because of my color. If I could find
such a reason--and I have found them--I have been
disposed not only to overlook the offence, but to
forgive and forget it. Thus there are many cadets who
would associate, etc., were they not restrained by the
force of opinion of relatives and friends. This cringing
dependence, this vassalage, this mesmerism we may call
it, we all know exists. Why, many a cadet has openly
confessed to me that he did not recognize us because
he was afraid of being "cut."
Again, I find some too high-toned, too punctilious,
to recognize me. I attribute this not to the
loftiness of their highnesses nor to prejudice, but
to the depth of their ignorance, and of course I
forgive and forget. Others again are so "reckless,"
so "don't care" disposed, that they treat me as fancy
dictates, now friendly, now vacillating, and now
inimical. With these I simply do as the Romans do.
If they are friendly, so am I; if they scorn me, I
do not obtrude myself upon them; if they are
indifferent, I am indifferent too.
There is a rather remarkable case under this subject
which has caused me no little surprise and
disappointment. I refer to those cadets appointed by
colored members of Congress.
It was quite natural to expect of them better treatment
than of others, and yet if in any thing at all they
differed from the former, they were the more reserved
and discourteous. They most "severely let me alone."
They never associated, nor did they speak, except
officially, and then they always spoke in a haughty
and insolent manner that was to me most exasperating.
And in one case in particular was this so. One of those
so appointed was the son of the colored Congressman who
sent him there, and from him at least good treatment
was reasonably expected. There have been only two such
appointments to my knowledge, and it is a singular fact
that they were both overbearing, conceited, and by no
means popular with their comrades. The status of one
was but little better than my own, and only in that
his comrades would speak and associate. He was not
"cut," but avoided as much as possible without making
the offence too patent.
There was a cadet in the corps with myself who
invariably dropped his head whenever our eyes met.
His complexion was any thing but white, his features
were rough and homely, and his person almost entirely
without symmetry or beauty. From this singular
circumstance and his physique, I draw the conclusion
that he was more African than Anglo-Saxon. Indeed, I
once heard as much insinuated by a fellow-cadet, to
whom his reply was: "It's an honor to be black."
Near the close of this chapter I have occason to
speak of fear. There I mean by fear a sort of
shrinking demeanor or disposition to accept insults
and other petty persecutions as just dues, or to
leave them unpunished from actual cowardice, to
which fear some have been pleased to attribute my
generally good treatment. This latter fact has been
by many, to my personal knowledge, attributed to
fear in another quarter, viz., in the cadets
themselves. It has many times been said to me by
persons at West Point and elsewhere: "I don't suppose
many of those fellows would care to encounter you?"
This idea was doubtless founded upon my physical
proportions--I am six feet one and three-quarter
inches high, and weigh one hundred and seventy-five
pounds. In behalf of the corps of cadets I would
disclaim any such notions of fear,
First. Because the conception of the idea is not
logical. I was not the tallest, nor yet the largest
man in the corps, nor even did I give any evidence
of a disposition to fight or bully others.
Second. Because I did not come to West Point purposely
to "go through on my muscle." I am not a fighting
character, as the cadets--those who know me--can well
Third. Because it is ungenerous to attribute what
can result from man's better nature only to such
base causes as fear or cowardice. This seems to be
about the only way in which many have endeavored to
explain the difference between my life at West Point
and that of other colored cadets. They seem to think
that my physique inspired a sort of fear in the cadets,
and forced them at least to let me alone, while the
former ones, smaller in size, did therefore create no
such fear until by persistent retaliation it was shown
they were able to defend themselves.
Now this, I think, is the most shallow of all reasoning
and entirely unworthy our further notice.
Fourth. I should be grieved to suppose any one
feared me. It is not my desire to go through life
feared by any one. I can derive no pleasure from
any thing which is accorded me through motives of
fear. The grant must be spontaneous and voluntary
to give me the most pleasure. I want nothing, not
even recognition, unless it be freely given, hence
have I not forced myself upon my comrades.
"But the sensible Flipper accepted the situation,
and proudly refused to intrude himself on the white
boys." -- Atlanta (Ga.) Herald.
Fifth. Because it is incompatible with the dignity
of a "cadet and a gentleman" for one to fear another.
Sixth. Because it is positively absurd to suppose
that one man of three hundred more or less would
be feared by the rest individually and collectively,
and no rational being would for an instant entertain
any such idea. There is, however, a single case
which may imply fear on the part of the cadet most
concerned. A number of plebes, among them a colored
one, were standing on the stoop of barracks. There
were also several cadets standing in the doorway,
and a sentinel was posted in the hall. This latter
individual went up to one of the cadets and said to
him, "Make that nigger out there get his hands
around," referring to this plebe mentioned above.
I happened to come down stairs just at that time,
and as soon as he uttered those words he turned
and saw me. He hung his head, and in a cowardly
manner sneaked off, while the cadets in the door
also dispersed with lowered heads. Was it fear?
Verily I know not. Possibly it was shame.
Again I recall a rather peculiar circumstance
which will perhaps sustain this notion of fear
on the part of the cadets. I have on every
occasion when I had command over my fellow-cadets
in any degree, noticed that they were generally
more orderly and more obedient than when this
authority was exercised by another.
Thus whenever I commanded the guard there
were very few reports for offences committed by
members of the guard. They have ever been obedient
and military. In camp, when I was first in command
of the guard, I had a most orderly guard and a very
pleasant tour, and that too, observe, while some of
the members of it were plebes and on for the first
time. On all such occasions it is an immemorial
custom for the yearlings to interfere with and haze
the plebe sentinels. Not a sentinel was disturbed,
not a thing went amiss, and why? Manifestly because
it was thought --and rightly too--that I would not
connive at such interference, and because they feared
to attempt it lest they be watched and reported.
Later, however, even this semblance of fear disappeared,
and they acted under me precisely as they do under
others, because they are convinced that I will not
stoop to spy or retaliate.
"The boys were rather afraid that when he should come
to hold the position as officer of the guard that he
would swagger over them; but he showed good sense and
taste, merely assuming the rank formally and leaving
his junior to carry out the duty."--New York Herald.
And just here it is worthy of notice that the press,
in commenting upon my chances of graduating, has
never, so far as I know, entertained any doubts of
my ability to do so. It has, on the contrary,
expressed the belief that the probability of my
graduating depended upon the officers of the Academy,
and upon any others who, by influence or otherwise,
were connected with the Academy. Some have even
hinted at politics as a possible ground upon which
they might drop me.
All such opinions have been created and nurtured by
the hostile portion of the press, and, I regret to
say, by that part also which ought to have been more
friendly, if not more discreet. No branch of the
government is freer from the influences and whims
of politicians than the National Military Academy.
Scarcely any paper has considered how the chances
of any cadet depended upon himself alone. The
authorities of the Academy are, or have been,
officers of the army. They are, with one or two
exceptions, graduates, and therefore, presumably,
"officers and gentlemen." To transform young men
into a like ilk as themselves is their duty. The
country intrusts them with this great responsibility.
To prove faithless to such a charge would be to risk
position, and even those dearer attributes of the
soldier, honor and reputation. They would not dare
ill-treat a colored cadet or a white one. Of course
the prejudice of race is not yet overcome entirely,
and possibly they may be led into some indiscretion
on account of it; but I do not think it would be
different at any other college in the country. It is
There are prejudices of caste as well as prejudices
of race, and I am most unwilling to believe it
possible that any officer would treat with injustice
a colored cadet who in true gentlemanly qualities,
intelligence, and assiduousness equals or excels
certain white ones who are treated with perfect
equanimity. With me it has not been so. I have been
treated as I would wish to be in the majority of cases.
There have been of course occasions where I've fancied
wrong had been done me. I expected to be ill-treated.
I went to West Point fully convinced that I'd have "a
rough time of it." Who that has read the many newspaper
versions of the treatment of colored cadets, and of
Smith in particular would not have been so convinced?
When, therefore, any affront or any thing seemingly of
that nature was offered me, I have been disposed,
naturally I think, to unduly magnify it, because I
expected it. This was hasty and unjust, and so I
admit, now that I am better informed. What was
apparently done to incommode or discourage me has
been shown to have been done either for my own
benefit or for some other purpose, not to my harm.
In every single instance I have, after knowing better
the reason for such acts, felt obliged to acknowledge
the injustice of my fears. At other times I have been
agreeably surprised at the kindnesses shown me both by
officers and cadets, and have found myself at great
loss to reconcile them with acts I had already adjudged
as malicious wrongs.
I have, too, been particularly careful not to fall
into an error, which, I think, has been the cause
of misfortune to at least one of the cadets of color.
If a cadet affront another, if a white cadet insult a
colored one for instance, the latter can complain to
The proper authorities, and, if there be good reason
for it, can always get proper redress. This undoubtedly
gives the consolation of knowing that the offence will
not be repeated, but beyond that I think it a great
mistake to have so sought it. A person who constantly
complains, even with some show of reason, loses more or
less the respect of the authorities. And the offenders,
while they refrain from open acts, do nevertheless
conduct their petty persecutions in such a manner that
one can shape no charge against them, and consequently
finds himself helpless. One must endure these little
tortures--the sneer, the shrug of the shoulder, the
epithet, the effort to avoid, to disdain, to ignore--
and thus suffer; for any of them are--to me at least--
far more hard to bear than a blow. A blow I may resist
or ignore. In either case I soon forget it. But a sneer,
a shrug of the shoulder, mean more. Either is a blow at
my sensitiveness, my inner feelings, and which through
no ordinary effort of mind can be altogether forgotten.
It is a sting that burns long and fiercely. How much
better to have ignored the greater offences which could
be reached, and to have thus avoided the lesser ones,
which nothing can destroy! How much wiser to stand like
a vast front of fortification, on some rocky moral height
absolutely unassailable, passively resisting alike the
attack by open assault and the surer one by regular
approaches! The assault can be repulsed, but who can, who
has ever successfully stopped the mines and the galleries
through which an entrance is at length forced into the
"We cannot expect the sons to forget the lessons of the
sires; but we have a right to demand from the general
government the rooting out of all snobbery at West Point,
whether it is of that kind which sends poor white boys to
Coventry, because they haven't a family name or wealth,
or whether it be that smallest, meanest, and shallowest
of all aristocracies--the one founded upon color.
"If the government is not able to root out these
unrepublican seeds in these hotbeds of disloyalty and
snobbery, let Congress shut up the useless and expensive
appendages and educate its officers at the colleges of
the country, where they may learn lessons in true
Republican equality and nationality. The remedy lies
with Congress. A remonstrance, at least, should be heard
from the colored members of Congress, who are insulted
whenever a colored boy is ill-treated by the students
or the officers of these institutions. So far from being
discouraged by defeats, the unjust treatment meted out
to the young men should redouble the efforts of others
of their class to conquer this new Bastile by storm. It
should lead every colored Congressman to make sure that
he either sends a colored applicant or a white one who
has not the seeds of snobbery or caste in his soul."
I shall consider this last clause at the end of this
chapter, where I shall quote at length the article
from which this passage is taken.
If I may be pardoned an opinion on this article, I do
not think the true remedy lies with Congress at all.
I do not question the right to demand of Congress any
thing, but I do doubt the propriety or need of such a
proceeding, of course, in the case under consideration.
As to "that kind which sends poor white boys to Coventry,"
because of their poverty, etc., I can say with absolute
truthfulness it no longer exists. When it did exist the
power to discontinue it did not lie with Congress.
Congress has no control over personal whims or prejudices.
But I make a slight mistake. There was a time when
influence, wealth, or position was able to secure a
cadetship. At that time poor boys very rarely succeeded
in getting an appointment, and when they did they were
most unmercifully "cut" by the snobs of aristocracy who
were at the Academy. Then the remedy did lie with
Congress. The appointments could have been so made as
to exclude those snobs whose only recommendation was
their position in society, and so also as to admit boys
who were deserving, although they were perhaps poor.
This remedy has been made, and all classes (white),
whether poor or rich, influential or not, are on terms
of absolute equality.
But for that other kind, "the one founded upon color,"
Congress has no remedy, no more than for fanaticism or
something of that kind.
This article also tells us that "the government has been
remiss in not throwing around them the protection of its
authority." I disdainfully scout the idea of such
protection. If my manhood cannot stand without a
governmental prop, then let it fall. If I am to stand
on any other ground than the one white cadets stand
upon, then I don't want the cadetship. If I cannot
endure prejudice and persecutions, even if they are
offered, then I don't deserve the cadetship, and much
less the commission of an army officer. But there is a
remedy, a way to root out snobbery and prejudice which
but needs adoption to have the desired effect. Of
course its adoption by a single person, myself for
instance, will not be sufficient to break away all
the barriers which prejudice has brought into existence.
I am quite confident, however, if adopted by all colored
cadets, it will eventually work out the difficult
though by no means insoluble problem, and give us further
cause for joy and congratulations.
The remedy lies solely in our case with us. We can
make our life at West Point what we will. We shall
be treated by the cadets as we treat them. Of course
some of the cadets are low--they belong to the younger
classes-- and good treatment cannot be expected of
them at West Point nor away from there. The others,
presumably gentlemen, will treat everybody else as
becomes gentlemen, or at any rate as they themselves
are treated. For, as Josh Billings quaintly tells us,
"a gentleman kant hide hiz true karakter enny more
than a loafer kan."
Prejudice does not necessarily prevent a man's being
courteous and gentlemanly in his relations with others.
If, then, they be prejudiced and treat one with ordinary
civility, or even if they let one "severely alone," is
there any harm done? Is such a course of conduct to be
denounced? Religiously, yes; but in the manner of every
-day life and its conventionalities, I say not by any
means. I have the right--no one will deny it--of
choosing or rejecting as companions whomsoever I will.
If my choice be based upon color, am I more wrong in
adopting it than I should be in adopting any other
reason? it may be an unchristian opinion or fancy that
causes me to do it, but such opinion or fancy is my own,
and I have a right to it. No one objects to prejudice
as such, but to the treatment it is supposed to cause.
If one is disposed to ill-treat another, he'll do it,
prejudiced or not prejudiced. Only low persons are so
disposed, and happily so for West Point, and indeed for
the whole country.
"The system of competitive examination for admission,
so largely adopted within the past few years in many
of our large cities, has resulted in recruiting the
corps with lads of bright intellect and more than
ordinary attainments, while the strict physical
examination has rigorously excluded all but those of
good form and perfect health. The competitive system
has also given to the Academy students who want to
learn, instead of lads who are content to scramble
through the prescribed course as best they can,
escaping being "found" (a cadet term equivalent to
the old college word 'plucked') by merely a hair's-
The old way of getting rid of the rough, uncouth
characters was to "find" them. Few, very few of
them, ever got into the army. Now they are excluded
by the system of competitive examination even from
entering the Military Academy, and if they should
succeed in getting to West Point, they eventually
fail, since men with no fixed purpose cannot
graduate at West Point.
Now if the "colored cadets" be not of this class
also, then their life at West Point will not be
much harder than that of the others. The cadets
may not associate, but what of that? Am I to blame
a man who prefers not to associate with me? If that
be the only charge against him, then my verdict is
for acquittal. Though his conduct arises from, to
us, false premises, it is to his sincere convictions
right, and we would not in the slightest degree be
justified in forcing him into our way of looking at
it. In other words, the remedy does not lie with
The kind of treatment we are to receive at the
hands of others depends entirely upon ourselves.
I think my life at West Point sufficiently proves
the truth of this assertion. I entered the Academy
at a time when, as one paper had it, West Point
was a "hotbed of disloyalty and snobbery, a useless
and expensive appendage." I expected all sorts of
ill-treatment, and yet from the day I entered till
the day I graduated I had not cause to utter so much
as an angry word. I refused to obtrude myself upon
the white cadets, and treated them all with uniform
courtesy. I have been treated likewise. It simply
depended on me what sort of treatment I should
receive. I was careful to give no cause for bad
treatment, and it was never put upon me. In making
this assertion I purposely disregard the instances
of malice, etc., mentioned elsewhere, for the reason
that I do not believe they were due to any deep
personal convictions of my inferiority or personal
desire to impose upon me, but rather were due to the
fear of being "cut" if they had acted otherwise.
Our relations have been such, as any one will
readily observe, that even officially they would
have been obliged to recognize me to a greater or
less extent, or at the expense of their consciences
ignore me. They have done both, as circumstances
and not inclination have led them to do.
A rather unexpected incident occurred in the summer
of '73, which will show perhaps how intense is that
gravitating force--if I may so term it--which so
completely changes the feelings of the plebes, and
even cadets, who, when they reported, were not at
all prejudiced on account of color.
It was rather late at night and extremely dark. I
was on guard and on post at the time. Approaching
the lower end of my post, No. 5, I heard my name
called in a low tone by some one whom I did not
recognize. I stopped and listened. The calling was
repeated, and I drew near the place whence it came.
It proved to be a cadet, a classmate of mine, and
then a sentinel on the adjacent post, No. 4. We
stood and talked quite awhile, as there was no
danger either of being seen by other cadets--an
event which those who in any manner have recognized
me have strenuously avoided--or "hived standing on
post." It was too dark. He expressed great regret
at my treatment, hoped it would be bettered, assured
me that he would ever be a friend and treat me as a
Another classmate told me, at another time, in
effect the same thing. I very naturally expected a
fulfilment of these promises, but alas! for such
hopes! They not only never fulfilled them, but
treated me even as badly as all the others. One of
them was assigned a seat next to me at table. He
would eat scarcely anything, and when done with that
he would draw his chair away and pretend to be imposed
upon in the most degrading manner possible. The other
practised similar manoeuvres whenever we fell in at
any formation of company or section. They both called
me "nigger," or "d--d nigger," as suited their
inclination. Yet this ought, I verily believe, to be
attributed not to them, but to the circumstances that
led them to adopt such a course.
On one occasion, however, one of them brought to
my room the integration of some differential
equation in mechanics which had been sent me by
our instructor. He was very friendly then,
apparently. He told me upon leaving, if I
desired any further information to come to his
"house," and he would give it. I observed that he
called me "Mr. Flipper."
One winter's night, while on guard in barracks
during supper, a cadet of the next class above
my own stopped on my post and conversed with me
as long as it was safe to do so. He expressed--
as all have who have spoken to me--great regret
that I should be so isolated, asked how I got
along in my studies, and many other like questions.
He spoke at great length of my general treatment. He
assured me that he was wholly unprejudiced, and would
ever be a friend. He even went far enough to say, to
my great astonishment, that he cursed me and my race
among the cadets to keep up appearances with them,
and that I must think none the less well of him for
so doing. It was a sort of necessity, he said, for he
would not only be "cut," but would be treated a great
deal worse than I was if he should fraternize with me.
Upon leaving me he said, "I'm d--d sorry to see you
come here to be treated so, but I am glad to see you
Unfortunately the gentleman failed at the examination,
then not far distant, and of course did not have much
opportunity to give proof of his friendship. And thus,
"The walk, the words, the gesture could supply,
When the plebes reported in '76, and were given seats
in the chapel, three of them were placed in the pew
with myself. We took seats in the following order,
viz., first the commandant of the pew, a sergeant and
a classmate of mine, then a third-classman, myself,
and the plebes. Now this arrangement was wholly
unsatisfactory to the third-classman, who turned to
the sergeant and asked of him to place a plebe between
him and myself. The sergeant turned toward me, and
with an angry gesture ordered me to "Get over there."
I refused, on the ground that the seat I occupied had
been assigned me, and I therefore had no authority to
change it. Near the end of the service the third-
classman asked the sergeant to tell me to sit at the
further end of the seat. He did so. I refused on the
same ground as before. He replied, "Well, it don't
make any difference. I'll see that your seat is
changed." I feared he would go to the cadet
quartermaster, who had charge of the arrangement of
seats, and have my seat changed without authority. I
reported to the officer in charge of the new cadets,
and explained the whole affair to him.
The habit mimic and the mien belie."
"You take the seat," said he, "assigned you in the
guard house"--the plan of the church, with names
written on the pews, was kept here, so that cadets
could consult it and know where their seats were--
"and if anybody wants you to change it tell them I
ordered you to keep it."
The next Sabbath I took it. I was ordered to change
it. I refused on the authority just given above. The
sergeant then went to the commandant of cadets, who
by some means got the impression that I desired to
change my seat. He sent for me and emphatically
ordered me to keep the seat which had by his order
been assigned me. Thus the effort to change my seat,
made by the third-classman through the sergeant, but
claimed to have been made by me, failed. It was out
of the question for it to be otherwise. If the sergeant
had wanted the seat himself he would in all probability
have got it, because he was my senior in class and
lineal rank. But the third-classman was my junior in
both, and therefore could not, by any military
regulation, get possession of what I was entitled to
by my superior rank. And the effort to do so must be
regarded a marvellous display of stupidity, or a belief
on the part of the cadet that I could be imposed upon
with impunity, simply because I was alone and had shown
no disposition to quarrel or demand either real or
While in New York during my furlough--summer of '75
--I was introduced to one of her wealthy bankers. We
conversed quite a while on various topics, and finally
resumed the subject on which we began, viz., West Point.
He named a cadet, whom I shall call for convenience
John, and asked if I knew him. I replied in the
affirmative. After asking various other questions of
him, his welfare, etc., he volunteered the following
bit of information:
"Oh! yes," said he, "I've known John for several years.
He used to peddle newspapers around the bank here. I
was agreeably surprised when I heard he had been
appointed to a cadetship at West Point. The boys who
come in almost every morning with their papers told me
John was to sell me no more papers. His mother has
scrubbed out the office here, and cleaned up daily for
a number of years. John's a good fellow though, and
I'm glad to know of his success."
This information was to me most startling. There
certainly was nothing dishonorable in that sort
of labor--nay, even there was much in it that
deserved our highest praise. It was honest, humble
work. But who would imagine from the pompous bearing
assumed by the gentleman that he ever peddled
newspapers, or that his mother earned her daily
bread by scrubbing on her knees office floors? And
how does this compare with the average negro?
It is not to me very pleasant to thus have another's
private history revealed, but when it is done I can't
help feeling myself better in one sense at least than
my self-styled superiors. I certainly am not really
one thing and apparently another. The distant
haughtiness assumed by some of them, and the constant
endeavor to avoid me, as if I were "a stick or a stone,
the veriest poke of creation," had no other effect
than to make me feel as if I were really so, and to
discourage and dishearten me. I hardly know how I
endured it all so long. If I were asked to go over it
all again, even with the experience I now have, I fear
I should fail. I mean of course the strain on my mind
and sensitiveness would be so great I'd be unable to
There is that in every man, it has been said, either
good or bad, which will manifest itself in his speech
or acts. Keeping this in mind while I constantly
study those around me, I find myself at times driven
to most extraordinary conclusions. If some are as good
as their speech, then, if I may be permitted to judge,
they have most devoutly observed that blessed
commandment, "Honor thy father and thy mother, that
thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy
God giveth thee," in that they have profited by their
teaching both mentally and morally.
On the other hand, we hear from many the very worst
possible language. Some make pardonable errors, while
others make blunders for which there can be no excuse
save ignorance. Judging their character by their
speech, what a sad condition must be theirs; and more,
what a need for missionary work!
This state of affairs gives way in the second, and
often in the first year, to instruction and discipline.
West Point's greatest glory arises from her unparalleled
success in polishing these rough specimens and sending
them forth "officers and gentlemen." No college in the
country has such a "heterogeneous conglomeration"--to
quote Dr. Johnson--of classes. The highest and lowest
are represented. The glory of free America, her
recognition of equality of all men, is not so apparent
anywhere else as at West Point. And were prejudice
entirely obliterated, then would America in truth be
that Utopia of which so many have but dreamed. It is
rapidly giving way to better reason, and the day is not
far distant when West Point will stand forth as the
proud exponent of absolute social equality. Prejudice
weakens, and ere long will fail completely. The advent
of general education sounds its death knell. And may
the day be not afar off when America shall proclaim her
emancipation from the basest of all servitudes, the
subservience to prejudice!
After feeling reasonably sure of success, I have often
thought that my good treatment was due in a measure to
a sort of apprehension on the part of the cadets that,
when I should come to exercise command over them, I
would use my authority to retaliate for any ill-treatment
I had suffered. I have thought this the case with those
especially who have been reared in the principles of
prejudice, and often in none other, for "prejudices, it
is well known, are the most difficult to eradicate from
the heart whose soil has never been loosened or
fertilized by education. They grow there as firm as
weeds among rocks."
When the time did come, and I proved by purely
gentlemanly conduct that it was no harder, no more
dishonorable, to be under me than under others, this
reserve vanished to a very great extent. I might
mention instances in which this is evident.
At practical engineering, one day, three of us were
making a gabion. One was putting in the watling,
another keeping it firmly down, while I was preparing
it. I had had some instruction on a previous day as
to how it should be made, but the two others had not.
When they had put in the watling to within the proper
distance of the top they began trimming off the twigs
and butt ends of the withes. I happened to turn toward
the gabion and observed what they were doing. In a tone
of voice, and with a familiarity that surprised my own
self, I exclaimed, "Oh, don't do that. Don't you see
if you cut those off before sewing, the whole thing
will come to pieces? Secure the ends first and then
cut off the twigs."
They stopped working, listened attentively, and one
of them replied, "Yes, that would be the most sensible
way." I proceeded to show them how to sew the watling
and to secure the ends. They were classmates. They
listened to my voluntary instruction and followed it
without a thought of who gave it, or any feeling of
At foot battery drill one day I was chief of piece.
After a time the instructor rested the battery. The
cannoneers at my piece, instead of going off and
sitting down, gathered around me and asked questions
about the nomenclature of the piece and its carriage.
"What is this?" "What is it for?" and many others.
They were third-classmen. Certainly there was no
prejudice in this. Certainly, too, it could only be
due to good conduct on my part. And here is another.
Just after taps on the night of July 12th, 1876, while
lying in my tent studying the stars, I happened to
overhear a rather angry conversation concerning my
It seems the cadet speaking had learned beforehand
that he and myself would be on duty a few days hence,
myself as senior and he as junior officer of the guard.
His chums were teasing him on his misfortune of being
under me as junior, which act caused him to enter into
a violent panegyric upon me. He began by criticising
my military aptitude and the manner in which I was
treated by the authorities, that is, by the cadet
officers, as is apparent from what follows:
"That nigger," said he, "don't keep dressed. Sometimes
he's 'way head of the line. He swings his arms, and
does other things not half as well as other 'devils,'
and yet he's not 'skinned' for it."
What a severe comment upon the way in which the file-
closers discharge their duties! Severe, indeed, it
would be were it true. It is hardly reasonable, I
think, to suppose the file-closers, in the face of
prejudice and the probability of being "cut," would
permit me to do the things mentioned with impunity,
while they reported even their own classmates for them.
And here again we see the fox and sour grapes. The
gentleman who so honored me with his criticism was
junior to me in every branch of study we had taken up
to that time except in French. I was his senior in
tactics by-- well, to give the number of files would
be to specify him too closely and make my narrative
too personal. Suffice it to say I ranked him, and I
rather fancy, as I did not gain that position by
favoritism, but by study and proficiency, he should
not venture to criticise. But so it is all through
life, at West Point as well as elsewhere. Malcontents
are ever finding faults in others which they never
think of discovering in themselves.
When the time came the detail was published at
parade, and next day we duly marched on guard.
When I appeared on the general parade in full
dress, I noticed mischievous smiles on more than
one face, for the majority of the corps had turned
out to see me. I walked along, proudly unconscious
of their presence.
Although I went through the ceremony of guard
mounting without a single blunder, I was not at
all at ease. I inspected the front rank, while my
junior inspected the rear. I was sorely displeased
to observe some of the cadets change color as they
tossed up their pieces for my inspection, and that
they watched me as I went through that operation.
Some of them were from the South, and educated to
consider themselves far superior to those of whom
they once claimed the right of possession. I know
it was to them most galling, and although I fully
felt the responsibility and honor of commanding the
guard, I frankly and candidly confess that I found
no pleasure in their apparent humiliation.
I am as a matter of course opposed to prejudice,
but I nevertheless hold that those who are not
have just as much right to their opinions on the
matter as they would have to any one of the various
religious creeds. We in free America at least would
not be justified in forcing them to renounce their
views or beliefs on race and color any more than
those on religion.
We can sometimes, by so living that those who differ
from us in opinion respecting any thing can find no
fault with us or our creed, influence them to a just
consideration of our views, and perhaps persuade them
unconsciously to adopt our way of thinking. And just
so it is, I think, with prejudice. There is a certain
dignity in enduring it which always evokes praise
from those who indulge it, and also often discovers
to them their error and its injustice.
Knowing that it would be unpleasant to my junior
to have to ask my permission to do this or that,
and not wishing to subject him to more mortification
than was possible, I gave him all the latitude I
could, telling him to use his own discretion, and
that he need not ask my permission for any thing
unless he chose.
This simple act, forgotten almost as soon as done,
was in an exceedingly short time known to every cadet
throughout the camp, and I had the indescribable
pleasure, some days after, of knowing that by it I
had been raised many degrees in the estimation of
the corps. Nor did this knowledge remain in camp.
It was spread all over the Point. The act was talked
of and praised by the cadets wherever they went, and
their conversations were repeated to me many times by
When on guard again I was the junior, and of course
subject to the orders of the senior. He came to me
voluntarily, and in almost my own words gave me
exactly the same privileges I had given my junior,
who was a chum of my present senior. In view of the
ostracism and isolation to which I had been subjected,
it was expected that I would be severe, and use my
authority to retaliate. When, however, I did a more
Christian act, did to others as I would have them do
to me, and not as they had sometimes done, I gave cause
for a similar act of good-will, which was in a degree
beyond all expectation accorded me.
Indeed, while we are all prone to err, we are also
very apt to do to others as they really do to us. If
they treat us well, we treat them well; if badly, we
treat them so also. I believe such to be in accordance
with our nature, and if we do not always do so our
failure is due to some influence apart from our
better reason, if we do not treat them well, or our
first impulse if we do. If now, on the contrary, I
had been severe and unnecessarily imperious because
of my power, I should in all probability have been
treated likewise, and would have fallen and not have
risen in the estimation of the cadets.
It has often occurred to me that the terms "prejudice
of race, of color," etc., were misnomers, and for this
reason. As soon as I show that I have some good
qualities, do some act of kindness in spite of insult,
my color is forgotten and I am well treated. Again, I
have observed that colored men of character and
intellectual ability have been treated as men should
be by all, whether friends or enemies; that is to say,
no prejudice of color or race has ever been manifested.
I have been so treated by men I knew to be--to use a
political term--"vile democrats." Unfortunately a bad
temper, precipitation, stubbornness, and like qualities,
all due to non-education, are too often attributes of
colored men and women. These characteristics lower the
race in the estimation of the whites, and produce, I
think, what we call prejudice. In fact I believe
prejudice is due solely to non-education and its effects
in one or perhaps both races.
Prejudice of--well, any word that will express these
several characteristics would be better, as it would
be nearer the truth.
There is, of course, a very large class of ignorant
and partially cultured whites whose conceptions can
find no other reason for prejudice than that of color.
I doubt very much whether they are prejudiced on that
account as it is. I rather think they are so because
they know others are for some reason, and so cringing
are they in their weakness that they follow like so
many trained curs. This is the class we in the South
are accustomed to call the "poor white trash," and
speaking of them generally I can neglect them in this
discussion of my treatment, and without material error.
In camp at night the duties of the officers of the
guard are discharged part of the night by the senior
and the other part by the junior officer. As soon as
it was night--to revert to the subject of this article
--my junior came to me and asked how I wished to
divide the night tour.
"Just suit yourself. If you have any reason for wanting
a particular part of the night, I shall be pleased to
have you take it."
He chose the latter half of the night, and asked me to
wake him at a specified time. After this he discovered
a reason for taking the first half, and coming to me
"If it makes no difference to you I will take the first
half of the night."
"As you like," was my reply.
"You 'pile in' then, and I'll wake you in time," was
Observe the familiarity in this rejoinder.
The guard was turned out and inspected by the officer
of the day at about 12.20 P.M. After the inspection I
retired, and was awakened between 1 and 2 P.M. by my
junior, who then retired for the night.
The officer in charge turned out and inspected the
guard between 2 and 3 p.m.
Several of the cadets were reported to me by the
corporals for violating regulations. The reports
were duly recorded in the guard report for the day.
I myself reported but one cadet, and his offence was
"Absence from tattoo roll-call of guard."
These reports were put in under my signature, though
not at all made by me, as also was another of a very
It seems--for I didn't know the initial circumstances
of the case--that a citizen visiting at West Point
asked a cadet if he could see a friend of his who was
a member of the corps. The cadet at once sought out
the corporal then on duty, and asked him to go to camp
and turn out this friend. The corporal did not go. The
cadet who requested him to do so reported the fact to
the officer of the day. The latter came at once to me
and directed me, as officer of the guard, to order him
to go and turn out the cadet, and to see that he did it.
I did as ordered. The corporal replied, "I have turned
him out." As the cadet did not make his appearance the
officer of the day himself went into camp, brought him
out to his citizen friend, and then ordered me in
positive terms to report the corporal for gross
disobedience of orders. I communicated to him the
corporal's reply, and received a repetition of his
order. I obeyed it, entering on my guard report the
"--, disobedience of orders, not turning out a cadet
for citizen when ordered to do so by the officer of
The commandant sent for me, and learned from me all
the circumstances of the case as far as I knew them.
He made similar requirements of the corporal himself.
Connected with this case is another, which, I think,
should be recorded, to show how some have been disposed
to act and think concerning myself. At the dinner table,
and on the very day this affair above mentioned
occurred, a cadet asked another if he had heard about--,
mentioning the name of the cadet corporal.
"No, I haven't," he replied; "what's the matter with
"Why, the officer of the day ordered him reported for
disobedience of orders, and served him right too."
"What was it? Whose orders did he disobey?"
"Some cit wanted to see a cadet and asked C--if he
could do so. C--asked--, who was then on duty, to go
to camp and turn him out. He didn't do it, but went
off and began talking with some ladies. The officer
of the day directed the senior officer of the guard
to order him to go. He did order him to go and--
replied, "I have turned him out," and didn't go. The
officer of the day then turned him out, and ordered
him to be reported for disobedience of orders, and I
say served him right."
"I don't see it," was the reply.
"Don' t see it? Why--'s relief was on post, and it
was his duty to attend to all such calls during his
tour; and besides, I think ordinary politeness would
have been sufficient to make him go."
"Well, I can sympathize with him anyhow."
"Sympathize with him! How so?"
"Because he's on guard to-day." What an excellent
reason! "Because he's on guard to-day," or, in other
words, because I was in command of the guard.
He then went on to speak of the injustice of the
report, the malice and spirit of retaliation shown
in giving it, and hoped that the report would not
be the cause of any punishment. And all this because
the report was under my signature.
When the corporal replied to me that he had turned
out the cadet, I considered it a satisfactory answer,
supposing the cadet's non-appearance was due to delay
in arranging his toilet. I had no intention of
reporting him, and did so only in obedience to
positive orders. There surely was nothing malicious
or retaliatory in that; and to condemn me for
discharging the first of all military duties--viz.,
obedience of orders--is but to prove the narrowness
of the intellect and the baseness of the character
which are vaunted as so far superior to those of the
"negro cadet," and which condemn him and his actions
for no other reason than that they are his. How could
it be otherwise than that he be isolated and persecuted
when such minds are concerned?
In his written explanation to the commandant the
corporal admitted the charge of disobedience of
orders on his part, but excused himself by saying
he had delegated another cadet to discharge the
duty for him. This was contrary to regulations,
and still further aggravated his offence.
For an incident connected with this tour of guard
duty, see chapter on "Incidents, Humor," etc.
The only case of downright malice that has come to
my knowledge--and I'm sure the only one that ever
occurred--is the following:
It is a custom, as old as the institution I dare
say, for cadets of the first and second classes to
march in the front rank, while all others take
their places in the rear rank, with the exception
that third-classmen may be in the front rank whenever
it is necessary for the proper formation of the
company to put them there. The need of such a custom
is apparent. Fourth-classmen, or plebes not accustomed
to marching and keeping dressed, are therefore unfit
to be put in the front rank. Third- classmen have to
give way to the upper classmen on account of their
superior rank, and are able to march in the front
rank only when put there or allowed to remain there
by the file-closers. When I was a plebe, and also
during my third-class year, I marched habitually in
the rear rank, as stated with reason elsewhere. But
when I became a second-classman, and had by class
rank a right to the front rank, I took my place there.
Just about this time I distinctly heard the cadet
captain of my company say to the first sergeant, or
rather ask him why he did not put me in the rear rank.
The first sergeant replied curtly, "Because he's a
second-classman now, and I have no right to do it."
This settled the question for the time, indeed for
quite a while, till the incident above referred to
At a formation of the company for retreat parade in
the early spring of '76, it was necessary to transfer
some one from the front to the rear rank. Now instead
of transferring a third- classman, the sergeant on
the left of the company ordered me, a second classman,
into the rear rank. I readily obeyed, because I felt
sure I'd be put back after the company was formed and
inspected, as had been done by him several times
before. But this was not done. I turned to the sergeant
and reminded him that he had not put me-back where I
belonged. He at once did so without apparent hesitation
or unwillingness. He, however, reported me for speaking
to him about the discharge of his duties. For this
offence, I submitted the following explanation:
WEST POINT, N. Y., April 11, 1876.
Offense: Speaking to sergeant about formation of company
Explanation: I would respectfully state that the above
report is a mistake. I said nothing whatever about the
formation of the company. I was put in the rear rank,
and, contrary to custom, left there. As soon as the
command " In place, rest," was given, I turned to the
nearest sergeant and said, "Mr.--, can I take my place
in the front rank?" He leaned to the front and looked
along the line. I then said, "There are men in the front
rank who are junior to me." I added, a moment after,
"There is one just up there," motioning with my head
the direction meant. He made the change.
HENRY O. FLIPPER,
Cadet Priv., Comp. "D," First Class.
To Lieut. Colonel--, Commanding Corps of Cadets.
This explanation was sent by the commandant to the
reporting sergeant. He indorsed it in about the
Respectfully returned with the following statement:
It was necessary in forming the company to put Cadet
Flipper in the rear rank, and as I saw no third-
classman in the front rank, I left him there as
stated. I reported him because I did not think he
had any right to speak to me about the discharge of
"------, Cadet Sergeant Company "D."
A polite question a reflection on the manner of
discharging one's duty! A queer construction indeed!
Observe, he says, he saw no third-classman in the
front rank. It was his duty to be sure about it, and
if there was one there to transfer him to the rear,
and myself to the front rank. In not doing so he
neglected his duty and imposed upon me and the
dignity of my class. I was therefore entirely
justified in calling his attention to his neglect.
This is a little thing, but it should be borne in mind
that it is nevertheless of the greatest importance. We
know what effect comity or international politeness has
on the relations or intercourse between nations. The
most trifling acts, such as congratulations on a birth
or marriage in the reigning family, are wonderfully
efficacious in keeping up that feeling of amity which
is so necessary to peace and continued friendship between
states. To disregard these little things is considered
unfriendly, and may be the cause of serious consequences.
There is a like necessity, I think, in our own case.
Any affront to me which is also an affront to my class
and its dignity deserves punishment or satisfaction. To
demand it, then, gives my class a better opinion of me,
and serves to keep that opinion in as good condition as
I knew well that there were men in the corps who would
readily seize any possible opportunity to report me,
and I feared at the time that I might be reported for
speaking to the sergeant. I was especially careful to
guard against anger or roughness in my speech, and to
put my demand in the politest form possible.. The offence
was removed. I received no demerits, and the sergeant
had the pleasure or displeasure of grieving at the failure
of his report.
I am sorry to know that I have been charged, by some not
so well acquainted with West Point and life there as they
should be to criticise, with manifesting a lack of dignity
in that I allowed myself to be insulted, imposed upon, and
otherwise ill-treated. There appears to them too great a
difference between the treatment of former colored cadets
and that of myself, and the only way they are pleased to
account for this difference is to say that my good
treatment was due to want of "spunk," and even to fear,
as some have said. It evidently never occurred to them
that my own conduct determined more than all things else
the kind of treatment I would receive.
Every one not stubbornly prejudiced against West Point,
and therefore not disposed to censure or criticise every
thing said or done there, knows how false the charge is.
And those who make it scarcely deserve my notice. I would
say to them, however, that true dignity, selon nous,
consists in being above the rabble and their insults, and
particularly in remaining there. To stoop to retaliation
is not compatible with true dignity, nor is vindictiveness
manly. Again, the experiment suggested by my accusers has
been abundantly tried, and proved a most ridiculous
failure, while my own led to a glorious success.
I do not mean to boast or do any thing of the kind,
but I would suggest to all future colored cadets to
base their conduct on the aristonmetpon, the golden
mean. It is by far the safer, and surely the most
Before closing this chapter I would add with just
pride that I have ever been treated by all other
persons connected with the Academy not officially,
as becomes one gentleman to treat another. I refer
to servants, soldiers, other enlisted men, and
employés. They have done for me whatever I wished,
whenever I wished, and as I wished, and always kindly
and willingly. They have even done things for me to
the exclusion of others. This is important when it is
remembered that the employés, with one exception, are
"NATIONAL SCHOOLS AND SNOBOCRACY.
"'Cadet Smith has arrived in Columbia. He did not
"'Alexander Bouchet, a young man of color, graduates
from Yale College, holding the fifth place in the
largest class graduated from that ancient institution.'
"These simple announcements from different papers
tersely sum up the distinction between the military
and civil education of this country. One is exclusive,
snobbish, and narrow, the other is liberal and
"No one who has watched the course of Cadet Smith
and the undemocratic, selfish, and snobbish treatment
he has experienced from the martinets of West Point,
men educated at the expense of the government, supported
by negro taxes, as well as white, who attempt to dictate
who shall receive the benefits of an education in our
national charity schools--no one who has read of his
court-martialings, the degradations and the petty insults
inflicted upon him can help feeling that he returns home
to-day, in spite of the Phoenix's sneers, a young hero
who has 'passed' in grit, pluck, perseverance, and all
the better qualities which go to make up true manhood,
and only has been 'found' because rebel sympathizers at
West Point, the fledglings of caste, and the Secretary
of War, do not intend to allow, if they can prevent it,
a negro to graduate at West Point or Annapolis, if he is
known to be a negro.
"Any one conversant with educational matters who has
examined the examinations for entrance, or the
curriculum of the naval and military academies, will
not for a moment believe that their requirements, not
as high as those demanded for an ordinary New England
high school, and by no means equal in thoroughness,
quantity, or quality to that demanded for entrance at
Yale, Amherst, Dartmouth, or Brown, are too high or
abstruse to be compassed by negroes, some of whom have
successfully stood all these, and are now pursuing
their studies in the best institutions of the North.
"No fair-minded man believes that Smith, Napier and
Williams, Conyers and McClellan, have had impartial
treatment. The government itself has been remiss in
not throwing about them the protection of its authority.
Had these colored boys been students at St. Cyr, in
Paris, or Woolwich, in England, under despotic France
and aristocratic England, they would have been treated
with that courtesy and justice of which the average
white American has no idea. The South once ruled West
Point, much to its detriment in loyalty, however much,
by reason of sending boys more than prepared. It
dominated in scholarship. It seeks to recover the lost
ground, and rightly fears to meet on terms of equality
in the camp the sons of fathers to whom it refused
quarter in the war and butchered in cold blood at Fort
Pillow. We cannot expect the sons to forget the lessons
of the sires; but we have a right to demand from the
general government the rooting out of all snobbery at
West Point, whether it is of that kind which sends poor
white boys to Coventry, because they haven't a family
name or wealth, or whether it be that smallest, meanest,
and shallowest of all aristocracies--the one founded
"If the government is not able to root out these
unrepublican seeds in these hot-beds of disloyalty
and snobbery, then let Congress shut up the useless
and expensive appendages and educate its officers at
the colleges of the country, where they may learn
lessons in true republican equality and nationality.
The remedy lies with Congress. A remonstrance at least
should be heard from the colored members of Congress,
who are insulted whenever a colored boy is ill-treated
by the students or the officers of these institutions.
So far from being discouraged by defeats, the unjust
treatment meted out to these young men should redouble
the efforts of others of their class to carry this new
Bastile by storm. It should lead every colored
Congressman to make sure that he either sends a colored
applicant or a white one who has not the seeds of
snobbery and caste in his soul. Smith, after four years
of torture, comes home, is driven home, because, forsooth,
he might attend the ball next year! He is hounded out of
the Academy because he would have to be assigned to a
white regiment! There are some negroes who feel that
their rights in the land of their birth are superior to
the prejudices of the enemies of the Union, and who dare
to speak and write in behalf of these rights, as their
fathers dared to fight for them a very few years ago.
"Bouchet, under civil rule, enters Yale College the
best prepared student of one hundred and thirty
freshmen, and all through his course is treated like
a gentleman, both by the faculty and the students, men
who know what justice means, and have some adequate
idea of the true theory of education and gentlemanly
conduct. Two freed boys, from North Carolina and South
Carolina, slaves during the war, prepare at the best
Northern academics, and enter, without remonstrance,
Amherst and Dartmouth. What divinity, then, hedges
West Point and Annapolis? What but the old rebel
spirit, which seeks again to control them for use in
future rebellions as it did in the past. The war
developed some unwelcome truths with regard to this
snobbish and disloyal spirit of our national
institutions, and the exploits of some volunteer
officers showed that all manhood, bravery, skill, and
energy were not contained in West Point or Annapolis,
or, if there, did not pertain solely to the petty
cliques that aim to give tone to those academies. It
is not for any officer, the creature of the government
--it is not for any student, the willing ward of that
government--to say who shall enter the national schools
and be the recipients of my bounty. It is the duty of
every member of Congress to see that the government
sanctions no such spirit; and it becomes every loyal
citizen who wishes to avoid the mistakes of the former
war to see to it that no class be excluded, and that
every boy, once admitted, shall have the strictest
justice dealt out to him, a thing which, thus far,
has not been done in the case of the colored cadets.
"The true remedy lies in the feelings and sympathies
of the officers of these academies, in the ability
and fair investigations of the board of examiners;
not from such gentlemen as at present seem to rule
This article was taken from some South Carolina paper
during the summer of '74. Its tone is in accordance
with the multitude of articles upon the same subject
which occurred about the same time, and, like them all,
or most of them, is rather farfetched. It is too broad.
Its denunciations cover too much ground. They verge
As to Conyers and McClellan at the Naval Academy I
know nothing. Of Napier I know nothing. Of Smith I
prefer to say nothing. Of Williams I do express the
belief that his treatment was impartial and just.
He was regularly and rightly found deficient and
duly dismissed. The article seems to imply that he
should not have been "found" and dismissed simply
because he was a negro. A very shallow reason indeed,
and one "no fair-minded man" will for an instant
Of four years' life at the Academy, I spent the
first with Smith, rooming with him. During the
first half year Williams was also in the corps
with us. The two following years I was alone. The
next and last year of my course I spent with
Whittaker, of South Carolina. I have thus had an
opportunity to become acquainted with Smith's
conduct and that of the cadets toward him. Smith
had trouble under my own eyes on more than one
occasion, and Whittaker* has already received blows
in the face, but I have not had so much as an angry
word to utter. There is a reason for all this, and
had "Niger Nigrorum" been better acquainted with it
he had never made the blunder he has.
*Johnson Chestnut Whittaker, of Camden, South Carolina,
appointed to fill vacancy created by Smith's dismissal,
after several white candidates so appointed had failed,
entered the Academy in September, 1876. Shortly after
entering he was struck in the face by a young man from
Alabama for sneering at him, as he said, while passing
by him. Whittaker immediately reported the affair to the
cadet officer of the day, by whose efforts this
belligerent Alabama gentleman was brought before a court-
martial, tried, found guilty, and suspended for something
over six months, thus being compelled to join the next
class that entered the Academy.
I cannot venture more on the treatment of colored
cadets generally without disregarding the fact that
this is purely a narrative of my own treatment and
life at West Point. To go further into that subject
would involve much difference of opinion, hard
feelings in certain quarters, and would cause a
painful and needless controversy.
JULY 1, 1876! Only one year more; and yet how wearily
the days come and go! How anxiously we watch them, how
eagerly we count them, as they glimmer in the distance,
and forget them as they fade! What joyous anticipation,
what confident expectation, what hope animates each
soul, each heart, each being of us! What encouragement
to study this longing, this impatience gives us, as if
it hastened the coming finale! And who felt it more
than I? Who could feel it more than I? To me it was
to be not only an end of study, of discipline, of
obedience to the regulations of the Academy, but even
an end to isolation, to tacit persecution, to melancholy,
to suspense. It was to be the grand realization of my
hopes, the utter, the inevitable defeat of the minions
of pride, prejudice, caste. Nor would such consummation
of hopes affect me only, or those around me. Nay, even
I was but the point of "primitive disturbance," whence
emanates as if from a focus, from a new origin, prayer,
friendly and inimical, to be focused again into
realization on one side and discomfiture on the other.
My friends, my enemies, centre their hopes on me. I
treat them, one with earnest endeavor for realization,
the other with supremest indifference. They are deviated
with varying anxiety on either side, and hence my joy,
my gratitude, when I find, July 1, 1876, that I am a
A first-classman! The beginning of realization, for had
I not distanced all the colored cadets before me? Indeed
I had, and that with the greater prospect of ultimate
success gave me double cause for rejoicing.
A first-classman! "There's something prophetic in it,"
"The country begins to be agitated by the approaching
graduation of young Flipper, the colored West Point
cadet from Atlanta. If he succeeds in getting into the
aristocratic circles of the official army there will
be a commotion for a certainty. Flipper is destined to
Such was the nature of the many editorials which
appeared about this time, summer of '76. The
circumstance was unusual, unexpected, for it had
been predicted that only slaughter awaited me at
that very stage, because Smith had failed just
there, just where I had not.
"Henry Flipper, of Atlanta, enjoys the distinction
of being the only negro cadet that the government is
cramming with food and knowledge at West Point. He
stands forty-sixth in the third class, which includes
eighty-five cadets. A correspondent of the New York
Times says that, while all concede Flipper's progress,
yet it is not believed that he will be allowed to
graduate. No negro has passed out of the institution
a graduate, and it is believed that Flipper will be
eventually slaughtered in one way or another. The
rule among the regulars is: No darkeys need apply."
"Smith's dismissal leaves Henry Flipper the sole
cadet of color at West Point. Flipper's pathway
will not be strewn with roses, and we shall be
surprised if the Radicals do not compel him, within
a year, to seek refuge from a sea of troubles in his
father's quiet shoe shop on Decatur Street."
Isn't it strange how some people strive to drag
everything into politics! A political reason is
assigned to every thing, and "every thing is
The many editors who have written on the subject
of the colored cadets have, with few exceptions,
followed the more prejudiced and narrow-minded
critics who have attributed every thing, ill-
treatment, etc., to a natural aversion for the
negro, and to political reasons. They seem to
think it impossible for one to discharge a duty
or to act with justice in any thing where a negro
is concerned. Now this is unchristian as well as
hasty and undeserved. As I have said elsewhere in
my narrative, aside from the authorities being de
facto "officers and gentlemen," and therefore
morally bound to discharge faithfully every duty,
they are under too great a responsibility to permit
them to act as some have asserted for them, to compel
me "to seek refuge from a sea of troubles," or to
cause me to "be eventually slaughtered in one way or
another." Who judges thus is not disposed to judge
fairly, but rather as suits some pet idea of his own,
to keep up prejudice and all its curses.
It would be more Christian, and therefore more just,
I apprehend, to consider both sides of the question,
the authorities and those under them. Other and better
reasons would be found for some things which have
occurred, and reasons which would not be based on
falsehood, and which would not tend to perpetuate
the conflict of right and prejudice. My own success
will prove, I hope, not only that I had sufficient
ability to graduate--which by the way none have
questioned--but also that the authorities were not
as some have depicted them. This latter proof is
important, first, because it will remove that fear
which has deterred many from seeking, and even from
accepting appointments when offered, to which determent
my isolation is largely due; and second, because it will
add another to the already long list of evidences of
the integrity of our national army.
To return to the last quotation. Immediately after the
dismissal of Smith, indeed upon the very day of that
event, it was rumored that I intended to resign. I
learned of the rumor from various sources, only one of
which I need mention.
I was on guard that day, and while off duty an officer
high in rank came to me and invited me to visit him at
his quarters next day. I did so, of course. His first
words, after greeting, etc., were to question the truth
of the rumor, and before hearing my reply, to beg me to
relinquish any such intention. He was kind enough to
give me much excellent advice, which I have followed
most religiously. He assured me that prejudice, if it
did exist among my instructors, would not prevent them
from treating me justly and impartially. I am proud to
testify now to the truth of his assurance. He further
assured me that the officers of the Academy and of the
army, and especially the older ones, desired to have me
graduate, and that they would do all within the legitimate
exercise of their authority to promote that end. This
assurance has been made me by officers of nearly every
grade in the army, from the general down, and has ever
been carried out by them whenever a fit occasion presented
Surely this is not discouraging. Surely, too, it is not
causing me "to seek refuge from a sea of troubles." We
need only go back to the article quoted from the Era,
and given in Chapter III., to find an explanation for
"We know that any young man, whether he be poor or black,
or both, may enter any first-class college in America and
find warm sympathetic friends, both among students and
faculty, if he but prove himself to be possessed of some
This is the keynote to the whole thing. One must not
expect to do as one pleases, whether that be right or
wrong, or right according to some fanatical theory,
and notwithstanding to be dealt with in a manner
warranted only by the strictest notion of right.
We must force others to treat us as we wish, by giving
them such an example of meekness and of good conduct as
will at least shame them into a like treatment of us.
This is the safer and surer method of revenge.
"Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst,
give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of
fire on his head."
To proceed: I am undoubtedly a first-classman. None
other has enjoyed that eminence. There are many honors
and responsibilities incident to that position or rank.
First-classmen have authority at times over their fellow-
cadets. How will it be when I come to have that authority?
Will that same coldness and distance be manifested as
hitherto? These are important questions. I shall be brought
necessarily into closer relations with the cadets than
before. How will they accept such relationship? The
greatest proof of their personal convictions will be
manifested in their conduct here. If they evade my
authority, or are stubborn or disobedient, then are their
convictions unfriendly indeed. But if kind, generous,
willing to assist, to advise, to obey, to respect myself
as well as my office, then are they, as I ever believed
them to be, gentlemen in all that recognizes no prejudice,
no caste, nothing inconsistent with manhood.
There are certain privileges accorded to first-classmen
which the other classes do not enjoy. The privates of
the first class do duty as officers of the guard, as
company officers at company and battalion drills, at
light battery drills, and at other drills and ceremonies.
In all these cases they have command of other cadets.
These cadets are subject to their orders and are liable
to be reported--indeed such is required--for disobedience,
stubbornness, or for any thing prejudicial to good order
and good discipline.
In this fact is a reason--the only one, I think, which
will in any manner account for the unpardonable reserve
of many of the cadets. To be subject to me, to my orders,
was to them an unbearable torture. As they looked forward
to the time when I should exercise command over them, they
could not help feeling the mortification which would be
I must modify my statement. They may be prejudiced, and
yet gentlemen, and if gentlemen they will not evade
authority even though vested in me.
We go into camp at West Point on the 17th of June, '76
for ten days. During all that time I enjoy all the
privileges of first-classmen. Nothing is done to make it
unpleasant or in any way to discourage or dishearten me.
We go to Philadelphia. We visit the Centennial, and there
not only is the same kindness shown me, but I find a
number of cadets accost me whenever we meet, on the
avenues and streets, on the grounds and in the city.
They ask questions, converse, answer questions. This
occurred several times at the Southern Restaurant, as
well as elsewhere. After the parade on the 4th of July,
every kindness was shown me. Those cadets near me bought
lemons, lemonade, etc, and shared with me, and when, on
another occasion, I was the purchaser, they freely partook
of my "good cheer." What conclusion shall I draw from this?
That they are unfriendly or prejudiced? I fain would drop
my pen and burn my manuscript if for even an instant I
thought it possible. And yet how shall I explain away this
bit of braggadocio in the words italicized in this article
from the Philadelphia Times?
"The Color Line.--One of the first-classmen is Mr.
Flipper, of Georgia, a young colored man. 'We don't
have any thing to do with him off duty,' said one of
the cadets yesterday. 'We don't even speak to him. Of
course we have to eat with him, and drill with him,
and go on guard with him, but that ends it. Outside
of duty, we don't know him.' 'Is he intelligent?' 'Yes;
he stands high in his class, and I see no reason to
doubt that he will graduate next June. He has the negro
features strongly developed, but in color he is rather
Easily enough, I think. In the first place the
statement is too broad, if made by a cadet, which
I very much doubt. There are some of that "we" who
do know me outside of duty. And if a cadet made the
statement he must have been a plebe, one unacquainted
with my status in the corps, or one who, strenuously
avoiding me himself, supposed all others likewise did
so. The cadet was not a first-classman. There is a
want of information in his last answer which could not
have been shown by a first-classman.
Again, he says we "go on guard with him." Now that
is untrue, as I understand it. The word "with" would
imply that we were on guard in the same capacity, viz.,
as privates. But first-classmen do no guard duty in
that capacity, and hence not being himself a first-
classman he could not have been on guard"with" me. If
he had said "under him," his statement would have been
nearer the truth.
After a stay of ten days in Philadelphia, we return
to West Point, and still the same respect is shown
me. There is but little more of open recognition, if
any, than before, and yet that I am respected is shown
in many ways. See, for example, the latter part of
chapter on "Treatment."
Again, during my first year I many times overheard
myself spoken of as "the nigger," "the moke," or "the
thing." Now openly, and when my presence was not known,
I always hear myself mentioned as Mr. Flipper. There are
a few who use both forms of address as best suits their
convenience or inclination at the time. But why is it?
Why not "nigger," "moke," or "thing" as formerly? Is
there, can there be any other reason than that they
respect me more now than then? I am most unwilling to
believe there could be.
We begin our regular routine of duties, etc. We have
practical military engineering, ordnance, artillery,
practical astronomy in field and permanent observatories,
telegraphy, and guard. We are detailed for these duties.
Not the least distinction is made. Not the slightest
partiality is shown. Always the same regard for my
feelings, the same respect for me! See the case of
gabion in the chapter on "Treatment."
At length, in my proper order, I am detailed for officer
of the guard. True, the cadets expressed some wonderment,
but why? Simply, and reasonably enough too, because I
was the first person of color that had ever commanded a
guard at the Military Academy of the United States. It is
but a natural curiosity. And how am I treated? Is my
authority recognized? Indeed it is. My sergeant not only
volunteered to make out the guard report for me, but also
offered any assistance I might want, aside from the
discharge of his own duty as sergeant of the guard.
Again, a number of plebes were confined in the guard
tents for grossness and carelessness. I took their
names, the times of their imprisonment, and obtained
permission to release them. I was thanked for my
trouble. Again, a cadet's father wishes to see him.
He is in arrest. I get permission for him to visit
his father at the guard tents. I go to his tent
and tell him, and start back to my post of duty.
He calls me back and thanks me. Must I call that
natural aversion for the negro, or even prejudice?
Perhaps it is, but I cannot so comprehend it. It
may have that construction, but as long as the other
is possible it is generous to accept it. And again,
I am ordered to report a cadet. I do it. I am
stigmatized, of course, by some of the low ones (see
that case under "Treatment"); but my conduct, both
in obeying the order and subsequently, is approved
by the better portion of the corps. The commandant
said to me: "Your duty was a plain one, and you
discharged it properly. You were entirely right in
reporting Mr.--." What is the conduct of this cadet
himself afterwards? If different at all from what it
was before, it is, in my presence at least, more
cordial, more friendly, more kind. Still there is no
ill-treatment, assuming of course that my own conduct
is proper, and not obtrusive or overbearing. And so
in a multitude of ways this fact is proved. I have
noticed many things, little things perhaps they were,
but still proofs, in the conduct of all the cadets
which remove all doubt from my mind. And yet with all
my observation and careful study of those around me,
I have many times been unable to decide what was the
feeling of the cadets toward me. Some have been one
thing everywhere and at all times, not unkind or
ungenerous, nor even unwilling to hear me and be with
me, or near me, or on duty with me, or alone with me.
Some again, while not avoiding me in the presence of
others have nevertheless manifested their uneasy dislike
of my proximity. When alone with me they are kind, and
all I could wish them to be. Others have not only
strenuously avoided me when with their companions, but
have even at times shown a low disposition, a desire to
wound my feelings or to chill me with their coldness.
But alone, behold they know how to mimic gentlemen. The
kind of treatment which I was to receive, and have
received at the hands of the cadets, has been a matter
of little moment to me. True, it has at times been
galling, but its severest effects have been but temporary
and have caused me no considerable trouble or
inconvenience. I have rigidly overlooked it all.
The officers, on the contrary, as officers and gentlemen,
have in a manner been bound to accord me precisely the
Same privileges and advantages, etc., which they granted
the other cadets, and they have ever done so.
I must confess my expectations in this last have been
most positively unfulfilled, and I am glad of it. The
various reports, rumors, and gossips have thus been
proved not only false but malicious, and that proof
is of considerable consequence. That they have not
been unkind and disposed to ill-treat me may be
readily inferred from the number of demerits I have
received, and the nature of the offences for which
those demerits were given. They have never taken it
upon themselves to watch me and report me for trifling
offences with a view of giving me a bad record in
conduct, and thereby securing my dismissal, for one
hundred demerits in six months means dismissal. They
have ever acted impartially, and, ignoring my color,
have accorded me all immunities and privileges enjoyed
by other cadets, whether they were allowed by regulations
or were mere acts of personal favor. Of the majority of
the cadets I can speak likewise, for they too have power
to spy out and report.
As to treatment in the section-room, where there were
many opportunities to do me injustice by giving me low
marks for all recitations, good or bad, for instance,
they have scrupulously maintained their honor, and have
treated me there with exact justice and impartiality.
This is not a matter of opinion. I can give direct and
positive proof of its truthfulness. In the chapter on
"Studies," in the record of marks that proof can be
found, my marks per recitation, and the average are
good. By rank in section is meant the order of my mark--
that is, whether best, next, the next, or lowest. Are
these marks not good? In law, for example, once I
received the eighth out of nine marks, then the fifth,
the first, second, third, first, first, and so on.
Surely there was nothing in them to show I was marked
low either purposely or otherwise.
My marks in the section for each week, month, and the
number of men in each section, afford the means of
comparison between the other members of the section
and myself. And my marks are not only evidence of the
possession on my part of some "good faculties," but
also of the honor of my instructors and fellow-members
What manner of treatment the cadets chose to manifest
toward me was then of course of no account. But what
is of importance, and great importance too, is how
they will treat me in the army, when we have all
assumed the responsibilities of manhood, coupled with
those of a public servant, an army officer. Of course
the question cannot now be answered. I feel nevertheless
assured that the older officers at least will not
stoop to prejudice or caste, but will accord me proper
treatment and respect. Men of responsibility are
concerned, and it is not presumable that they will
disregard the requirements of their professions
so far as to ill-treat even myself. There is none
of the recklessness of the student in their actions,
and they cannot but recognize me as having a just
claim upon their good-will and honor.
The year wears away--the last year it is too--and I
find myself near graduation, with every prospect of
success. And from the beginning to the close my life
has been one not of trouble, persecution, or punishment,
but one of isolation only. True, to an unaccustomed
nature such a life must have had many anxieties and
trials and displeasures, and, although it was so with
me, I have nothing more than that of which to complain.
And if such a life has had its unpleasant features, it
has also had its pleasant ones, of which not the least,
I think, was the constantly growing prospect of ultimate
triumph. Again, those who have watched my course and
have seen in its success the falsity of certain reports,
can not have been otherwise than overjoyed at it, at the,
though tardy, vindication of truth. I refer especially
to certain erroneous ideas which are or were extant
concerning the treatment of colored cadets, in which it
is claimed that color decides their fate.. (See chapter
I hope my success has proved that not color of face,
but color of character alone can decide such a question.
It is character and nothing else that will merit a harsh
treatment from gentlemen, and of course it must be a bad
character. If a man is a man, un homme comme il faut, he
need fear no ill-treatment from others of like calibre.
Gentlemen avoid persons not gentlemen. Resentment is not
a characteristic of gentlemen. A gentlemanly nature must
shrink from it. There may be in it a certain amount of
what is vulgarly termed pluck, and perhaps courage. But
what of that? Everybody more or less admires pluck.
Everybody worships courage, if it be of a high order, but
who allows that pluck or even courage is an excuse for
passion or its consequences? The whites may admire pluck
in the negro, as in other races, but they will never
admit unwarrantable obtrusiveness, or rudeness, or
grossness, or any other ungentlemanly trait, and no more
in the negro than in others. This is quite just. A negro
would not allow it even in another.
I did not intend to discuss social equality here, but
as it is not entirely foreign to my subject I may be
pardoned a word or so upon it.
Social equality, as I comprehend it, must be the natural,
and perhaps gradual, outgrowth of a similarity of instincts
and qualities in those between whom it exists. That is to
say, there can be no social equality between persons who
have nothing in common. A civilized being would not accept
a savage as his equal, his socius , his friend. It would
be repugnant to nature. A savage is a man, the image of
his Maker as much so as any being. He has all the same
rights of equality which any other has, but they are
political rights only. He who buried his one talent to
preserve it was not deemed worthy to associate with him
who increased his five to ten. So also in our particular
case. There are different orders or classes of men in
every civilized community. The classes are politically
equal, equal in that they are free men and citizens and
have all the rights belonging to such station. Among the
several classes there can be no social equality, for they
have nothing socially in common, although the members of
each class in itself may have.
Now in these recent years there has been a great clamor
for rights. The clamor has reached West Point, and, if
no bad results have come from it materially, West Point
has nevertheless received a bad reputation, and I think
an undeserved one, as respects her treatment of colored
A right must depend on the capacity and end or aim of
the man. This capacity and end may, and ought to be,
moral, and not political only. Equal capacities and a
like end must give equal rights, and unequal capacities
and unlike ends unequal rights, morally, of course, for
the political end of all men is the same. And therefore,
since a proper society is a moral institution where a
certain uniformity of views, aims, purposes, properties,
etc., is the object, there must be also a uniformity or
equality of rights, for otherwise there would be no
society, no social equality.
This, I apprehend, is precisely the state of affairs
in our own country. Among those who, claiming social
equality, claim it as a right, there exists the
greatest possible diversity of creeds, instincts, and
of moral and mental conditions, in which they are
widely different from those with whom they claim this
equality. They can therefore have no rights socially
in common; or, in other words, the social equality
they claim is not a right, and ought not to and cannot
exist under present circumstances, and any law that
overreaches the moral reason to the contrary must be
admitted as unjust if not impolitic.
But it is color, they say, color only, which determines
how the negro must be treated. Color is his misfortune,
and his treatment must be his misfortune also. Mistaken
idea! and one of which we should speedily rid ourselves.
It may be color in some cases, but in the great majority
of instances it is mental and moral condition. Little or
no education, little moral refinement, and all their
repulsive consequences will never be accepted as equals
of education, intellectual or moral. Color is absolutely
nothing in the consideration of the question, unless we
mean by it not color of skin, but color of character, and
I fancy we can find considerable color there.
It has been said that my success at West Point would be
a grand victory in the way of equal rights, meaning, I
apprehend, social rights, social equality, inasmuch as
all have, under existing laws, equal political rights.
Doubtless there is much truth in the idea. If, however,
we consider the two races generally, we shall see there
is no such right, no such social right, for the very
basis of such a right, viz., a similarity of tastes,
instincts, and of mental and moral conditions, is
wanting. The mental similarity especially is wanting,
and as that shapes and refines the moral one, that too
To illustrate by myself, without any pretensions to
selfishness. I have this right to social equality,
for I and those to whom I claim to be equal are similarly
educated. We have much in common, and this fact alone
creates my right to social and equal recognition.
"But the young gentlemen who boast of holding only
official intercourse with their comrade, should
remember that no one of them stands before the
country in any different light from him. . . .
Amalgamated by the uniform course of studies and
the similarity of discipline, the separating fragments
at the end of the student life carry similar qualities
into the life before them, and step with almost
remarkable social equality into the world where they
must find their level."--Philadelphia North American,
July 7th, 1876.
If we apply this to the people as a unit, the similarity
no longer exists. The right, therefore, also ceases to
The step claimed to have been made by my success is one
due to education, and not to my position or education at
West Point, rather than at some other place; so that it
follows if there be education, if the mental and moral
condition of the claimants to that right be a proper one,
there will necessarily be social equality, and under other
circumstances there can be no such equality.
"Remember, dear friend," says a correspondent, "that
you carry an unusual responsibility. The nation is
interested in what you do. If you win your diploma,
your enemies lose and your friends gain one very
important point in the great argument for equal
rights. When you shall have demonstrated that you
have equal powers, then equal rights will come in
due time. The work which you have chosen, and from
which you cannot now flinch without dishonor, proves
far more important than either you or me (Faculty at
A. U.) at first conceived. Like all great things its
achievement will involve much of trial and hardship."
Alas! how true! What a trial it is to be socially
ostracized, to live in the very midst of life and
yet be lonely, to pass day after day without saying
perhaps a single word other than those used in the
section-room during a recitation. How hard it is to
live month after month without even speaking to woman,
without feeling or knowing the refining influence of
her presence! What a miserable existence!
Oh! 'tis hard, this lonely living, to be
Such a life was mine, not indeed for four years, but
for the earlier part of my stay at the Academy.
In the midst of life so solitary,
To sit all the long, long day through and gaze
In the dimness of gloom, all but amazed
At the emptiness of life, and wonder
What keeps sorrow and death asunder.
'Tis the forced seclusion most galls the mind,
And sours all other joy which it may find.
'Tis the sneer, tho' half hid, is bitter still,
And wakes dormant anger to passion's will.
But oh! 'tis harder yet to bear them all
Unangered and unheedful of the thrall,
To list the jeer, the snarl, and epithet
All too base for knaves, and e'en still forget
Such words were spoken, too manly to let
Such baseness move a nobler intellect.
But not the words nor even the dreader disdain
Move me to anger or resenting pain.
'Tis the thought, the thought most disturbs my mind,
That I'm ostracized for no fault of mine,
'Tis that ever-recurring thought awakes
But to return to our subject. There are two questions
involved in my case. One of them is, Can a negro
graduate at West Point, or will one ever graduate
there? And the second, If one never graduate there,
will it be because of his color or prejudice?
My own success answers most conclusively the first
question, and changes the nature of the other. Was
it, then, color or actual deficiency that caused the
dismissal of all former colored cadets? I shall not
venture to reply more than to say my opinion is
deducible from what I have said elsewhere in my
However, my correspondent agrees with me that color
is of no consequence in considering the question of
equality socially. My friends, he says, gain an
important point in the argument for equal rights.
It will be in this wise, viz., that want of education,
want of the proof of equality of intellect, is the
obstacle, and not color. And the only way to get this
proof is to get education, and not by "war of races."
Equal rights must be a consequence of this proof, and
not something existing before it. Equal rights will
come in due time, civil rights bill, war of races, or
any thing of that kind to the contrary not-withstanding.
And moreover, I don't want equal rights, but identical
rights. The whites and blacks may have equal rights,
and yet be entirely independent, or estranged from
each other. The two races cannot live in the same
country, under the same laws as they now do, and yet
be absolutely independent of each other. There must,
there should, and there will be a mutual dependence,
and any thing that tends to create independence, while
it is thus so manifestly impossible, can engender
strife alone between them. On the other hand, whatever
brings them into closer relationship, whatever increases
their knowledge and appreciation of fellowship and its
positive importance, must necessarily tend to remove
all prejudices, and all ill-feelings, and bring the two
races, and indeed the world, nearer that degree of
perfection to which all things show us it is approaching.
Therefore I want identical rights, for equal rights may
not be sufficient.
"It is for you, Henry, more than any one I know of, to
demonstrate to the world around us, in this part of it
at least (the North), the equality of intellect in the
races. You win by your uprightness and intelligence,
and it cannot be otherwise than that you will gain
respect and confidence."
Thus a lady correspondent (Miss M. E. H., Durham Centre,
Ct.) encourages, thus she keeps up the desire to graduate,
to demonstrate to the world "the equality of intellect in
the races," that not color but the want of this proof in
this semi-barbarous people is the obstacle to their being
recognized as social equals. A tremendous task! Not so
much to prove such an equality--for that had already been
abundantly demonstrated--but rather to show the absurdity
and impracticability of prejudice on account of color; or,
in other words, that there is no such prejudice. It is
prejudice on account of non-refinement and non-education.
As to how far and how well I have discharged that duty,
my readers, and all others who may be in any manner
interested in me, must judge from my narrative and my
career at West Point. Assuring all that my endeavor has
been to act as most becomes a gentleman, and with
Christian forbearance to disregard all unfriendliness
or prejudice, I leave this subject, this general résumé
of my treatment at the hands of the cadets, and my own
conduct, with the desire that it be criticised impartially
if deemed worthy of criticism at all.
"Reporter.--Have you any more colored cadets?
"Captain H--.--Only one--Henry O. Flipper, of Georgia.
He is a well-built lad, a mulatto, and is bright,
intelligent, and studious.
"Reporter.--Do the cadets dislike him as much as they
"Captain H--.--No, sir; I am told that he is more popular.
I have heard of no doubt but that he will get through all
right."--New York Herald, July, 1874.
THE privileges allowed cadets during an encampment
are different generally for the different classes.
These privileges are commonly designated by the rank
of the class, such, for instance, as "first-class
privileges," "third-class privileges," etc. Privileges
which are common receive their designation from some
characteristic in their nature or purpose. Thus we
have "Saturday afternoon privileges," and "Old Guard
PLEASURES AND PRIVILEGES.
The cadets are encamped and are not supposed to leave
their camp save by permission. This permission is
granted by existing orders, or if for any reason it be
temporarily denied it can be obtained by "permit" for
some specified time. Such permission or privilege
obtained by "permit" for a particular class is known
as "class privileges," and can be enjoyed only by the
class that submits and gets the permit.
"First-class privileges" permit all members of the
first class to leave camp at any time between troop
and retreat, except when on duty, and to take advantage
of the usual "Saturday afternoon privileges," which are
allowed all classes and all cadets. These privileges,
however, cannot be enjoyed on the Sabbath by any except
the first-class officers, without special permission.
The usual form of a permit is as follows:
WEST POINT, N. Y., November 6, 1876.
Cadet A-- B-- C-- has permission to walk on public
lands between the hours of 8 A.M. and 4 P.M.
-- -- --,
Lieut.--Colonel First Art'y Comd'g Corps of Cadets.
-- -- --,
Commanding Company "A."
By "Saturday afternoon privileges" is meant the right
or privilege to walk on all public lands within cadet
limits on Saturday afternoon. This includes also the
privilege of visiting the ruins of old Fort Putnam,
which is not on limits. These privileges are allowed
throughout the year.
The second class being absent on furlough during the
encampment, of course have no privileges. Should any
member of the class be present during the encampment,
he enjoys "first-class privileges," unless they are
expressly denied him.
"Third-class privileges" do not differ from "first-
class privileges," except in that they cannot be taken
advantage of on the Sabbath by any member of the class.
The fourth class as a class have no privileges.
"Old Guard privileges" are certain privileges by which
all members of the "Old Guard" are exempted from all
duty on the day they march off guard until one o'clock,
and are permitted to enjoy privileges similar to those
of Saturday afternoon during the same time. They also
have the privilege of bathing at that time.
The baths are designated as "first," "second," and
"third." The officers and non-commissioned officers
have the first baths, and the privates the others.
Cadets who march off guard on Sunday are restricted in
the enjoyment of their privileges to exemption from duty
on the Sabbath only. They may take advantage of the other
privileges on the following Monday during the usual time,
but are not excused from any duty. All members of the
"Old Guard," to whatever class they may belong, are
entitled to "Old Guard privileges."
Besides these there are other privileges which are enjoyed
by comparatively few. Such are "Hop managers' privileges."
"Hop managers" are persons elected by their classmates from
the first and third classes for the management of the hops
of the summer. To enable them to discharge the duties of
their office, they are permitted to leave camp, whenever
necessary, by reporting their departure and return.
Under pleasures, or rather sources of pleasure, may be
enumerated hops, Germans, band practice, and those
incident to other privileges, such as "spooneying," or
"spooning." The hops are the chief source of enjoyment,
and take place on Mondays and Fridays, sometimes also on
Wednesdays, at the discretion of the Superintendent.
Germans are usually given on Saturday afternoons, and a
special permit is necessary for every one. These permits
are usually granted, unless there be some duty or other
cause to prevent.
Two evenings of every week are devoted to band practice,
Tuesday evening for practice in camp, and Thursday evening
for practice in front of the Superintendent's quarters. Of
course these entertainments, if I may so term them, have
the effect of bringing together the young ladies and cadets
usually denied the privilege of leaving camp during the
evening. It is quite reasonable to assume that they enjoy
themselves. On these evenings "class privileges" permit the
first- and third-classmen to be absent from camp till the
practice is over. Sometimes a special permit is necessary.
It might be well to say here, ere I forget it, that
Wednesday evening is devoted to prayer, prayer-meeting
being held in the Dialectic Hall. All cadets are allowed to
attend by reporting their departure and return. The meeting
is under the sole management of the cadets, although they
are by no means the sole participants. Other privileges,
more or less limited, such as the holding of class meetings
for whatever purpose, must be obtained by special permit in
We have not much longer here to stay,
Addresses to the Graduating Class of the U. S. Military
Academy, West Point, N. Y., June 14th, 1877. By
PROFESSOR C. O. THOMPSON, MAJOR-GENERAL WINFIELD S.
HANCOCK, HONORABLE GEORGE W. MCCRARY, Secretary of War,
MAJOR-GENERAL JOHN M. SCHOFIELD, Superintendent U. S.
Only a month or two,
Then we'll bid farewell to cadet gray,
And don the army blue.
Army-blue, army blue, we'll don the army blue,
We'll bid farewell to cadet gray and don the army blue.
To the ladies who come up in June,
We'll bid a fond adieu,
And hoping they will be married soon,
We'll don the army blue.
Army blue, army blue, we'll don the army blue,
We'll bid farewell to cadet gray and don the army blue.
ADDRESS BY PROFESSOR C. O. THOMPSON,
YOUNG GENTLEMEN OF THE GRADUATING CLASS: The courtesy
of your admirable Superintendent forbids a possible
breach in an ancient custom, and lays upon me, as
the representative, for the moment, of the Board of
Visitors, the pleasant duty of tendering to you their
congratulations on the close of your academic career,
and your auspicious future.
President of the Board of Visitors.
The people of this country have a heavy stake in the
prosperity of this institution. They recognize it as
the very fountain of their security in war, and the
origin of some of their best methods of education. And
upon education in colleges and common schools the
pillars of the State assuredly rest.
To participants and to bystanders, this ceremony of
graduation is as interesting and as exciting as if
this were the first, instead of the seventy-fifth
occurrence. Every such occasion is clothed with the
splendor of perpetual youth. The secret of your future
success lies in the impossibility of your entering into
the experience of your predecessors. Every man's life
begins with the rising sun. The world would soon become
a frozen waste but for the inextinguishable ardor of
youth, which believes success still to be possible
where every attempt has failed.
That courage which avoids rashness by the restraints
of knowledge, and dishonor by the fear of God, is the
best hope of the world.
History is not life, but its reflection.
The great armies of modern times which have won
immortal victories have been composed of young men
who have turned into historic acts the strategy of
To bystanders, for the same and other reasons, the
occasion is profoundly interesting.
For educated men who are true to honor and to
righteousness, the world anxiously waits; but
an educated man who is false, the world has good
reason to dread. The best thing that can be said
of this Academy, with its long roll of heroes in
war and in peace, is, that every year the conviction
increases among the people of the United States, that
its graduates are men who will maintain, at all
hazards, the simple virtues of a robust manhood--like
Chaucer's young Knight, courteous, lowly, and
I welcome you, therefore, to the hardships and perils
of a soldier's life in a time of peace. The noise and
the necessities of war drive men in upon themselves
and keep their faculties awake and alert; but the
seductive influence of peace, when a soldier must
spend his time in preparation for the duties of his
profession rather than in their practice, this is
indeed a peril to which the horrors of warfare are
subordinate. It is so much easier for men to fight
other men than themselves. So much easier to help
govern other men than to wholly govern themselves.
But, young gentlemen, as we have listened to your
examination, shared in your festivities, and enjoyed
personal acquaintance with you, we strongly hope for
you every thing lovely, honorable, and of good report.
You who have chosen the sword, may be helped in some
trying hour of your coming lives by recalling the
lesson which is concealed in a legend of English
history. It is the old lesson of the advantage of
knowledge over its more showy counterfeits, and
guards against one of the perils of our American
A man losing his way on a hillside, strayed into a
chamber full of enchanted knights, each lying
motionless, in complete armor, with his horse
standing motionless beside him. On a rock near the
entrance lay a sword and a horn, and the intruder
was told that he must choose between these, if he
would lead the army. He chose the horn, and blew a
loud blast; whereupon the knights and their horses
vanished in a whirlwind, and their visitor was blown
back into common air, these words sounding after him
upon the wind:
"Cursed be the coward, that ever he was born,
Young gentlemen, the Board of Visitors can have no
better wish for our common country than that your
future will fulfil the promise of the present.
Who did not draw the sword before he blew the horn."
ADDRESS BY MAJOR-GENERAL W. S. HANCOCK.
To me has been assigned the pleasant duty of welcoming
into the service as commissioned officers, the Graduates
of the Military Academy of to-day.
Although much time has elapsed since my graduation here,
and by contact with the rugged cares of life some of the
sharp edges of recollection may have become. dulled, yet
I have not lived long enough to have forgotten the joy
of that bright period. You only experience it to-day as
I have felt it before you.
I have had some experience of life since, and it might
be worth something to you were I to relate it. But youth
is self-confident and impatient, and you may at present
doubt the wisdom of listening to sermons which you can
learn at a later day.
You each feel that you have the world in a sling, and
that it would be wearisome to listen to the croakings
of the past, and especially from those into whose shoes
you soon expect to step. That is the rule of life. The
child growing into manhood, believes that its judgment
is better than the knowledge of its parents; and yet if
that experience was duly considered, and its unselfish
purposes believed in, many shoals would be avoided,
otherwise certain to be met with in the journey of life,
by the inexperienced but confident navigator.
You should not forget that there were as bright
intellects, and men who possessed equal elements
of greatness in past generations as in this, and
that deeds have been performed in earlier times
which, at best, the men of the present day can
only hope to rival. Why then should we not profit
by the experiences of the past; and as our lives
are shot at best, instead of following the ruts
of our predecessors, start on the road of life
where they left off, and not continue to repeat
their failures? I cannot say why, unless it proceeds
from the natural buoyancy of youth, self-confidence
in its ability to overcome all obstacles, and to
carve out futures more dazzling than any successes
of the past. In this there is a problem for you to
solve. Yet I may do well by acknowledging to you,
to-day, that after an active military life of no mean
duration, soldiers of my length of service feel
convinced that they might have learned wisdom by
listening to the experience of those who preceded
them. Had they been prepared to assume that experience
as a fact at starting, and made departures from it,
instead of disregarding it, in the idea that there was
nothing worthy of note to be learned from a study of
the past, it would be safe to assume that they would
have made greater advances in their day.
Were I to give you my views in extenso, applicable to
the occasion, I could only repeat what has been well
and vigorously said here by distinguished persons in
the past, in your hearing, on occasions of the graduation
of older classes than your own.
You are impatient, doubtless, as I was in your time,
and if you have done as my class did before you, you
have already thrown your books away, and only await
the moment of the conclusion of these ceremonies to
don the garb of the officer or the civilian. The shell
of the cadet is too contracted to contain your impatient
spirits. Nevertheless, if you will listen but for a few
minutes to the relation of an old soldier, I will repeat
of the lessons of experience a few of those most worthy
of your consideration.
There is but one comrade of my class remaining in
active service to-day, and I think I might as truly
have said the same ten years ago.
In the next thirty years, those of you who live will
see that your numbers have become sensibly reduced,
if not in similar proportion.
Some will have studied, have kept up with the times,
been ready for service at the hour of their country's
call, been prepared to accomplish the purposes for
which their education was given to them.
Some will have sought the active life of the frontiers,
and been also ready to perform their part in the hour
A few will have seized the passing honors.
It may have depended much upon opportunity among
those who were well equipped for the occasion, who
gained the greatest distinction; but it cannot for
a moment be doubted that the roll of honor in the
future of this class will never again stand as it
It will be a struggle of life to determine who among
you will keep their standing in the contest for future
honors and distinctions.
You who have been the better students here, and
possessed the greater natural qualities, have a
start in the race; but industry, study, perseverance,
and other qualities will continue to be important
factors in the future, as they have been in the past.
Through continuous mental, moral, and physical
development, with progress in the direction of
your profession and devotion to duty, lies the
road to military glory; and it may readily come
to pass that "the race will not be to the swift,
nor the battle to the strong," as you regard
your classmates to-day.
It must be admitted, however, that great leaders
A rare combination of natural qualities causes
men to develop greatness. Education and training
make them greater; nevertheless, men with fewer
natural qualities often succeed, with education
and training, when those more richly endowed fail
to reach the higher places, and you have doubtless
witnessed that in your experience here.
A man in a great place in modern times is not
respectable without education. That man must be
a God to command modern armies successfully
without it; yet war is a great school; men learn
quickly by experience, and in long wars there
will be found men of natural abilities who will
appear at the front. It will be found, however,
in the long run, that the man who has prepared
himself to make the best use of his natural
talents will win in the race, if he has the
opportunity, while others of equal or greater
natural parts may fail from lack of that mental
and moral training necessary to win the respect
of those they command.
Towards the close of our civil war, men came to
the front rank who entered the service as privates.
They were men of strong natural qualities. How far
the best of them would have proceeded had the war
continued, cannot be told; but it may be safely
assumed that if they possessed the moral qualities
and the education necessary to command the respect
of the armies with which they were associated, they
would have won the highest honors; and yet our war
lasted but four years.
Some of them had the moral qualities, some the
education; and I have known of those men who thus
came forward, some who would certainly have reached
the highest places in a long race, had they had the
training given to you.
War gives numerous opportunities for distinction, and
especially to those who in peace have demonstrated
that they would be available in war; and soldiers can
win distinction in both peace and war if they will but
seize their opportunities.
"There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at
the flood, leads on to victory."
Great responsibilities in time of danger are not given
to the ignorant, the slothful, or to those who have
impaired their powers of mind or body by the indulgences
of life. In times of danger favorites are discarded. When
work is to be done, deeds to be performed, men of action
have their opportunities and fail not to seize them. It
is the interest of commanders that such men should be
selected for service, when success or failure may follow,
according to the wisdom of the selection, as the instrument
may be--sharp or dull, good or bad.
I would say to you, lead active, temperate, studious
lives, develop your physical qualities as well as mental.
Regard the education acquired here as but rudimentary;
pursue your studies in the line of your profession and
as well in such other branches of science or language
as may best accord with your inclinations. It will make
you greater in your profession and cause you to be
independent of it. The latter is but prudent in these
Study to lead honorable, useful, and respected lives.
Even if no opportunity presents for martial glory you
will not fail to find your reward.
Avoid the rocks of dissipation, of gambling, of debt;
lead those manly lives which will always find you in
health in mind and body, free from entanglements of
whatever kind, and you may be assured you will find
your opportunities for great services, when otherwise
you would have been overlooked or passed by. Such men are
known and appreciated in every army and out of it.
Knowledge derived from books may bring great distinction
outside of the field of war, as an expert in the lessons
of the military profession and in others, but the lessons
of hard service are salutary and necessary to give the
soldier a practical understanding of the world and its
ways as he will encounter them in war. I would advise
you to go when young to the plains--to the wilderness--
seek active service there, put off the days of indulgence
and of ease. Those should follow years.
Take with you to the frontier your dog, your rod and
gun; the pursuit of a life in the open air with such
adjuncts will go far to give you health and the vigor
to meet the demands to be made upon you in trying
campaigns, and to enable you to establish the physical
condition necessary to maintain a life of vigor such
as a soldier requires. You will by these means, too,
avoid many of the temptations incident to an idle life
--all calculated to win you from your usefulness in the
future, and by no means leave your books behind you.
When I graduated, General Scott, thinking possibly to
do me a service, asked me to what regiment I desired
to be assigned; I replied, to the regiment stationed
at the most western post in the United States. I was
sent to the Indian Territory of to-day. We had not
then acquired California or New Mexico, and our western
boundary north of Texas was the one hundredth degree of
I know that that early frontier service and the
opportunities for healthy and vigorous out-door
exercise were of great advantage to me in many
ways, and would have been more so had I followed
the advice in reference to study that I have given
There are many "extreme western" posts to-day. It
is difficult to say which is the most western in
the sense of that day, when the Indian frontiers
did not as now, lie in the circumference of an inner
circle; but the Yellowstone will serve your purpose
well. And if any of you wish to seek that service your
taste will not be difficult to gratify, for the hardest
lessons will be certain to be avoided by many. There
will be those who in the days of youth will seek the
softer places. They may have their appropriate duties
there and do their parts well, but it may be considered
a safe maxim that the indulgence of the present will
have to be paid for in the future A man may not acquire
greatness by pursuing religiously the course I have
indicated as the best, but it will be safe to assume
that when the roll of honor of your class is called
after a length of service equal to mine, but few, if
any of your number, will have done their part well in
public estimation save of those who shall have pretty
closely followed these safe rules of life.
Gentlemen, I bid you welcome.
ADDRESS BY HON. G. W. McCRARY,
Secretary of War.
GENTLEMEN OF THE GRADUATING CLASS: Although not a
part of the programme arranged for these exercises,
I cannot refuse to say a word by way of greeting,
and I would make it as hearty and earnest as possible
to you, gentlemen, one and all, upon this occasion,
so interesting to you as well is to the entire army,
and to the people of the whole country.
There are others here who will speak to you as
soldiers, to whom you will listen, and from whom
you will receive all counsel and admonition as
coming from men who have distinguished themselves
in the command of the greatest armies the world
has ever seen, and by the achievement of some of
the grandest victories recorded upon the pages of
I would speak to you as a citizen; and as such, I
desire to assure you that you are to-day the centre
of a general interest pervading every part of our
entire country. It is not the army alone that is
interested in the graduating class of 1877. West
Point Military Academy, more than any other institution
in the land--far more--is a national institution--one
in which we have a national pride.
It is contrary to the policy of this country to
keep in time of peace a large standing army We have
adopted what I think is a wiser and better policy--
that of educating a large number of young men in the
science of arms, so that they may be ready when the
time of danger comes. You will go forth from this
occasion with your commissions as Second Lieutenants
in the army; but I see, and I know that the country
sees, that if war should come, and large armies
should be organized and marshalled, we have here
seventy-six young gentlemen, any one of whom can
command not only a company, but a brigade; and I
think I may say a division, or an army corps.
The experience of the past teaches that I do not
exaggerate when I say this. At all events, such is
the theory upon which our government proceeds, and
it is expected that every man who is educated in this
institution, whether he remains in the ranks of the
army or not, wherever he may be found and called upon,
shall come and draw his sword in defence of his
country and her flag.
It is a happy coincidence that one hundred years
ago to-day, on the 14th of June, 1777, the Continental
Congress passed the act which fixed our national
emblem as the stars and stripes. It is a happy
coincidence that you graduate upon the anniversary
of the passage of that act--the centennial birthday
of the stars and stripes. I do not know that it will
add any thing to your love of the flag and of your
country. I doubt whether any thing would add to that;
but I refer to this coincidence with great pleasure.
Gentlemen of the Graduating Class: I am not qualified
to instruct you in your duties as soldiers, but these
is one thing I may say to you, because it ought to be
said to every graduating class, and to all young men
about to enter upon the active duties of life, and that
is, that the profession does not ennoble the man, but
the man ennobles the profession Behind the soldier is
Character, young men, is every thing; without it,
your education is nothing; without it, your country
will be disappointed in you. Go forth into life, then,
firmly resolved to be true, not only to the flag of
your country, not only to the institutions of the
land, not only to the Union which our fathers
established, and which the blood of our countrymen
has cemented, but to be true to yourselves and the
principles of honor, of rectitude, of temperance, of
virtue, which have always characterized the great and
successful soldier, and must always characterize such
a soldier in the future.
ADDRESS BY MAJOR-GENERAL JOHN M. SCHOFIELD,
Superintendent U. S. Military Academy.
GENTLEMEN OF THE GRADUATING CLASS: The agreeable duty
now devolves upon me of delivering to you the diplomas
which the Academic Board have awarded you as Graduates
of the Military Academy.
These diplomas you have fairly won by your ability,
your industry, and your obedience to discipline. You
receive them, not as favors from any body, but as
the just and lawful reward of honest and persistent
You have merited, and are about to receive, the
highest honors attainable by young men in our
country. You have won these honors by hard work
and patient endurance, and you are thus prepared
to prize them highly. Unless thus fairly won, honors,
like riches, are of little value.
As you learn, with advancing years, to more fully
appreciate the value in life of the habits you have
acquired of self-reliance, long-sustained effort,
obedience to discipline, and respect for lawful
authority, a value greater even than that of the
scientific knowledge you have gained, you will more
and more highly prize the just reward which you are
to-day found worthy to receive.
You are now prepared to enter upon an honorable
career in the great arena of the world. The West
Point Diploma has ever been a passport to public
respect, and to the confidence of government. But
such respect and confidence imply corresponding
responsibilities. The honor of West Point and that
of the army are now in your keeping; and your country
is entitled to the best services, intellectual, moral,
and physical, which it may be in your power to render.
That you may render such services, do not fail to
pursue your scientific studies, that you may know
the laws of nature, and make her forces subservient
to the public welfare. Study carefully the history,
institutions, and laws of your country, that you may
be able to see and to defend what is lawful and right
in every emergency. Study not only the details of your
profession, but the highest principles of the art of
war, You may one day be called to the highest
responsibility. And, above all, be governed in all
things by those great moral principles which have been
the guide of great and good men in all ages and in all
countries. Without such guide the greatest genius can
do only evil to mankind.
One of your number, under temptation which has sometimes
proved too great for even much older soldiers, committed
A breach of discipline for which he was suspended. The
Honorable Secretary of War has been kindly pleased to
remit the penalty, so that your classmate may take his
place among you according to his academic rank.
You have to regret the absence of one of your number,
who has been prevented by extreme illness from pursuing
the studies of the last year. But I am glad to say that
Mr. Barnett has so far recovered that he will be able to
return to the Academy, and take his place in the next
Another member of the class has been called away by the
death of his father, but he had passed his examination,
and will graduate with you. His diploma will be sent to
With the single exception, then, above mentioned, I have
the satisfaction of informing you that you graduate with
the ranks of your class unbroken.
We take leave of you, gentlemen, not only with hope, but
with full confidence that you will acquit yourselves well
in the honorable career now before you. We give you our
parental blessing, with fervent wishes for your prosperity,
happiness, and honor.
Loud applause greeted the close of the general's speech,
and the graduates were then called up one by one and
Their diplomas delivered to them. The first to step
forward was Mr. William M. Black, of Lancaster, Penn.,
whose career at the Academy has been remarkable. He has
stood at the head of his class for the whole four years,
actually distancing all competitors. He is a young man
of signal ability, won his appointment in a competitive
examination, and has borne himself with singular modesty
and good sense. During the past year he has occupied the
position of Adjutant of the Corps of Cadets--the highest
post which can be held. General Sherman shook hands with
the father of the young cadet--a grand-looking old
gentleman, and very proud of his son, as he has a right to
be--and warmly congratulated him on the brilliant career
which was before the young man. The next on the list was
Mr. Walter F. Fisk. When Mr. Flipper, the colored cadet,
stepped forward, and received the reward of four years of
as hard work and unflinching courage and perseverance as
any young man could be called upon to go through, the crowd
of spectators gave him a round of hearty applause. He
deserves it. Any one who knows how quietly and bravely
this young man--the first of his despised race to graduate
at West Point--has borne the difficulties of his position;
how for four years he has had to stand apart from his
classmates as one with them but not of them; and to all
the severe work of academic official life has had added
the yet more severe mental strain which
bearing up against a cruel social ostracism puts on any
man; and knowing that he has done this without getting
soured, or losing courage for a day--any one, I say, who
knows all this would be inclined to say that the young man
deserved to be well taken care of by the government he is
bound to serve. Everybody here who has watched his course
speaks in terms of admiration of the unflinching courage
he has shown. No cadet will go away with heartier wishes
for his future welfare.
When the last of the diplomas had been given, the line
reformed, the band struck up a lively tune, the cadets
marched to the front of the barracks, and there Cadet
Black, the Adjutant, read the orders of the day, they
being the standing of the students in their various
classes, the list of new officers, etc. This occupied
some time, and at its conclusion Colonel Neil, Commandant
of Cadets, spoke a few kind words to the First Class,
wished them all success in life, and then formally
At the close of the addresses the Superintendent of the
Academy delivered the diplomas to the following cadets,
members of the Graduating Class. The names are
Ammon A. Augur,
William H. Baldwin,
Thomas H. Barry,
George W. Baxter,
John Baxter, Jr.,
John Bigelow, Jr.,
William M. Black,
Francis P. Blair,
Augustus P. Blocksom,
Charles A. Bradley,
John J. Brereton,
Oscar J. Brown,
William C. Brown,
Ben. I. Butler,
George N. Chase,
Wallis O. Clark,
Charles J. Crane,
Heber M. Creel,
Matthias W. Day,
Millard F. Eggleston,
Robert T. Emmet,
Walter L. Fisk,
Henry O. Flipper,
Fred. W. Foster,
Daniel A. Frederick,
F. Halverson French,
Jacob G. Galbraith,
William W. Galbraith,
Charles B. Gatewood,
Edwin F. Glenn,
Henry J. Goldman,
William B. Gordon,
John F. Guilfoyle,
John J. Haden,
Harry T. Hammond,
John F. C. Hegewald,
Curtis B. Hoppin,
George K. Hunter,
James B. Jackson,
Samuel H. Loder,
James A. Maney,
James D. Mann,
Medad C. Martin,
Solon F. Massey,
David N. McDonald,
Stephen C. Mills,
Cunliffe H. Murray,
James V. S. Paddock,
Alexander M. Patch,
Francis J. Patten,
Thomas C. Patterson,
John H. Philbrick,
Edward H. Plummer,
David Price, Jr.,
Robert D. Read, Jr.,
Solomon W. Roessler,
Robert E. Safford,
James C. Shofner,
Howard A. Springett,
Robert R. Stevens,
Monroe P. Thorington,
Samuel P. Wayman,
John V. White,
Wilber E. Wilder,
Richard H. Wilson,
William T. Wood,
Charles G. Woodward.
OF all privileges or sources of pleasure which tend
to remove the monotony of military life, there are
none to which the stripling soldier looks forward
with more delight than furlough. Indeed it is hard
to say which is the stronger emotion that we
experience when we first receive information of our
appointment to a cadetship, or that which comes upon
us when we are apprised that a furlough has been
granted us. Possibly the latter is the stronger
feeling. It is so with some, with those, at least,
who received the former announcement with indifference,
as many do, accepting it solely to please a mother, or
father, or other friend or relative. With whatever
feeling, or for whatever reason the appointment may
have been accepted, it is certain that all are equally
anxious to take advantage of their furlough when the
time comes. This is made evident in a multitude of ways.
A furlough is granted to those only who have been
present at two annual examinations at least, and by
and with the consent of a parent or guardian if a
Immediately after January next preceding their
second annual examination, the furloughmen, as
they are called, have class meetings, or rather
furlough meetings, to celebrate the "good time
coming." They hold them almost weekly, and they
are devoted to music, jesting, story-telling, and
to general jollification. It can be well imagined
with what joy a cadet looks forward to his furlough.
It is the only interruption in the monotony of his
Academy life, and it is to him for that very reason
extremely important. During all this time, and even
long before January, the furloughmen are accustomed
to record the state of affairs respecting their
furlough by covering every available substance that
will bear a pencil or chalk mark with numerous
inscriptions, giving the observer some such information
as this: "100 days to furlough," "75 days to furlough,"
"only two months before furlough," and thus even to the
day before they actually leave.
The crowning moment of all is the moment when the order
granting furloughs is published.
I am sure my happiest moment at West Point, save when I
grasped my "sheepskin" for the first time, was when I
heard my name read in the list. It was a most joyous
announcement. To get away from West Point, to get out
among friends who were not ashamed nor afraid to be
friends, could not be other than gratifying. It was
almost like beginning a new life, a new career, and as
I looked back from the deck of the little ferryboat my
feelings were far different from what they were two
My furlough was something more than an interruption of
my ordinary mode of life for the two years previous. It
was a complete change from a life of isolation to one
precisely opposite. And of course I enjoyed it the more
on that account.
The granting of furloughs is entirely discretionary
with the Superintendent. It may be denied altogether,
but usually is not, except as punishment for some grave
It is customary to detain for one, two, three, or even
more days those who have demerits exceeding a given
number for a given time. The length of their leave is
therefore shortened by just so many days.
There are a number of customs observed by the cadets
which I shall describe here.
To disregard these customs is to show--at least it is so
construed--a want of pride. To say that this or that "is
customary," is quite sufficient to warrant its conception
and execution. Among these customs the following may be
To begin with the fourth class. Immediately after their
first semi-annual examination the class adopts a class
crest or motto, which appears on all their stationery,
and often on many other things. To have class stationary
is a custom that is never overlooked. Each class chooses
its own design, which usually bears the year in which
the class will graduate.
Class stationary is used throughout the period of one's
In the early spring, the first, second, and third classes
elect hop managers, each class choosing a given number.
This is preparatory to the hop given by the second to
the graduating class as a farewell token. This custom is
rigorously kept up.
Next to these are customs peculiar to the first class.
They are never infringed upon by other classes, nor
disregarded even by the first class.
First, prior to graduation it is an invariable custom
of the graduating class to adopt and procure, each of
them, a class ring. This usually bears the year of
graduation, the letters U. S. M. A., or some other
This ring is the signet that binds the class to their
Alma Mater, and to each other. It is to be in after
years the souvenir that is to recall one's cadet life,
and indeed every thing connected with a happy and yet
dreary part of one's career.
The class album also is intended for the same
purpose. It contains the "smiling shadows" of
classmates, comrades, and scenes perhaps never
more to be visited or seen after parting at
graduation. Oh! what a feeling of sadness, of
weariness of life even, must come upon him who
in after years opens his album upon those handsome
young faces, and there silently compares their then
lives with what succeeding years have revealed! Who
does not, would not grieve to recall the sad tidings
that have come anon and filled one's heart and being
with portentous gloom? This, perhaps a chum, an
especial favorite, or at any rate a classmate, has
fallen under a rude savage warfare while battling
for humanity, without the advantages or the glory
of civilized war, but simply with the consciousness
of duty properly done. That one, perchance, has fallen
bravely, dutifully, without a murmur of regret, and
this one, alas! where is he? Has he, too, perished,
or does he yet remember our gladsome frolics at our
beloved Alma Mater. My mind shudders, shrinks from
the sweet and yet sad anticipations of the years I
have not seen and may perhaps never see. But there
is a sweetness, a fondness that makes me linger
longingly upon the thought of those unborn days.
IT may not be inappropriate to give in this place a
few--as many as I can recall--of the incidents, more
or less humorous, in which I myself have taken part
or have noticed at the various times of their
occurrence. First, then, an adventure on "Flirtation."
INCIDENT, HUMOR, ETC.
During the encampment of 1873--I think it was in July--
Smith and myself had the--for us--rare enjoyment of a
visit made us by some friends. We had taken them around
the place and shown and explained to them every thing of
interest. We at length took seats on "Flirtation," and
gave ourselves up to pure enjoyment such as is found in
woman's presence only. The day was exceedingly beautiful;
all nature seemed loveliest just at that time, and our
lone, peculiar life, with all its trials and cares, was
quite forgotten. We chatted merrily, and as ever in such
company were really happy. It was so seldom we had
visitors--and even then they were mostly males--that we
were delighted to have some one with whom we could converse
on other topics than official ones and studies. While we
sat there not a few strangers, visitors also, passed us,
and almost invariably manifested surprise at seeing us.
I do think uncultivated white people are unapproachable
in downright rudeness, and yet, alas! they are our
superiors. Will prejudice ever be obliterated from
the minds of the people? Will man ever cease to
prejudge his fellow-being for color's sake alone?
Grant, O merciful God, that he may!
But au fait! Anon a cadet, whose perfectly fitting
uniform of matchless gray and immaculate white
revealed the symmetry of his form in all its manly
beauty, saunters leisurely by, his head erect,
shoulders back, step quick and elastic, and those
glorious buttons glittering at their brilliant
points like so many orbs of a distant stellar
world. Next a plebe strolls wearily along, his
drooping shoulders, hanging head, and careless
gait bespeaking the need of more squad drill. Then
a dozen or more "picnicers," all females, laden
with baskets, boxes, and other et ceteras, laughing
and playing, unconscious of our proximity, draw
near. The younger ones tripping playfully in front
catch sight of us. Instantly they are hushed, and
with hands over their mouths retrace their steps to
disclose to those in rear their astounding discovery.
In a few moments all appear, and silently and slowly
pass by, eyeing us as if we were the greatest natural
wonder in existence. They pass on till out of sight,
face about and "continue the motion," passing back and
forth as many as five times. Wearied at length of this
performance, Smith rose and said, "Come, let's end this
farce," or something to that effect. We arose, left the
place, and were surprised to find a moment after that
they were actually following us.
The "Picnicers," as they are called in the corps,
begin their excursions early in May, and continue
them till near the end of September. They manage
to arrive at West Point at all possible hours of
the day, and stay as late as they conveniently can.
In May and September, when we have battalion drills,
they are a great nuisance, a great annoyance to me
especially. The vicinity of that flank of the battalion
in which I was, was where they "most did congregate."
It was always amusing, though most embarrassing, to see
them pointing me out to each other, and to hear their
verbal accompaniments, "There he is, the first"--or such
--"man from the right"--"or left." "Who?" "The colored
cadet." "Haven't you seen him? Here, I'll show him to
you," and so on ad libitum.
All through this encampment being "--young; a novice
in the trade," I seldom took advantage of Old Guard
privileges, or any other, for the reason that I was
not accustomed to such barbarous rudeness, and did not
care to be the object of it.
It has always been a wonder to me why people visiting
at West Point should gaze at me so persistently for
no other reason than curiosity. What there was curious
or uncommon about me I never knew. I was not better
formed, nor more military in my bearing than all the
other cadets. My uniform did not fit better, was not
of better material, nor did it cost more than that of
the others. Yet for four years, by each and every
visitor at West Point who saw me, it was done. I know
not why, unless it was because I was in it.
There is an old man at Highland Falls, N. Y., who is
permitted to peddle newspapers at West Point. He comes
up every Sabbath, and all are made aware of his presence
by his familiar cry, "Sunday news! Sunday news!" Indeed,
he is generally known and called by the soubriquet,
He was approaching my tent one Sunday afternoon but
was stopped by a cadet who called out to him from
across the company street, "Don't sell your papers to
them niggers!" This kind advice was not heeded.
This and subsequent acts of a totally different
character lead me to believe that there is not
so much prejudice in the corps as is at first
apparent. A general dislike for the negro had
doubtless grown up in this cadet's mind from
causes which are known to everybody at all
acquainted with affairs at West Point about
that time, summer of 1873. On several occasions
during my second and third years I was the grateful
recipient of several kindnesses at the hands of
this same cadet, thus proving most conclusively
that it was rather a cringing disposition, a dread
of what others might say, or this dislike of the
negro which I have mentioned, that caused him to
utter those words, and not a prejudiced dislike of
"them niggers," for verily I had won his esteem.
Just after returning from this encampment to our
winter quarters, I had another adventure with Smith,
my chum, and Williams, which cost me dearly.
It was just after "evening call to quarters." I knew
Smith and Williams were in our room. I had been out
for some purpose, and was returning when it occurred
to me to have some fun at their expense. I accordingly
walked up to the door--our "house" was at the head of
the stairs and on the third floor--and knocked,
endeavoring to imitate as much as possible an officer
inspecting. They sprang to their feet instantly,
assumed the position of the soldier, and quietly
awaited my entrance. I entered laughing. They resumed
their seats with a promise to repay me, and they did,
for alas! I was "hived." Some cadet reported me for
"imitating a tactical officer inspecting." For this I
was required to walk three tours of extra guard duty on
three consecutive Saturdays, and to serve, besides, a
week's confinement in my quarters. The "laugh" was thus,
of course, turned on me.
During the summer of '74, in my "yearling camp," I
made another effort at amusement, which was as complete
a failure as the attempt with Smith and Williams. I had
been reported by an officer for some trifling offence.
It was most unexpected to me, and least of all from this
particular officer. I considered the report altogether
uncalled for, but was careful to say nothing to that
effect. I received for the offence one or two demerits.
A short while afterwards, being on guard, I happened to
be posted near his tent. Determined on a bit of revenge,
and fun too, at half-past eleven o'clock at night I
placed myself near his tent, and called off in the
loudest tone I could command, "No.----half-past eleven
o'clock, and all-l-l-l's well-l-l!" It woke him. He
arose, came to the front of his tent, and called me
back to him. I went, and he ordered me to call the
corporal. I did so. When the corporal came he told him
to "report the sentinel on No.--for calling off
improperly." If I mistake not, I was also reported for
not calling off at 12 P.M. loud enough to be heard by
the next sentinel. Thus my bit of revenge recoiled
twofold upon myself, and I soon discovered that I had
been paying too dear for my whistle.
On another occasion during the same camp I heard a
cadet say he would submit to no order or command of,
nor permit himself to be marched anywhere by "the
nigger," meaning myself. We were in the same company,
and it so happened at one time that we were on guard
the same day, and that I was the senior member of our
company detail. When we marched off the next day the
officer of the guard formed the company details to the
front, and directed the senior member of each fifteen
to march it to its company street and dismiss it. I
instantly stepped to front and assumed command. I
marched it as far as the color line at "support arms;"
brought them to a "carry" there and saluted the colors.
When we were in the company street, I commanded in
loud and distinct tone, "Trail arms! Break ranks!
March!" A cadet in a tent near by recognized my voice,
and hurried out into the company street. Meeting the
cadet first mentioned above, he thus asked of him:
"Did that nigger march you in?"
"Yes-es, the nigger marched us in," speaking slowly
and drawling it out as if he had quite lost the power
At the following semi-annual examination (January,
'75), the gentleman was put on the "retired list,"
or rather on the list of "blasted hopes." I took
occasion to record the event in the following manner,
changing of course the names:
SCENE.--Hall of Cadet Barracks at West Point.
Characters: RANSOM and MARS, both Cadets. RANSOM,
who has been "found" at recent semiannual examination,
meets his more successful chum, MARS, on the stoop.
After a moment's conversation, they enter the hall.
MARS (as they enter).
Ah! how! what say? Found! Art going away?
Unfortunate rather! 'm sorry! but stay!
Who hadst thou? How didst thou? Badly, I'm sure.
Hadst done well they had not treated thee so.
Thou sayest aright. I did do my best,
Which was but poorly I can but confess.
The subject was hard. I could no better
Unless I'd memorized to the letter.
Art unfortunate! but tho' 'twere amiss
Me half thinks e'en that were better than this.
Thou couldst have stood the trial, if no more
Than to come out low. That were better, 'm sure.
But 'tis too late. 'Twas but an afterthought,
Which now methinks at most is worth me naught;
Le sort en est jetté, they say, you know;
'Twere idle to dream and still think of woe.
Thou sayest well! Yield not to one rebuff.
Thou'rt a man, show thyself of manly stuff.
The bugle calls! I must away! Adieu!
May Fortune grant, comrade, good luck to you!
They shake hands, MARS hurries out to answer the bugle
call. RANSOM prepares for immediate departure for home.)
"O dear! it is hawid to have this cullud cadet--
perfectly dre'fful. I should die to see my Geawge
standing next to him." Thus did one of your models
of womankind, one of the negro's superiors, who
annually visit West Point to flirt, give vent to
her opinion of the "cullud cadet," an opinion
thought out doubtless with her eyes, and for which
she could assign no reason other than that some of
her acquaintances, manifestly cadets, concurred in
it, having perhaps so stated to her. And the cadets,
with their accustomed gallantry, have ever striven
to evade "standing next to him." No little amusement
--for such it was to me--has been afforded me by the
many ruses they have adopted to prevent it. Some of
them have been extremely ridiculous, and in many
cases highly unbecoming a cadet and a gentleman.
While I was a plebe, I invariably fell in in the
rear rank along with the other plebes. This is a
necessary and established custom. As soon as I
became a third-classman, and had a right to fall in
in the front rank whenever necessary or convenient,
they became uneasy, and began their plans for keeping
me from that rank. The first sergeant of my company
did me the honor of visiting me at my quarters and
politely requested me--not order me, for he had no
possible authority for such an act--to fall in
invariably on the right of the rear rank. To keep
down trouble and to avoid any show of presumption or
forwardness on my part, as I had been advised by an
officer, I did as he requested, taking my place on
the right of the rear rank at every formation of the
company for another whole year. But with all this
condescension on my part I was still the object of
solicitous care. My falling in there did not preclude
the possibility of my own classmates, now also risen
to the dignity of third-classmen, falling in next to
me. To perfect his plan, then, the first sergeant had
the senior plebe in the company call at his "house,"
and take from the roster an alphabetical list of all
the plebes in the company. With this he (the senior
plebe) was to keep a special roster, detailing one of
his own classmates to fall in next to me. Each one
detailed for such duty was to serve one week--from
Sunday morning breakfast to Sunday morning breakfast.
The keeper of the roster was not of course to be
It is astonishing how little care was taken to
conceal this fact from me. The plan, etc., was
formed in my hearing, and there seems to have
been no effort or even desire to hide it from me.
Returning from supper one evening, I distinctly
heard this plebe tell the sergeant that "Mr.--
refused to serve." "You tell him," said the
sergeant, "I want to see him at my 'house' after
supper. If he doesn't serve I'll make it so hot
for him he'll wish he'd never heard of West Point."
Is it not strange how these models of mankind,
these our superiors, strive to thrust upon each
other what they do not want themselves? It is a
meanness, a baseness, an unworthiness from which
I should shrink. It would be equally astonishing
that men ever submit to it, were it not that they
are plebes, and therefore thus easily imposed upon.
The plebe in this case at length submitted.
When I became a second-classman, no difference was
made by the cadets in their manner of falling in,
whether because their scruples were overcome or
because no fitting means presented themselves for
avoiding it, I know not. If they happened to be near
me when it was time to fall in, they fell in next to
In the spring of '76, our then first sergeant ordered
us to fall in at all formations as nearly according
to size as possible. As soon as this order was given,
for some unknown reason, the old régime was readopted.
If I happened to fall in next to a first-classman, and
he discovered it, or if a first-classman fell in next
to me, and afterward found it out, he would fall out
and go to the rear. The second and third-classmen, for
no other reason than that first-classmen did it, "got
upon their dignity, and refused to stand next to me. We
see here a good illustration of that cringing, "bone-
popularity" spirit which I have mentioned elsewhere.
The means of prevention adopted now were somewhat
different from those of a year before. A file-closer
would watch and follow me closely, and when I fell in
would put a plebe on each side of me. It was really
amusing sometimes to see his eagerness, and quite as
amusing, I may add, to see his dismay when I would
deliberately leave the place thus hemmed in by plebes
and fall in elsewhere.
We see here again that cringing disposition to which
I believe the whole of the ill-treatment of colored
cadets has been due. The file-closers are usually
second-class sergeants and third-class corporals. By
way of "boning popularity" with the upper classmen,
they stoop to almost any thing. In this case they
hedged me in between the two plebes to prevent upper
classmen from falling in next to me.
But it may be asked why I objected to having plebes
next to me. I would answer, for several reasons. Under
existing circumstances of prejudice, it was of the
utmost importance to me to keep them away from me.
First--and by no means the least important reason--to
put them in the front rank was violating a necessary
and established custom. The plebes are put in the
rear rank because of their inexperience and general
ignorance of the principles of marching, dressing,
etc. If they are in the front rank, it would simply
be absurd to expect good marching of them. A second
reason, and by far the most important, results directly
from this one. Being between two plebes, who would not,
could not keep dressed, it would be impossible for me
to do so. The general alignment of the company would be
destroyed. There would be crowding and opening out of
the ranks, and it would all originate in my immediate
vicinity. The file-closers, never over-scrupulous when
I was concerned, and especially when they could forward
their own "popularity-boning" interests, would report
me for these disorders in the company. I would get
demerits and punishment for what the plebes next to me
were really responsible for. The plebes would not be
reported, because if they were their inexperience would
plead strongly in their favor, and any reasonable
explanation of an offence would suffice to insure its
removal. I was never overfond of demerits or punishments,
and therefore strenuously opposed any thing that might
give me either; for instance, having plebes put next to
me in ranks.
Toward the end of the year the plebes, having
learned more about me and the way the corps
looked upon me, became as eager to avoid me as
the others. Not, however, all the plebes, for
there were some who, when they saw others trying
to avoid falling in next to me, would deliberately
come and take their places there. These plebes, or
rather yearlings now, were better disciplined, and,
of course, my own scruples vanished.
During the last few months of the year no distinction
was made, save by one or two high-toned ones.
When the next class of plebes were put in the battalion,
the old cadets began to thrust them into the front rank
next to me. At first I was indignant, but upon second
thought I determined to tolerate it until I should be
reported for some offence which was really an offence
of the plebes. I intended to then explain the case, à
priori, in my written explanation to the commandant. I
knew such a course would cause a discontinuance of the
practice, which was plainly malicious and contrary to
regulations. Fortunately, however, for all concerned,
the affair was noticed by an officer, and by him
summarily discontinued. I was glad of this, for the
other course would have made the cadets more unfriendly,
and would have made my condition even worse than it was.
Thereafter I had no further trouble with the plebes.
One day, during my yearling camp, when I happened to
be on guard, a photographer, wishing a view of the
guard, obtained permission to make the necessary
negative. As the officer of the day desired to be
"took" with the guard, he came down to the guard tents,
and the guard was "turned out" for him by the sentinel.
He did not wish it then, and accordingly so indicated
by saluting. I was sitting on a camp-stool in the shade
reading. A few minutes after the officer of the day
came. I heard the corporal call out, "Fall in the guard."
I hurried for my gun, and passing near and behind the
officer of the day, I heard him say to the corporal:
"Say, can't you get rid of that nigger? We don't want
him in the picture."
The corporal immediately ordered me to fetch a pail
of water. As he had a perfect right to thus order
me, being for the time my senior officer, I proceeded
to obey. While taking the pail the officer of the day
approached me and most politely asked: "Going for
water, Mr. Flipper?"
I told him I was.
"That's right," continued he; "do hurry. I'm nearly
dead of thirst."
It is simply astonishing to see how these young men
can stoop when they want any thing. A cadet of the
second class--when I was in the third class--was once
arrested for a certain offence, and, from the nature
of the charge, was likely to be court-martialed. His
friends made preparation for his defence. As I was
not ten feet from him at the time specified in the
charge, my evidence would be required in the event
of a trial. I was therefore visited by one of his
friends. He brought paper and pencil and made a
memorandum of what I had to say. The cadet himself
had the limits of his arrest extended and then visited
me in person. We conversed quite a while on the subject,
and, as my evidence would be in his favor, I promised
to give it in case he was tried. He thanked me very
cordially, asked how I was getting along in my studies,
expressed much regret at my being ostracized, wished me
all sorts of success, and again thanking me took his
There is an article in the academic regulations which
provides or declares that no citizen who has been a
cadet at the Military Academy can receive a commission
in the regular army before the class of which he was a
member graduates, unless he can get the written consent
of his former classmates.
A classmate of mine resigned in the summer of '75, and
about a year after endeavored to get a commission. A
friend and former classmate drew up the approval, and
invited the class to his "house" to sign it. When half
a dozen or more had signed it, it was sent to the guard-
house, and the corporal of the guard came and notified
me it was there for my consideration. I went to the
guard- house at once. A number of cadets were sitting
or standing around in the room. As soon as I entered
they became silent and remained so, expecting, no doubt,
I'd refuse to sign it, because of the treatment I had
received at their hands. They certainly had little cause
to expect that I would add my signature. Nevertheless I
read the paper over and signed it without hesitation.
Their anxiety was raised to the highest possible pitch,
and scarcely had I left the room ere they seized the
paper as if they would devour it. I heard some one who
came in as I went out ask, "Did he sign it?"
Another case of condescension on the part of an upper
classman occurred in the early part of my third year
at the Academy, and this time in the mess hall. We
were then seated at the tables by classes. Each table
had a commandant, who was a cadet captain, lieutenant
or sergeant, and in a few instances a corporal. At
each table there was also a carver, who was generally
a corporal, occasionally a sergeant or private. The
other seats were occupied by privates, and usually
in this order: first-classmen had first and second
seats, second-classmen second and third seats, third-
classmen third and fourth seats, and fourth-classmen
fourth and fifth seats, which were at the foot of the
table. I had a first seat, although a second-classman.
For some reason a first-classman, who had a first seat
at another table, desired to change seats with me. He
accordingly sent a cadet for me. I went over to his
room. I agreed to make the change, provided he himself
obtained permission of the proper authorities. It was
distinctly understood that he was to take my seat, a
first seat, and I was to take his seat, also a first
seat. He obtained permission of the superintendent of
the mess hall, and also a written permit from the
commandant. The change was made, but lo and behold!
Instead of a first seat I got a third. The agreement
was thus violated by him, my superior (?), and I was
dissatisfied. The whole affair was explained to the
commandant, not, however, by myself, but by my consent,
the permit revoked, and I gained my former first seat.
A tactical officer asked me, "Why did you exchange
with him? Has he ever done any thing for you?"
I told him he had not, and that I did it merely to
oblige him. It was immaterial to me at what table I
sat, provided I had a seat consistent with the dignity
of my class.
The baseness of character displayed by the gentleman,
the reflection on myself and class would have evoked
a complaint from me had not a classmate anticipated
me by doing so himself.
This gentleman (?) was practically "cut" by the whole
corps. He was spoken to, and that was about all that
made his status in the corps better than mine.
Just after the semiannual examination following this
adventure, another, more ridiculous still, occurred,
of which I was the innocent cause. The dismissal of
a number of deficient plebes and others made necessary
a rearrangement of seats. The commandant saw fit to
have it made according to class rank. It changed
completely the former arrangement, and gave me a third
seat. A classmate, who was senior to me, had the second
seat. He did not choose to take it, and for two or more
weeks refused to do so. I had the second seat during all
this time, while he was fed in his quarters by his chum.
He had a set of miniature cooking utensils in his own
room, and frequently cooked there, using the gas as a
source of heat. These were at last "hived," and he was
ordered to " turn them in. He went to dinner one day
when I was absent on guard. At supper he appeared again.
Some one asked him how it was he was there, glancing at
the same time at me. He laughed--it was plainly forced
--and replied, "I forgot to fall out."
He came to his meals the next day, the next, and
every succeeding day regularly. Thus were his
scruples overcome. His refusing to go to his meals
because he had to sit next to me was strongly
disapproved by the corps for two reasons, viz.,
that he ought to be man enough not to thrust on
others what he himself disliked; and that as others
for two years had had seats by me, he ought not to
complain because it now fell to his lot to have one
Just after my return, in September, 1875, from a
furlough of two months, an incident occurred which,
explained, will give some idea of the low, unprincipled
manner in which some of the cadets have acted toward
me. It was at cavalry drill. I was riding a horse that
was by no means a favorite with us. He happened to fall
to my lot that day, and I rather liked him. His greatest
faults were a propensity for kicking and slight inequality
in the length of his legs. We were marching in a column
of fours, and at a slow walk. I turned my head for some
purpose, and almost simultaneously my horse plunged
headlong into the fours in front of me. It was with
difficulty that I retained my seat. I supposed that when
I turned my head I had accidentally spurred him, thus
causing him to plunge forward. I regained my proper place
None of this was seen by the instructor, who was riding
at the head of the column. Shortly after this I noticed
that those near me were laughing. I turned my head to
observe the cause and caught the trooper on my left in
the act of spurring my horse. I looked at him long and
fiercely, while he desisted and hung his head. Not long
afterwards the same thing was repeated, and this time
was seen by the instructor, who happened to wheel about
as my horse rushed forward. He immediately halted the
column, and, approaching, asked me, "What is the matter
with that horse, Mr. F.?" To which I replied, "The trooper
on my left persists in kicking and spurring him, so that
I can do nothing with him."
He then caused another trooper in another set of fours
to change places with me, and thereafter all went well.
Notwithstanding the secrecy of hazing, and the great
care which those who practised it took to prevent
being "hived," they sometimes overreached themselves
and were severely punished. Cases have occurred where
cadets have been dismissed for hazing, while others
have been less severely punished.
Sometimes, also, the joke, if I may so call it, has
been turned upon the perpetrators to their utter
discomfort. I will cite an instance.
Quite often in camp two robust plebes are selected and
ordered to report at a specified tent just after the
battalion returns from supper. When they report each is
provided with a pillow. They take their places in the
middle of the company street, and at a given signal
commence pounding each other. A crowd assembles from
all parts of camp to witness the "pillow fight," as it
is called. Sometimes, also, after fighting awhile, the
combatants are permitted to rest, and another set
continues the fight.
On one of these occasions, after fighting quite a
while, a pillow bursted, and one of the antagonists
was literally buried in feathers. At this a shout of
laughter arose and the fun was complete. But alas for
such pleasures! An officer in his tent, disturbed by
the noise, came out to find its cause. He saw it at a
glance, aided no doubt by vivid recollections of his
own experience in his plebe camp. He called an orderly
and sent for the cadet captain of the company. When he
came he was ordered to send the plebes--he said new
cadets--to their tents, and order them to remain there
till permission was given to leave them. He then had
every man, not a plebe, who had been present at the
pillow fight turned out. When this was done he ordered
them to pick up every feather within half an hour, and
the captain to inspect at the end of that time and to
see that the order was obeyed. Thus, therefore, the
plebes got the better part of the joke.
It was rumored in camp one day that the superintendent
and commandant were both absent from the post, and that
the senior tactical officer was therefore acting
superintendent. A plebe sentinel on Post No. 1, seeing
him approaching camp, and not knowing under the
circumstances how to act, or rather, perhaps, I should
say, not knowing whether the report was true or not,
called a corporal, and asked if he should salute this
officer with "present arms." To this question that
dignitary replied with righteous horror, "Salute him
with present arms! No, sir! You stand at attention, and
when he gets on your post shout, 'Hosannah to the supe!'
This rather startled the plebe, who found himself more
confused than ever. When it was about time for the
sentinel to do something the corporal told him what to
do, and returned to the guard tents. The officer was at
the time the commanding officer of the camp.
While walking down Sixth Avenue, New York, with a
young lady, on a beautiful Sabbath afternoon in the
summer of 1875, I was paid a high compliment by an
old colored soldier. He had lost one leg and had been
otherwise maimed for life in the great struggle of
1861-65 for the preservation of the Union. As soon
as he saw me approaching he moved to the outside of
the pavement and assumed as well as possible the
position of the soldier. When I was about six paces
from him he brought his crutch to the position of
"present arms," in a soldierly manner, in salute to
me. I raised my cap as I passed, endeavoring to be as
polite as possible, both in return for his salute and
because of his age. He took the position of "carry
arms," saying as he did so, "That's right! that's
right! Makes me glad to see it."
We passed on, while he, too, resumed his course,
ejaculating something about "good-breeding," etc.,
all of which we did not hear.
Upon inquiry I learned, as stated, that he had served
in the Federal army. He had given his time and energy,
even at the risk of his life, to his country. He had
lost one limb, and been maimed otherwise for life. I
considered the salute for that reason a greater honor.
During the summer of 1873 a number of cadets, who were
on furlough, visited Mammoth Cave. While there they
noticed on the wall, written in pencil, the name of an
officer who was an instructor in Spanish at West Point.
One of them took occasion to add to the inscription the
following bit of information:
"Known at the U. S. Military Academy as the 'Spanish
A number of cadets accosted a plebe, who had just
reported in May, 1874, and the following conversation
"Well, mister, what's your name?"
"Sir!" yelled rather than spoken.
"Well, sir, I want to see you put a 'sir' on it,"
with another yell.
"Sir John Walden," was the unconcerned rejoinder.
Now it was not expected that the "sir" would be put
before the name after the manner of a title, but this
impenetrable plebe put it there, and in so solemn and
"don't-care" a manner that the cadets turned away in
a roar of laughter.
Ever afterward he was known in the corps as "Sir John."
Another incident, even more laughable perhaps than
the preceding, occurred between a cadet and plebe,
which doubtless saved the plebe from further hazing.
Approaching him with a look of utter contempt on his
face, the cadet asked him:
"Well, thing, what's your name?"
"Wilreni, sir," meekly responded he.
"Wilreni, sir!" repeated the cadet slowly, and bowing
his head he seemed for a moment buried in profoundest
thought. Suddenly brightening up, he rejoined in the
most unconcerned manner possible: "Oh! yes, yes, I
remember now. You are Will Reni, the son of old man
Bill Reni," put particular stress on "Will" and "Bill."
I think, though, the most laughable incident that has
come under my notice was that of a certain plebe who
made himself famous for gourmandizing.
Each night throughout the summer encampment, the
guard is supplied from the mess hall with an
abundance of sandwiches. The old cadets rarely eat
them, but to the plebes, as yet unaccustomed to guard
duty, they are quite a treat.
On one occasion when the sandwiches were unusually
well prepared, and therefore unusually inviting, it
was desirable to preserve them till late in the night,
till after the guard had been turned out and inspected
by the officer of the day. They were accordingly--to
conceal them from the plebes--transferred, with the
vessel containing them, to one of the chests of a
caisson of the light battery, just in front of camp in
park. Here they were supposed to be safe. But alas for
such safety! At an hour not far advanced into the night,
two plebes, led by an unerring instinctiveness,
discovered the hiding-place of the sandwiches and
devoured them all.
Now when the hour of feasting was come, a corporal was
dispatched for the dainty dish, when, lo, and behold!
it had vanished. The plebes--for who else could thus
have secretly devoured them--were brought to account
and the guilty ones discovered. They were severely
censured in that contemptuous manner in which only a
cadet, an upper classman, can censure a plebe, and
threatened with hazing and all sorts of unpleasantness.
Next morning they were called forth and marched
ingloriously to the presence of the commandant.
Upon learning the object of the visit he turned
to the chief criminal--the finder of the sandwiches
--and asked him, "Why did you eat all the sandwiches,
"I didn't eat them all up, sir. I ate only fifteen,"
was his ready reply
The gravity of the occasion, coupled with the enormity
of the feast, was too much, and the commandant turned
away his head to conceal the laughter he could not
withhold. The plebe himself was rather short and fleshy,
and the picture of mirth. Indeed to see him walking even
along the company street was enough to call forth laughter
either at him as he waddled along or at the humorous
remarks the act called forth from onlooking cadets.
He was confined to one of the guard tents by order of
the commandant, and directed by him to submit a written
explanation for eating all the sandwiches of the guard.
The explanation was unsatisfactory, and the gentleman
received some other light punishment, the nature of
which has at this late day escaped my memory.
The other plebe, being only a particeps criminis, was
not so severely punished. A reprimand, I think, was
the extent of his punishment.
The two gentlemen have long since gone where the
"woodbine twineth"--that is, been found deficient
in studies and dismissed.
There was a cadet in the corps who had a wonderful
propensity for using the word "mighty."
With him everything was "mighty." I honestly do not
believe I ever heard him conversing when he did not
Speaking of me one day, and unconscious of my presence,
he said, "I tell you he does 'mighty' well."
During drill at the siege battery on the 25th of April,
1876, an accident occurred which came near proving fatal
to one of us. I had myself just fired an 8-inch howitzer,
and gone to the rear to observe the effect of the other
shots. One piece had been fired, and the command for the
next to fire had been given. I was watching intently the
target when I was startled by the cry of some one near
me, "Look out! look out!" I turned my eyes instinctively
toward the piece just fired, but saw only smoke. I then
looked up and saw a huge black body of some kind moving
rapidly over our heads. It was not until the smoke had
nearly disappeared that I knew what was the cause of the
disturbance. A number of cannoneers and our instructor
were vociferously asking, "Anybody hurt? Anybody hurt?"
We all moved up to the piece, and, finding no one was
injured, examined it. The piece, a 41/2-inch rifle,
mounted on a siege carriage, had broken obliquely from
the trunnions downward and to the rear. The re-enforce
thus severed from the chase broke into three parts, the
nob of the cascabel, and the other portion split in the
direction of the bore. The right half of the re-enforce,
together with the nob of the cascabel, were projected
into the air, describing a curve over our heads, and
falling at about twenty feet from the right of the
battery, having passed over a horizontal distance of
about sixty or seventy feet. The left half was thrown
obliquely to the ground, tearing away in its passage
the left cheek of the carriage, and breaking the left
trunnion plate. A cannoneer was standing on the platform
of the next piece on the left with the lanyard in his
hand. His feet were on two adjacent deck planks, his
heels being on line with the edge of the platform. These
two planks were struck upon their ends, and moved bodily,
with the cadet upon them, three or four inches from their
proper place. The bolts that held them and the adjacent
planks together were broken, while not the slightest
injury was done the cadet.
It was hardly to be believed, and was not until two or
three of the other cannoneers had examined him and found
him really uninjured. It was simply miraculous. The
instructor sent the cannoneers to the rear, and fired the
next gun himself.
After securing the pieces and replacing equipments, we
were permitted to again examine the bursted gun, after
which the battery was dismissed.
There had been some difficulty in loading the piece,
especially in getting the projectile home. It was
supposed that this not being done properly caused the
I was one summer day enjoying a walk on "Flirtation."
I was alone, and, if I remember aright, "on Old Guard
privileges." Walking leisurely along I soon observed
in front of me a number of young ladies, a servant girl,
and several small children.
They were all busily occupied in gathering wild
flowers, a kind of moss and ferns which grow here
in abundance. I was first seen by one of the children,
a little girl. She instantly fixed her eyes upon me,
and began vociferating in a most joyous manner, "The
colored cadet! the colored cadet! I'm going to tell
mamma I've seen the colored cadet."
The servant girl endeavored to quiet her, but she
continued as gayly as ever:
"It's the colored cadet! I'm going to tell mamma. I'm
going to tell mamma I've seen the colored cadet."
All the others stopped gathering flowers, and watched
me till I was out of sight.
A similar display of astonishment has occurred at every
annual examination since I became a cadet, and on these
occasions the ladies more than anybody else have been
the ones to show it.
Whenever I took my place on the floor to receive my
enunciation or to be questioned, I have observed
whisperings, often audible, and gestures of surprise
among the lady visitors. I have frequently heard such
exclamations as this: "Oh! there's the colored cadet!
there's the colored cadet!"
All of this naturally tended to confuse me, and it was
only by determined effort that I maintained any degree
of coolness. Of course they did not intend to confuse
me. Nothing was, I dare say, further from their thoughts.
But they were women; and it never occurs to a woman to
think before she speaks.
It was rather laughable to hear a cadet, who was
expounding the theory of twilight, say, pointing
to his figure on the blackboard: "If a spectator
should cross this limit of the crepuscular zone
he would enter into final darkness."
Now "final darkness," as we usually understand it,
refers to something having no resemblance whatever
to the characteristics of the crepuscular zone.
The solemn manner in which he spoke it, together
with their true significations, made the circumstance
The most ludicrous case of hazing I know of is, I
think, the following:
For an unusual display of grossness a number of
plebes were ordered by the cadet lieutenant on
duty over them to report at his "house" at a
specified hour. They duly reported their presence,
and were directed to assume the position of the
soldier, facing the wall until released. After
silently watching them for a considerable time,
the lieutenant, who had a remarkable penchant for
joking, called two of them into the middle of the
room. He caused them to stand dos à dos, at a
distance of about one foot from each other, and
then bursting into a laugh, which he vainly
endeavored to suppress, he commanded, "Second,
Now to execute this movement the hands are extended
vertically over the head and the hands joined. At
the command "Two!" given when this is done, the arms
are brought briskly forward and downward until the
hands touch if possible the ground or floor. The
plebes having gone through the first motion, the
lieutenant thus cautioned them:
"When I say 'Two!' I want to see you men come down
with life, and touch the floor. Two!"
At the command they both quickly, and "with life"
brought their bodies forward and their arms downward;
nay, they but attempted, for scarcely had they left
the vertical ere their bodies collided, and they were
each hurled impetuously, by the inevitable reaction in
opposite directions, over a distance of several feet.
Their bodies being in an inclined position when struck,
and the blow being of great force, they were necessarily
forced still further from the erect attitude, and were
with much difficulty able to keep themselves from falling
outright on the floor. Of course all present, save those
concerned, enjoyed it immensely. Indeed it was enjoyable.
Even the plebes themselves had a hearty laugh over it
when they were dismissed.
Again a cadet lieutenant, who was on duty at the time
over the "Seps," ordered a number of them to report
at his "house" at a given hour. They had been unusually
gross, and he intended to punish them by keeping them
standing in his quarters. They reported, and were put
in position to serve their punishment. For some reason
the lieutenant left the room, when one of the "Seps"
faced to the others and thus spoke to them:
"Say, boys, let's kick up the devil. P--has gone out."
Now it so happened that P--'s chum was present, but in
his alcove, and this was not known to the Seps. When
the Sep had finished speaking, this chum came forth and
"went for" him. He made the Sep assume the soldier's
position, and then commanded, "Second, exercise!" which
command the Sep proceeded to obey.
Another cadet coming in found him vigorously at it, and
queried, "Well, mister, what's all that for?"
"Eccentricity of Mr. M--, sir," he promptly replied.
The word eccentricity was not interpreted by the cadet,
of course, as the Sep meant it should be, but in the
sense we use it when we speak of the eccentricity of
an orbit for instance.
Hence it was that Mr. M--asked, "Well, sir, what's the
expression for my eccentricity?"
There is another incident remotely connected with my
first tour of guard duty which may be mentioned here.
At about eleven o'clock A.M., in obedience to a then
recent order, my junior reported at the observatory
to make the necessary observations for finding the
error of the Tower clock. After an elaborate explanation
by an officer then present upon the graduation of the
vernier and the manner of reading it, the cadet set the
finders so as to read the north polar distance of the
sun for that day at West Point apparent noon. When it
was about time for the sun's limb to begin its transit
of the wires, the cadet took position to observe it. The
instructor was standing ready to record the times of
transit over each wire. Time was rapidly passing, and
not yet had the cadet called out "Ready." The anxious
instructor cautiously queried:
"Do you see any light, Mr. P--?,"
"Can you see the wires?"
"No, sir, not yet."
"Any light yet, Mr. P--?"
"Yes, sir, it is getting brighter."
"Can you see the wires at all?"
"No, Sir; it keeps getting brighter, but I can't see
the wires yet."
Fearing he might be unable to make his observations
that day unless the difficulty was speedily removed,
the instructor himself took position at the transit,
and made the ridiculous discovery that the cap had
not been removed from the farther end of the telescope,
and yet it kept getting brighter.
One day in the early summer of 1875, a cadet was
showing a young lady the various sights and wonders
at West Point, when they came across an old French
cannon bearing this inscription, viz., "Charles de
Bourbon, Compte d'Eu, ultima ratio regum."
She was the first to notice it, and astonished the
cadet with the following rendition of it:
"I suppose that means Charles Bourbon made the gun,
and the Spanish (?) that the artilleryman must have
What innocence! Or shall I say, what ignorance?
"The authorities of West Point have entered an
interdict against the cadets loaning their sashes
and other military adornments to young ladies, and
great is the force of feminine indignation." Summer
COME KISS ME, LOVE.
A young lieutenant at the Academy and his fiancée
were seen by an old maid at the hotel to kiss each
other. At the first opportunity she reproved the
fair damsel for, to her, such unmaidenly conduct.
With righteous indignation she repelled the reproof
"Not let S--kiss me! Why, I should die!" Then lovingly,
"Come kiss me, love, list not what they say,
Their passions are cold, wasted away.
They know not how two hearts like ours are
Long to mingle i' the sweetness o' the kiss,
That like the soft light of a heavenly star,
As it wanders from its world to this,
Diffuses itself through ev'ry vein
And meets on the lips to melt again."
GRADUATION--IN THE ARMY.
"Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet."
MY four years were drawing to a close. They had been
years of patient endurance and hard and persistent
work, interspersed with bright oases of happiness and
gladness and joy, as well as weary barren wastes of
loneliness, isolation, unhappiness, and melancholy.
I believe I have discharged--I know I have tried to
do so--every duty faithfully and conscientiously.
It had been a sort of bittersweet experience, this
experimental life of mine at West Point. It was almost
over, and whatever of pure sweetness, whatever of
happiness, or whatever reward fortune had in store for
me, was soon to become known.
"Speaking of the Military Academy, we understand that
the only colored cadet now at West Point will not only
graduate at the coming June commencement, but that his
character, acquirements, and standing on the merit roll
are such as will insure his graduation among the highest
of his class."--Harper's Weekly, April 28th, 1877.
All recitations of the graduating class were
discontinued on the last scholar day of May.
On June 1st examination began. The class was
first examined in mineralogy and geology. In
this particular subject I "maxed it," made
a thorough recitation. I was required to discuss
the subject of "Mesozoic Time." After I had been
examined in this subject Bishop Quintard, of
Tennessee, a member of the Board of Visitors,
sent for me, and personally congratulated me on
my recitation of that day, as well as for my
conduct during the whole four years. My hopes
never were higher; I knew I would graduate. I felt
it, and I made one last effort for rank. I wanted
to graduate as high up as possible. I was not
without success, as will subsequently appear. The
New York Herald was pleased to speak as follows
of my recitation in mineralogy and geology:
"To-day the examination of the first class in
mineralogy and geology was completed, and the
first section was partially examined in engineering.
In the former studies the class acquitted themselves
in a highly creditable manner, and several members
have shown themselves possessed of abilities far
above the average. The class has in its ranks a son
of General B. F. Butler, Hon. John Bigelow's son,
and sons of two ex-Confederate officers. Flipper,
the colored cadet, was examined to-day, and produced
a highly favorable impression upon the board not less
by his ready and intelligent recitation than by his
modest, unassuming, and gentlemanly manner. There is
no doubt that he will pass, and he is said to have
already ordered a cavalry uniform, showing that he
has a predilection for that branch of the service."
The class was next examined in law. In this, also, I
exceeded my most sanguine expectations, again "maxing
it" on a thorough recitation. My subject was "Domicile."
Senator Maxey, of the Board of Visitors, questioned me
closely. The Bishop of Tennessee left his seat in the
board, came outside when the section was dismissed, and
shook my hand in hearty congratulation. These were the
proudest moments of my life. Even some of my own
classmates congratulated me on this recitation. All
that loneliness, dreariness, and melancholy of the
four years gone was forgotten. I lived only in the
time being and was happy. I was succeeding, and was
meeting with that success which humble effort never
fails to attain.
The New York Tribune joins in with its good words as
LIEUTENANT FLIPPER, THE COLORED GRADUATE OF WEST POINT.
"The examination of the first class in law will be
completed tomorrow. The sections thus far called
up have done very well. The colored cadet, Flipper,
passed uncommonly well this morning, showing a
practical knowledge of the subject very satisfactory
to Senator Maxey, who questioned him closely, and to
the rest of the board. He has a good command of plain
and precise English, and his voice is full and pleasant.
Mr. Flipper will be graduated next week with the respect
of his instructors, and not the less of his fellows, who
have carefully avoided intercourse with him. The quiet
dignity which he has shown during this long isolation of
four years has been really remarkable. Until another of
his race, now in one of the lower classes, arrived,
Flipper scarcely heard the sound of his own voice except
in recitation, and it is to be feared that unless he is
detailed at Howard University, which has been mentioned
as possible, his trials have only begun."
The class was next examined in civil and military
engineering. In this also I did as well as in either
of the other studies. I made a thorough recitation.
I was required to explain what is meant by an "order
of battle," and to illustrate by the battles of Zama,
Pharsalia, and Leuctra.
THE COLORED CADET.
"Flipper, the colored cadet from South Carolina, was
up this afternoon and acquitted himself remarkably
well. Some time since he was recommended for a higher
grade than the one he holds, and his performance to-day
gained him a still higher standing in the class."
In ordnance and gunnery the class was next examined.
In this I was less successful. I was to assume one of
Captain Didion's equations of the trajectory in air,
and determine the angle of projection represented by
phi, and the range represented by x in the following
y = x tan. phi - gx2/2V2 B,
and to explain the construction and use of certain
tables used in connection with it.. I made a fair
recitation, but one by no means satisfactory to myself.
I lost four files on it at least. A good recitation in
ordnance and gunnery would have brought me out forty-
five or six instead of fifty. I did not make it, and it
was too late to better it. This was the last of our
examination. It ended on the 11th day of June. On the
14th we were graduated and received our diplomas.
During the examination I received letters of
congratulation in every mail. Some of them may not
be uninteresting. I give a few of them:
POST-OFFICE DEPARTMENT, ROOM 48,
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 3, 1877.
MY DEAR MR. FLIPPER: It has been four years since I
last addressed you. Then you had just entered the
Academy with other young colored men, who have since
dropped by the way. I was at that time the editor of
the Era in this city, and wrote an article on West
Point and snobocracy which you may remember reading.
I felt a thrill of pleasure here the other day when I
read your name as the first graduate from the Academy.
I take this opportunity of writing you again to extend
my hearty congratulations, and trust your future career
may be as successful as your academic one. "My boy,"
Whittaker, has, I am told, been rooming with you, and I
trust has been getting much benefit from the association.
I am, your friend and well-wisher,
RICHARD T. GREENER.
42 BROAD STREET, NEW YORK, June 4, 1877.
CADET HENRY O. FLIPPER,
West Point, N. Y.:
DEAR SIR: I have been much pleased reading the
complimentary references to your approaching
graduation which have appeared in the New York
papers the past week. I beg to congratulate you
most heartily, and I sincerely trust that the same
intelligence and pluck which has enabled you to
successfully complete your academic course may be
shown in a still higher degree in the new sphere of
duty soon to be entered upon.
I inclose an editorial from to-day's Tribune.
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
UNITED STATES PATENT OFFICE,
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 5, 1877.
HENRY O. FLIPPER, Esq.,
U. S. Military Academy, West Point, N. Y.
DEAR SIR: Having noticed in the daily papers of
this city an account of the successful termination
of your course at the Military Academy, we hasten
to tender you our sincere congratulations.
We are prompted to this act by an experimental
knowledge of the social ostracism and treacherous
duplicity to which you must have been made the
unhappy victim during the long years of faithful
study through which you have just passed.
We congratulate you upon the moral courage and
untiring energy which must have been yours, to
enable you to successfully battle against the
immeasurable influence of the prejudice shown to
all of us at both of our national schools. We hail
your success as a national acknowledgment, in a new
way, of the mental and moral worth of our race; and
we feel amply repaid for the many privations we have
undergone in the naval branch of our service, in
noting the fact that one of us has been permitted to
successfully stand the trying ordeal.
Trusting that the same firmness of purpose and
untiring energy, which have characterized your stay
there, may ever be true of your future career on the
field and at the hearth side,
We remain, very truly yours, --, --.
POST-OFFICE, NEW YORK CITY, N. Y.
OFFICE OF THE POSTMASTER,
Wednesday, June 7, 1877.
MY DEAR FRIEND: Let me extend to you my full gratitude
upon your success at West Point. I was overjoyed when
I saw it. My friends are delighted with you, and they
desire to see you when you come down. Let me know when
you think you will leave West Point, and I will look
out for you.
Very truly yours, -- .
HENRY O. FLIPPER, ESQ.,
West Point Military Academy.
WASHINGTON, D. C., June 13, 1877.
HENRY O. FLIPPER, ESQ.,
West Point, N. Y.:
MY DEAR FRIEND: I wish to congratulate you upon
passing successfully your final examination, and
salute you as the first young colored man who has
had the manhood and courage to struggle through and
overcome every obstacle. So many of our young men
had failed that I wondered if you would be able to
withstand all the opposition you met with, whether
you could endure the kind of life they mete out to
our young men at our national Military Academy. I
rejoice to know that you have won this important
victory over prejudice and caste. This will serve
you in good stead through many a conflict in life.
Your path will not be all strewn with roses; something
of that caste and prejudice will still pursue you as
you enter the broader arena of military life, but you
must make up your mind to live it down, and your first
victory will greatly aid you in this direction. One
thing, allow me to impress upon you: you are not
fighting your own battle, but you are fighting the
battle of a struggling people; and for this reason,
my dear Flipper, resolve now in your deepest soul that
come what may you will never surrender; that you will
never succumb. Others may leave the service for more
lucrative pursuits; your duty to your people and to
yourself demand that you remain.
Be assured that whatever you do, wherever you may go,
you always have my deepest sympathy and best wishes.
I return to Europe in a few weeks.
Cordially yours, --.
Even the cadets and other persons connected with
the Academy congratulated me. Oh how happy I was!
I prized these good words of the cadets above all
others. They knew me thoroughly. They meant what
they said, and I felt I was in some sense deserving
of all I received from them by way of congratulation.
Several visited my quarters. They did not hesitate
to speak to me or shake hands with me before each
other or any one else. All signs of ostracism were
gone. All felt as if I was worthy of some regard, and
did not fail to extend it to me.
At length, on June 14th, I received the reward of my
labors, my "sheepskin," the United States Military
Academy Diploma, that glorious passport to honor and
distinction, if the bearer do never disgrace it.
Here is the manner of ceremony we had on that day,
as reported in the New York Times:
"The concluding ceremony in the graduation exercises
at the West Point Academy took place this morning,
when the diplomas were awarded to the graduates. The
ceremony took place in the open air under the shadow
of the maple trees, which form almost a grove in front
of the Academy building. Seats had been arranged here
for the spectators, so as to leave a hollow square,
on one side of which, behind a long table, sat the
various dignitaries who were to take part in the
proceedings. In front of them, seats were arranged
for the graduating class. The cadets formed line in
front of the barracks at 10.30, and, preceded by the
band playing a stirring air, marched to the front of
the Academy building. The first class came without
their arms; the other classes formed a sort of escort
of honor to them. The graduating class having taken
their seats, the other classes stacked arms and
remained standing in line around the square. The
proceedings were opened by an address from Professor
Thompson, of the School of Technology, Worcester Mass.,
who is the Chairman of the Board of Visitors."
And thus after four years of constant work amid many
difficulties did I obtain my reward.
"Lieutenant H. O. Flipper was the only cadet who
received the cheers of the assembled multitude at
West Point upon receiving his parchment. How the
fellows felt who couldn't associate with him we
do not know; but as the old Christian woman said,
they 'couldn't a been on the mountain top.'"
Victor Hugo says somewhere in his works that he who
drains a marsh must necessarily expect to hear the
frogs croak. I had graduated, and of course the
newspapers had to have a say about it. Some of the
articles are really amusing. I couldn't help laughing
at them when I read them. Here is something from the
New York Herald which is literally true:
"MR. BLAINE AND THE COLORED CADET.
"Senator James G. Blaine, with his wife and daughter
and Miss Dodge ('Gail Hamilton') left at noon yesterday
in anticipation of the rush. Before going the Senator
did a very gracious and kindly deed in an unostentatious
way. Sending for Flipper, the colored cadet, he said:
"'I don't know that you have any political friends in
your own State, Mr. Flipper, and you may find it
necessary to have an intermediary in Congress to help
you out of your difficulties. I want you to consider me
your friend, and call upon me for aid when you need it.'
"With that he shook the lad's hand and bade him good-by.
"Bishop Quintard, of Tennessee, and Senator Maxey, of
Texas, also complimented the pioneer graduate of the
colored race upon his conduct throughout the four years
of his training, and proffered their sympathy and
assistance. With these encouragements from prominent
men of both political parties the young man seemed
deeply touched, and thanking them suitably he returned
with a light heart to his quarters."
It was so very kind of the distinguished senators and
bishop. I valued these congratulations almost as much
as my diploma. They were worth working and enduring
The New York Herald again speaks, and that about not
hearing my voice, etc., made me "larf." Here is the
"THE COLORED CADET'S EXPERIENCE AND PROSPECTS.
"Flipper, the colored cadet, who graduates pretty
well up in his class, said to me to-day that he is
determined to get into either the Ninth or Tenth
colored cavalry regiment if possible. He seems to
be very happy in view of the honorable close of his
academic career, and entertains little doubt that he
can procure the appointment he wishes. When asked
whether he was not aware that there was a law providing
that even colored troops must be officered by white
men, he replied that he had heard something of that
years ago, but did not think it was true. 'If there is
such a law,' he said emphatically, but with good humor,
'it is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.' He
added that several weeks ago he wrote to a prominent
gentleman in Alabama to inquire what the existing law
on the subject was, and had not yet received an answer.
I questioned him about his experience in the Academy,
And he said that he had suffered but little on account
of his race. The first year was very hard, as the class
all made their dislike manifest in a variety of ways.
'That,' he said, 'was in a great measure caused by the
bad conduct of Smith, the colored cadet who preceded me.
When the class found out that I was not like him, they
treated me well. The professors act toward me in every
respect as toward the others, and the cadets, I think,
do not dislike me. But they don't associate with me. I
don't care for that. If they don't want to speak to me
I don't want them to, I'm sure.' Save in the recitation-
room Flipper never heard the sound of his own voice for
months and months at a time; but he was kept so hard at
work all the time that he did not mind it. If he should
join a regiment, however, he would be more alone even
than he has been here, for the association with other
officers in the line of duty would not be so close as
it has been with the cadets. He would be isolated--
ostracized--and he would feel it more keenly, because he
would have more leisure for social intercourse, and his
mind would not be so occupied as it has been here with
"Senator Blaine, in the course of a conversation last
night, thought the career of Flipper would be to go
South and become a leader of his race. He could in
that way become famous, and could accomplish much good
for the country." . . . .
When I entered the Academy I saw in a paper something
about colored officers being put in white regiments,
etc. It purported to be a conversation with the then
Secretary of War, who said there was such a law, and
that it would be enforced. The then Secretary of War
has since told me he was sure there was such a law,
until to satisfy himself he searched the Revised
Statutes, when he found he was mistaken.
I have mentioned elsewhere the untruthfulness of the
statement that I never heard my own voice except in
The recitation-room. Every one must know that could
not be true. The statement is hardly worth a passing
"If he should join a regiment, however," etc. Ah!
well, I have joined my regiment long ago. Let me
say, before I go further, I am putting this manuscript
in shape for the press, and doing it in my quarters at
Fort Sill, I. T. These remarks are inserted apropos
of this article. From the moment I reached Sill I
haven't experienced any thing but happiness. I am not
isolated. I am not ostracized by a single officer. I do
not "feel it more keenly," because what the Herald said
is not true. The Herald, like other papers, forgets
that the army is officered by men who are presumably
officers and gentlemen. Those who are will treat me as
become gentlemen, as they do, and those who are not I
will thank if they will "ostracize" me, for if they
don't I will certainly "ostracize" them.
"But to get into a cavalry regiment is the highest
ambition of most cadets, and failing in that it is
almost a toss-up between the infantry and the
artillery. Flipper, the South Carolina colored cadet, wants to get into the cavalry, and as there is a black regiment of that character he will, it is thought, be assigned to that. There is in existence a law
specifying that even black regiments shall be officered
by white men, and it is thought there will be some
trouble in assigning Flipper. As any such law is in
opposition to the constitutional amendments, of course
it will be easily rescinded. From the disposition shown
by most of the enlisted men with whom I have conversed
at odd times upon this subject, I fancy that if Flipper
were appointed to the command of white soldiers they
would be restive, and would, if out upon a scout, take
the first opportunity to shoot him; and this feeling
exists even among men here who have learned to respect
him for what he is."
Now that is laughable, isn't it? What he says about
the soldiers at West Point is all "bosh." Nobody will
believe it. I don't. I wish the Herald reporter who
wrote the above would visit Fort Sill and ask some of
the white soldiers there what they think of me. I am
afraid the Herald didn't get its "gift of prophecy" I
from the right place. Such blunders are wholly
inexcusable. The Herald reporter deserves an "extra"
(vide Cant Terms, etc.) for that. I wish he could get
one at any rate. Perhaps, however, the following will
excuse him.. It is true.
"He is spoken of by all the officers as a hard student
and a gentleman. To a very great extent he has conquered
the prejudices of his fellows, and although they still
decline to associate with him it is evident that they
respect him. Said one of his class this morning:
'Flipper has certainly shown pluck and gentlemanly
qualities, and I shall certainly shake his "flipper"
when we say "Good-by." We have no feeling against him
at all, but we could not associate with him. You see we
are so crowded together here that we are just like one
family, possessing every thing in common and borrowing
every thing, even to a pair of white trousers, and we
could not hold such intimate fellowship with him. It may
be prejudice, but we could not do it; so we simply let
him alone, and he has lived to himself, except when we
drill with him. Feel bad about it? Well, I suppose he
did at first, but he has got used to it now. The boys
were rather afraid that when he should come to hold the
position as officer of the guard that he would swagger
over them, but he showed good sense and taste, merely
assuming the rank formally and leaving his junior to
carry out the duty.'"
That glorious day of graduation marked a new epoch in
my military life. Then my fellow-cadets and myself
forgot the past. Then they atoned for past conduct and
welcomed me as one of them as well as one among them.
I must revert to that Herald's article just to show
how absurd it is to say I never heard the sound of
my own voice except in the section-room. I heard it
at reveille, at breakfast, dinner, and supper roll-
calls, at the table, at taps, and at every parade I
attended during the day--in all no less than ten or
twelve times every single day during the four years.
Of course I heard it in other places, as I have
explained elsewhere. I always had somebody to talk
to every single day I was at the Academy. Why, I was
the happiest man in the institution, except when I'd
get brooding over my loneliness, etc. Such moments
would come, when it would seem nothing would interest
me. When they were gone I was again as cheerful and as
happy as ever. I learned to hate holidays. At those
times the other cadets would go off skating, rowing,
or visiting. I had no where to go except to walk around
the grounds, which I sometimes did. I more often
remained in my quarters. At these times barracks
would be deserted and I would get so lonely and
melancholy I wouldn't know what to do. It was on
an occasion like this-- Thanksgiving Day--I wrote
the words given in another place, beginning,
"Oh! 'tis hard this lonely living, to be
In the midst of life so solitary," etc.
Here is something from Harper's Weekly. The northern
press generally speak in the same tenor of my
"Inman Edward Page, a colored student at Brown
University, has succeeded in every respect better
than his brother Flipper at West Point. While a
rigid non-intercourse law was for four years
maintained between Flipper and the nascent warriors
at the Military Academy, Page has lived in the
largest-leaved clover at Brown, and in the Senior
year just closed was chosen Class-day Orator--a
position so much coveted among students ambitious
for class honors that it is ranked by many even
higher than the Salutatory or the Valedictory. Page
has throughout been treated by his classmates as
one of themselves. He is a good writer and speaker,
though not noticeably better than some of his
classmates. His conduct has been uniformly modest
but self-respectful, and he had won the esteem of
professors as well as students. The deportment of
his class toward him is in high and honorable contrast
with that pursued by the less manly students supported
by the government at West Point, who may have already
learned that the 'plain people' of the country are
Here is something of a slightly different kind from a
Georgia paper--Augusta Chronicle and Constitutionalist.
Its tone betrays the locality of its birth.
"Benjamin F. Butler, Jr., who graduated at West Point
last summer in the same class with the colored cadet
from Georgia, Flipper, has been assigned for duty to
the Ninth Cavalry, the same regiment to which Flipper
is attached. The enlisted men in this regiment are all
negroes. Ben, senior, doubtless engineered the assignment
in order to make himself solid with the colored voters
of the South. Ben, like old Joe Bagstock, is devilish
It is in error as to my assignment. Lieutenant Butler
(whose name, by the way, is not Benjamin F., Jr.) was
assigned to the Ninth Cavalry. Here is the truth about
my assignment, given in the Sing Sing (N. Y.) Republican:
"Cadet Flipper has been appointed to the Tenth U. S.
Cavalry (colored), now in Texas. Secretary of State
Bigelow's son has also been assigned to the same
regiment. We wonder if the non-intercourse between
the two at West Point will be continued in the army.
Both have the same rank and are entitled to the same
privileges. Possibly a campaign among the Indians, or
a brush with the 'Greasers' on the Rio Grande, will
equalize the complexion of the two."
The National Monitor, of Brooklyn (N. Y.), has this
much to say. It may be worth some study by the cadets
now at the Academy.
"Lieutenant Flipper, colored, a recent graduate from
West Point, is a modest gentleman, and no grumbler.
He says that privately he was treated by fellow-cadets
with proper consideration, but reluctantly admits that
he was publicly slighted. He can afford to be untroubled
and magnanimous. How is it with his fellows? Will not
shame ere long mantle their cheeks at the recollection
of this lack of moral courage on their part? A quality
far more to be desired than any amount of physical
heroism they may ever exhibit."
Here is something extra good from the Hudson River
Chronicle, of Sing Sing. To all who want to know
the truth about me physically, I refer them to this
article. I refer particularly to the editor of a
certain New Orleans paper, who described me as a
"little bow-legged grif of the most darkly coppery
"For a few days past Lieutenant Henry O. Flipper,
the colored cadet who graduated from West Point
Academy last week, has been the guest of Professor
John W. Hoffman, of this place. Lieutenant Flipper
is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, whence General
Sherman commenced that glorious march to the sea
which proved what a hollow shell the Southern
Confederacy really was. The lieutenant evidently has
a large strain of white blood in his veins, and could
probably, if so disposed, trace descent from the F.
F's. He stands six feet, is well proportioned, has a
keen, quick eye, a gentlemanly address, and a soldierly
bearing. He goes from here to his home in Georgia, on a
leave of absence which extends to the first of November,
when he will join the Tenth Cavalry, to which he has
been assigned as Second Lieutenant. This assignment
shows that Lieutenant Flipper stood above the average
of the graduating class, as the cavalry is the next to
the highest grade in the service--only the Engineer
Corps taking precedence of the cavalry arm.
"For four long years Cadet Flipper has led an isolated
life at the Point--without one social companion, being
absolutely ostracized by his white classmates. As much
as any mortal, he can say:
"'In the crowd
They would not deem me one of such; I stood
Among them, but not of them; in a shroud
Of thoughts which were not their thoughts.'
"There must have been much of inherent manhood in a boy
that could stand that long ordeal, and so bear himself
at the close that, when his name was pronounced among
the graduates, the fair women and brave men who had
gathered to witness the going out into the world of
the nation's wards, with one accord greeted the lone
student with a round of applause that welcomed none
others of the class, and that could call from Speaker
Blaine the strong assurance that if he ever needed a
friend he might trustingly call on him.
"'The path of glory leads but to the grave,' but we
venture the prediction that Lieutenant Flipper will
tread that path as fearlessly and as promptly as any
of his comrades of the 'Class of '77.'"
Here is an editorial article from the New York Tribune.
It needs no comment, nor do the two following, which
were clipped from the Christian Union.
"Among the West Point graduates this year is young
Flipper, a lad of color and of African descent. It
is stated that he acquitted himself very respectably
in his examination by the Board of Visitors, that he
will pass creditably, and that he will go into the
cavalry, which is rather an aristocratic branch, we
believe, of the service. Mr. Flipper must have had
rather a hard time of it during his undergraduate
career, if, as we find it stated, most if not all
his white fellow-students have declined to associate
with him. He has behaved so well under these anomalous
circumstances, that he has won the respect of those
who, so far as the discipline of the school would
permit, ignored his existence. 'We have no feeling
against him,' said one of the students, 'but still we
could not associate with him. It may be prejudice, but
still we couldn't do it.' Impossibilities should be
required of no one, and if the white West Pointers
could not treat Mr. Flipper as if he were one of
themselves, why of course that is an end of the matter.
So long as they kept within the rules of the service,
and were guilty of no conduct 'unbecoming an officer
and a gentleman,' it was not for their commanders to
interfere. But when they tell us that they couldn't
possibly associate with Mr. Flipper, who is allowed
to have 'shown pluck and gentlemanly qualities,' we
may at least inquire whether they have tried to do so.
Conquering prejudices implies a fight with prejudices
--have these young gentlemen had any such fight? Have
they too 'shown pluck and gentlemanly qualities?'
"We are not disposed to speak harshly of these
fastidious young fellows, who will not be long
out of the school before they will be rather sorry
that they didn't treat Mr. Flipper a little more
cordially. But a much more important matter is that
he has, in spite of his color, made a good record
every way, has kept up with his class, has not been
dropped or dismissed, but emerges a full-blown Second
Lieutenant of Cavalry. He has thus achieved a victory
not only for himself but for his race. He has made
matters easier for future colored cadets; and twenty
years hence, if not sooner, the young white gentlemen
of West Point will read of the fastidiousness of their
predecessors with incredulous wonder. Time and patience
will settle every thing."
"The most striking illustration of class prejudice
this year has been afforded, not by Mississippi or
Louisiana, but by West Point. In 1873 Cadet Flipper
entered the Military Academy. God had given him a
black skin, a warm heart, an active brain, and a
patriotic ambition. He was guilty of no other crime
than that of being a negro, and bent on obtaining a
good education. He represented a race which had done
as good fighting for the flag as any done by the fair-
skinned Anglo-Saxon or Celt. Congress had recognized
his right and the right of his race to education.
"But his classmates decided that it should be denied
him. If they had possessed the brutal courage of the
murderers of Chisholm they would have shot him, or
whipped him, or hung him; but they were not brave
enough for that, and they invented instead a punishment
worse than the State has inflicted upon its most brutal
criminals. They condemned him to four years of solitude
and silence. For four years not a classmate spoke to
Cadet Flipper; for three years he did not hear his own
voice, except in the recitation-room, on leave of
absence, or in chance conversation with a stray visitor.
Then another negro entered West Point, and he had one
companion. The prison walls of a Sing Sing cell are more
sympathetic than human prejudice. And in all that class
of '77 there were not to be found a dozen men brave enough
to break through this wall of silence and give the
imprisoned victim his liberty. At least two thirds of the
class are Republican appointees; and not one champion of
equal rights. In all that class but one hero--and he a
negro. Seventy-five braves against one! And the one was
victorious. He fought out the four years' campaign,
conquered and graduated. Honor to the African; shame to
CADET FLIPPER AGAIN.
"We have received several letters on the subject of
Cadet Flipper, to whose treatment at West Point we
recently called the attention of our readers. One of
them is from a former instructor, who bears a high
testimony to Lieutenant Flipper's character. He writes:
"'I want to thank you for your editorial in the
Christian Union about Cadet Flipper. He was one
of our boys; was with us in school from the beginning
of his education till Freshman year in college, when
he received his appointment to West Point. He was always
obedient, faithful, modest, and in every way manly. We
were sorry to have him leave us; but now rejoice in
his victory, and take pride in him.
"'During all these years, in his correspondence with
his friends, he has not, so far as I can learn, uttered
a single complaint about his treatment.'
"A second is from a Canadian reader, who objects to
our condemnation of the Anglo-Saxon race, and insists
that we should have reserved it for the Yankees. In
Canada, he assures us, the color line is unknown, and
that negroes and Anglo-Saxons mingle in the same school
and in the same sports without prejudice. Strange to
say the white men are not colored by the intercourse.
"The third letter comes indirectly from Lieutenant
Flipper himself. In it the writer gives us the benefit
of information derived from the lieutenant. We quote
(the italics are ours):
"'Mr. Flipper is highly respected here, and has been
received by his former teachers and friends with
pleasure and pride. His deportment and character have
won respect and confidence for himself and his race.
As to his treatment at West Point, he assures me that
the "papers" are far astray. There was no ostracism on
the part of his fellow-cadets, except in the matter of
personal public association. He was invariably spoken
to and treated courteously and respectfully both as a
cadet and officer.'
"We are glad to be assured that it was not as bad as
we had been informed by what we considered as good
authority; and we are still more glad to know that
Lieutenant Flipper, instead of making much of his
social martyrdom, has the good sense to make as light
of it as he conscientiously can. But if it is true
that there were cadets who did not sympathize with
the action of the class, and were brave enough to
speak to their colored comrade in private, it was a
pity that they were not able to screw their courage
up to a little higher point, and put the mark of a
public condemnation on so petty and cruel a
The people at large seem to be laboring under a
delusion about West Point, at least the West Point
that I knew. I know nothing of what West Point was,
or of what was done there before I entered the
Academy. I have heard a great deal and read a
great deal, and I am compelled to admit I have
doubts about much of it. At the hands of the officers
of the institution my treatment didn't differ from
that of the other cadets at all, and at the hands of
the cadets themselves it differed solely "in the matter
of personal public association." I was never persecuted,
or abused, or called by approbrious epithets in my
hearing after my first year. I am told it has been done,
but in my presence there has never been any thing but
proper respect shown me. I have mentioned a number of
things done to me by cadets, and I have known the same
things to be done to white cadets. For instance, I was
reported for speaking to a sergeant about the discharge
of his duty. (See Chapter X., latter part, on that
subject.) The same thing occurred to several members of
the class of '74. They were ordered into the rear rank
by a sergeant of the second class, when they were first-
classmen. They were white. The result was they were all,
three in number, I think, put in arrest.
Some New England paper contributes the following
articles to this discussion, parts of which I quote:
THE BIGOT AND THE SNOB
"The Hilton-Seligman controversy is one of those
incidents which illustrate some of the features
of our social life. The facts can briefly be stated.
A Jewish gentleman, of wealth and position, applies
for rooms at the Grand Union Hotel, Saratoga, and is
flatly refused admission because he is a Jew. The
public indignation is so great that the manager of
the hotel is obliged to defend the act, and puts in
the plea that a man has the right to manage his
property as he pleases.
"But before our anger cools, let us remember the case
of the colored cadet at West Point. During his course
he met with constant rebuffs. He was systematically
cut by his fellow-schoolmates. Instead of extending
to him a generous sympathy in his noble ambition, they
met him with sneers. All the feelings which should
guide a chivalric soldier and lead him to honor real
heroism, were quenched by the intense prejudice against
color. Mean and despicable as is the spirit which
prompted the-manager of the Grand Union Hotel to refuse
to entertain the rich Jewish banker, that which influenced
the young men at West Point is still more deserving scorn
and contempt. It was meaner and more contemptible than
PREJUDICE AGAINST COLOR.
Within the last thirty years there has been a great
change in public sentiment relating to colored persons.
That it has become wholly just and kind cannot be shown;
but it is far less unjust and cruel than it used to be.
In most of the old free States, at least, tidy,
intelligent, and courteous American citizens of African
descent are treated with increasing respect for their
rights and feelings. In public conveyances we find them
enjoying all the consideration and comforts of other
passengers. At our public schools they have cordial
welcome and fair play. We often see them walking along
the street with white schoolmates who have evidently
lost sight of the difference in complexions. Colored
boys march in the ranks of our school battalions without
receiving the slightest insult. Colored men have been
United States senators and representatives. Frederick
Douglass is Marshal of the District of Columbia.
"There is one conspicuous place, however, where
caste-feeling seems to have survived the institution
of slavery, and that is West Point. There the old
prejudice is as strong, active, and mean as ever.
Of this there has been a recent and striking instance
In the case of young Flipper who has just graduated.
It appears that during his whole course this worthy
young man was subjected to the most relentless
'snubbing.' All his fellow-students avoided him
habitually. In the recitation-room and upon the parade
ground, by day and by night, he was made to feel that
he belonged to an inferior and despised race, and that
no excellence of deportment, diligence in study, or
rank in his class could entitle him to the recognition
accorded to every white dunce and rowdy. Yet with rare
strength of character he persevered, and when, having
maintained the standing of No. fifty in a class of
seventy-six, he received his well-earned diploma, there
was a round of tardy applause.
"If West Point is to continue to be a school
characterized by aristocracy based upon creed,
race, or color, so undemocratic and unrepublican
as to be out of harmony with our laws and
institutions, it will do more harm than good,
and, like other nuisances, it should be abated.
If our rulers are sincere in their professions,
and faithful to their duties, a better state of
things may be brought about. Military arts must
be acquired somewhere; but if the present Academy
cannot be freed from plantation manners, it may
be well to establish a new one without pro-slavery
traditions, or, as has been suggested by the
Providence Journal, to endow military departments
in the good colleges where character and not color
is the test of worth and manhood."
(From the New York Sun.)
COLORED CADET FLIPPER.
TWO HUNDRED OF HIS NEW YORK ADMIRERS HONORING HIM WITH A RECEPTION.
"A reception was given last evening by Mr. James W.
Moore, in the rooms of the Lincoln Literary Musical
Association, 132 West Twenty-seventh Street, to
Lieutenant H. O. Flipper, of Georgia, the colored
cadet who has just graduated at West Point. Mr. Moore
has had charge of the sick room of Commodore Garrison
since his illness. The chandeliers were decorated with
small flags. On a table on the platform rested a large
basket of flowers, bearing the card of Barrett H. Van
Auken, a grandson of Commodore Garrison. Among the
pictures on the wall were many relating to Lincoln and
the emancipation proclamation. Cheerful music was
furnished from a harp and violin.
"The guests began to arrive about nine o'clock, the
ladies in large numbers, and the room was soon abreeze
with a buzz of conversation and the rustle of gayly-
colored dresses and bright ribbons.
"The grand entree was at a quarter before ten. Lieutenant
Flipper entered the room in full uniform. A heavy yellow
horse-hair plume fell down over his cavalry helmet. His
coat was new and bright, and glittered with its gold
buttons and tasselled aigulets. By his side hung a long
cavalry sabre in a gilt scabbard. His appearance was the
signal for a buzz of admiration. He is very tall and well
made. Beside him was Mr. James W. Moore. Behind him, as
he walked through the thronged rooms, were the Rev. Dr.
Henry Highland Garnett, and Mrs. Garnett; the Rev. E. W.
S. Peck of the Thirty-fifth Street Methodist Church; Mr.
Charles Remond Douglass, son of Fred Douglass, and United
States Consul in San Domingo; the Rev. J. S. Atwell, of
St. Philip's Episcopal Church; the Rev. John Peterson;
Professor Charles L. Reason, of the Forty-first Street
Grammar School; John J. Zuilille; Richard Robinson, and
"The Lieutenant was led upon the stage by Mr. Garnett
and seated at the extreme left, while Dr. Garnett took
a seat at the extreme right. Next to the Lieutenant sat
Miss Martha J. Moore and Miss Fanny McDonough, Mr. P. S.
Porter, Dr. Ray, Mr. Atwell, and Professor Reason
completed the semicircle, of which Lieutenant Flipper
and Dr. Garnett formed the extremities. The Rev. Mr.
Atwell sat in the middle.
"After all were seated, Dr. Garnett called Mr. Douglass
forward to a vacant seat on the platform. In introducing
Lieutenant Flipper, Dr. Garnett said he had honored
himself and his race by his good scholarship and pluck.
Nowhere else was there, he thought, such iron-bound and
copper-covered aristocracy as in West Point. Who could
have thought that any one wearing the 'shadowed livery
of the burnished sun' would ever dare to be an applicant?
Young Smith's high personal courage had led him to
resent a blow with a blow, and his career in the Academy
was cut short. Lieutenant Flipper had encountered the
same cold glances, but he had triumphed, and appeared
before his friends in the beautiful uniform of the
national army. (Applause.) The Doctor believed he would
never disgrace it. (Applause, and waving of handkerchiefs
by the ladies.)
"At the close of his address, Dr. Garnett said: 'Ladies
and gentlemen, I take great pleasure in introducing to
you Lieutenant H. O. Flipper.' The Lieutenant rose and
bowed low, his hands resting on the hilt of his sabre.
He said nothing. Mr. Douglass was introduced, but excused
himself from speaking.
"Then Mr. James Crosby was called on. He said when the
regiment in which he was orderly sergeant had marched
to Port Hudson, General-- met it, and said to Colonel
Nelson: 'Colonel, what do you call these?' 'I call them
soldiers,' answered Colonel Nelson. 'Well, if these are
soldiers, and if I've got to command niggers, the
government is welcome to my commission. Take them down
to the right to General Payne. He likes niggers.' 'Soon
afterward,' added Mr. Crosby, 'occurred that terrible
slaughter of the colored troops which you all remember
so well. This year Lieutenant Flipper and a nephew of
General--graduated in the same class, and the colored
man rated the highest.'
"After the addresses Lieutenant Flipper descended to
the floor, and without formal introductions shook hands
with all. He had taken off his cavalry helmet while
sitting on the stage. Lemonade and ice-cream were served
to the guests. About two hundred persons, all colored,
were present. The Lieutenant will start for his home in
Georgia on Monday. He will join his regiment, the Tenth
Cavalry, on the Rio Grande in November."
(From the Atlanta (Ga.) Constitution.)
"Flipper has flopped up again, and seems to be
decidedly in luck. He has been transferred to the
Tenth Cavalry, which is alluded to by a New Orleans
paper as the 'Tenth Nubian Light Foot.' This, it
seems to us, is a dark hint as to the color of this
gallant corps, but as the State of Texas lies
somewhere between New Orleans and the Rio Grande,
we suppose the matter will be allowed to pass. But
as to Flipper, Flipper has got his regiment and he
has had a reception at the hands of his colored
friends and acquaintances in New York. Common people
are generally embarrassed at receptions given to
themselves, but not so with Flipper. The reception
was exceedingly high-toned, as well as highly colored,
and took place in the rooms of the 'Lincoln Literary
Musical Association.' Flipper, rigged out in full
uniform, with a yellow horse-hair plume flowing
felicitously over his cavalry helmet, sailed in,
according to accounts, just as chipper and as pert
as you please. There was no lager beer handed around,
but the familiar sound of the band, which was composed
of a harp and a violin, made its absence painfully
apparent. There were few speeches, but the affair was
decidedly formal. When every thing was ready for
business, a party of the name of Garnett rose and
introduced Flipper, and in the course of his remarks
took occasion to attack the newly-made lieutenant by
accusing him of wearing 'the shadowed livery of the
burnished sun.' Whereupon Flipper got up, placed his
hands on the hilt of his bloody sabre, and bowed. The
crowd then shook hands all around, the music played,
and lemonade and ice-cream were brought out from their
hiding-places, and all went merry as the milkman's bell.
As we said before, Flipper is in luck. He is a
distinguished. young man. He will reach home during the
present week, and it is to be hoped that his friends here
are ready to give him an ice-cream lunch, or something of
(From the Christian Recorder.)
LIEUTENANT FLIPPER IN NEW YORK--HIS RECEPTION--
CALLS ON BELKNAP.
"Lieutenant Flipper has, by his manly conduct and
noble bearing, his superior intellectual powers shown
his fellow-cadets and tutors that all the colored
student wants is a 'chance.' His term of four years,
his graduation, his appointment, will all mark a new
era in American history. That the 'feat' he has
accomplished is appreciated has been shown in too
many ways to mention. His advent into New York City
was marked by many courtesies. His friends, not
unmindful of his new field and position, tendered
him a grand reception at Lincoln Literary Hall on
the 30th of June. It was the writer's good fortune
to arrive at New York just in time to be present
and pay him similar honors with others. The hall
was tastefully and beautifully decorated with flowers
and flags, representing the different States in the
Union. At the appointed hour the distinguished guests
were seen gathering, filling the hall to its utmost
capacity. Among the number we noticed especially Dr.
H. H. Garnett and Processor Reason. A few and
appropriate remarks were made by Dr. Garnett as an
introduction, after him others followed. After these
formal exercises were over, Mr. Flipper came down
from the rostrum and welcomed his friends by a
hearty shake of the hand, then all supplied the
wants of the inner man by partaking of cream, cake,
and lemonade, which were so bountifully supplied. The
evening was certainly a pleasant one, as delightful
as one could wish, and I presume there was no one
present who did not enjoy himself. In addition to
what has already been mentioned the occasion was
still more enlivened by the strains of sweet music.
The exercises of the evening being concluded, the
distinguished guests departed each one for his home.
Lieutenant Flipper spent some days in New York, and
during this visit, as he tells me, ex-Secretary Belknap
sent him a written invitation to call on him. This he
did, and was received very cordially and congratulated
on the victory achieved. He spoke of the pros and cons,
and seemed anxious that success might attend his
footsteps in all the avenues of army life. That Belknap
is interested in the young soldier and desires his
success I do not deny; but whether the ex-Secretary
would have given him any assistance when in his power
is a question I shall not presume to answer."
(From the Atlanta (Ga.) Constitution.)
FLYING AROUND FLIPPER.
HIS RECEPTION UPON HIS RETURN HOME--EAGERNESS TO SHAKE
THE HAND OF THE "BAD MAN WID DE GUB'MENT STROPS
ON!"--A SOCIAL RECEPTION ON MONDAY NIGHT.
"'Flip's done come home!' was the familiar, and yet
admiring manner in which the young negroes about town
yesterday spread the information that Second Lieutenant
Henry O. Flipper, of the Tenth Cavalry, and the first
colored graduate of the United States Military Academy
at West Point, had arrived. His coming has created
quite a sensation in colored circles, and when he
appeared upon the streets, last evening, taking a
drive with his delighted father, he was the cynosure
of all the colored people and the object of curious
glances from the whites. The young man had 'been there
before,' however, and took all the ogling with patience
and seeming indifference. Once in awhile he would
recognize an old acquaintance and greet him with a
smile and a bow.
"The last number of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper
contains an excellent likeness of Flipper, dressed in
his cadet uniform. His features betray his intelligence,
and indicate the culture which he has acquired by hard
study. His arrival here was the occasion of a buzz about
the Union depot. His parents and a number of intimate
friends were present to receive him, and the scene was
an interesting one to all concerned.
"'Dat's him!' said a dozen of the curious darkeys
who stood off and hadn't the honor of the youth's
acquaintance. They seemed to feel lonesome.
"'He's one ob de United States Gazettes!' shouted
a young darkey, in reply to a query from a strange
negro who has moved here since Flipper went away.
"But the young officer was speedily spirited out
of the crowd and taken home to his little bed for
"On the streets he was greeted by many of our citizens
who knew him, and who have watched his career with
interest. His success was complimented, and he was
urged to pursue his course in the same spirit hereafter.
Among his colored friends he was a lion, and they could
not speak their praises in language strong enough.
"A darkey would approach the young man, cautiously,
feel of his buttons and clothes, and enthusiastically
remark: "'Bad man wid de gub'ment strops on!'
"These were the expressions of admiration that best
suited the ideas of his delighted acquaintances. They
will give him a reception on Monday night next, at
which all his friends will be present, and some of our
leading white citizens will be invited to be present.
"We will try and give the young man's views and
experiences in tomorrow's issue."
This paper is noted for its constant prevarication
Whatever it says about negroes is scarcely worth
noticing, for be it in their favor or not it is
almost certainly untrue. My "delighted father" was
not within three hundred miles of Atlanta when I
reached that place. I did not appear on the streets
in uniform for several days after my arrival, and then
only at the request of many friends and an officer of
the Second Infantry then at McPherson Barracks.
(From the Atlanta (Ga.) Republican)
"Lieutenant Flipper arrived in our city last week on a
visit to his friends. His father lives in Thomasville,
but he was educated in this city. His intelligence and
manly course has won for him the praise of even the
(From the, Atlanta (Ga.) Republican.)
"We acknowledge the courtesy of an invitation to a
reception given to Lieutenant H. O. Flipper of the
Tenth Cavalry, by his colored friends in Atlanta.
Circumstances beyond our control prevented our
"We are informed it was a pleasant affair, and that
Lieutenant Flipper embraced the opportunity to give
something of his four years' experience at West Point,
and to correct some of the misstatements of the Atlanta
Constitution concerning the treatment he received while
a cadet at the Military Academy. An article alluding to
this subject has been crowded out this week, but will
appear in our next issue.
(From the Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle and Constitutionalist.)
"The Cincinnati Gazette says: 'Lieutenant Flipper, the
young colored man who is guilty of having been graduated
with credit from West Point, continues to be the butt
of Georgia Democratic journals.' We would like to know
where the Gazette gets its information. Flipper has been
treated with nothing but kindness in Georgia. Wherever
he has reviewed the colored military, accounts of the
reviews have been published, but we have yet to see a
single word in a Georgia paper in disparagement or
ridicule of the colored graduate."
Witness the following from the Atlanta Constitution:
FLIPPER AS A FRAUD.
FREEMAN'S PROTEGE ON SOUTHERN CIVILIZATION--HE TALKS
AT THE RECEPTION AND MAKES OF HIMSELF AN ASS--THE
ANOMALOUS CREATURE ON EXHIBITION--HE SHOWS THE CLOVEN FOOT.
"Last night the colored people of the city gave a
'reception' to Flipper, of the United States Army.
They did this from a feeling of pride over the fact
that one of their color, a townsman, had succeeded in
attaining his rank. They doubtless, little suspected
that he would make such use of the occasion as he did.
More than one of them so expressed their feeling before
The evening ended. The relations between the races in
this city have for years been such as to make remarks
like those in which Flipper indulged not only uncalled
for, but really distasteful. They are not to be blamed
for his conduct.
"The crowd that gathered in the hall on the corner of
Mitchell and Broad Streets was large. It was composed
almost entirely of well-dressed and orderly colored
people. There were present several of the white male
and female teachers of the negro schools; also, some of
our white citizens occupying back seats, who were drawn
thither by mere curiosity.
"Flipper was dressed lavishly in regimentals and gold
cord, and sat upon the stage with his immense and
ponderous cavalry sabre tightly buckled around him. He
had the attitude of Wellington or Grant at a council of
war. He was introduced to the audience by J. O. Wimbish,
a high-toned negro politician (as was) of this city, who
bespattered the young warrior with an eulogy such as no
school-master would have written for less than $5 C.O.D.
It was real slushy in its copiousness and diffusiveness.
FRIP FIRES OFF.
He arose with martial mien, and his left hand resting on
his sabre hilt. He said:
"'Some weeks ago he had been called upon at a reception
in New York to make a speech, but he had reminded the
gentleman who called upon him that he had been taught
to be a soldier and not an orator. While upon this
occasion he still maintained that lie was not an orator,
yet he would tell them something of his career at West
Point. He referred to his colored predecessors in the
Academy and their fates, particularly of Smith, whose
last year there was his (F.'s) first. During that year,
on Smith's account, he had received his worst treatment
at the Academy. Prejudice against us was strong there at
that time. During his first encampment he had a better
time than almost any man in his class. In 1874 Smith left,
and a rumor prevailed that he (F ) was afraid to stay and
was going to resign. Colonel Upton, the commandant, sent
for him to his house, told him not to do so, but to stick
it out. Of course he had no intention of resigning, and
he followed this superfluous advice. So far as the cadets
were concerned they always treated me fairly, would speak
to me, and some came to my room and talked with me, but
the only thing they did that was wrong, perhaps, was that
they would not associate with me openly. The officers
always treated me as well as they did any other cadet.
All these reports about my bad treatment there, especially
in Southern newspapers, are absolutely false.
"'I will read and comment upon some of these articles.
In The Constitution of last Saturday it said I had the
hardest four years of any cadet who ever passed through
the Academy. That is in some respects true, but not
wholly so. Speaking of Ben Butler's son, I am proud to
say that among the three hundred cadets I hadn't a better
friend than the son of the Massachusetts statesman.
(Applause.) As to Mr Bigelow's son, mentioned here, I
know him well, and his whole family--his father, the
distinguished ex-Secretary of State, his mother and his
two sisters, and have met them at their home. Mrs.
Bigelow, recognizing my position, and thinking to assure
my feelings, sent me a nice box of fruit with her
"He then commented on articles from Beecher's Christian
Union, the New York Tribune, Harper's Weekly, and the New
York Telegram, characterizing many of their statements
about himself as false.
SOCIAL EQUALITY IN THE ARMY.
"The article last named was about social equality in
the army. Flipper said that he was cordially met by the
army officers in Chattanooga. In return he paid his
respects to the commandant and was introduced and shown
through the barracks. He was treated with every courtesy.
"'How it is here you have all seen as I walked about the
city. I have walked with the officers of the garrison
here several times today, even up and down Whitehall
Street, and one of them invited me into Schumann's drug
store, and had a glass of soda together. I know it is
not a usual thing to sell to colored people, but we got
it. (Laughter and applause.) And to-night as Mr. J. O.
Wimbish and myself were coming to the hall, we met with
one of the officers at the corner, and went into
Schumann's again. We called for soda-water, and got it
again! (Applause.) And I called at the barracks, through
military courtesy, and paid my respects to the commandant.
I understand that the officers there have had my case
under consideration, and have unanimously agreed that I
am a graduate of the national Academy, and hold a
commission similar to their own, and am entitled to the
same courtesy as any other officer. I have been invited
to visit them at their quarters to-morrow. These things
show you something of social equality in the army, and
when this happens with officers who have lived in the
South, and had opportunity to be tainted with Southern
feeling, I expect still less trouble from this source
when I reach my regiment and among officers who have
not lived in the South and had occasion to be tainted
in this way. The gentlemen of the army are generally
better educated than the people of the South.'
"He spoke of his graduation and of the applause with
which he was greeted. He closed by thanking his
FLOURISHING HIS FLIPPER.
"Then Flipper was escorted upon the floor, and the
announcement was made that all who desired could now
be introduced to the youth.
"The first man to receive this distinguished honor was
George Thomas, the Assistant United States Attorney. He
was followed closely by several Northern school-marms
and teachers, and a host of the colored people. "After
shaking, the crowd took ice-cream and cake and adjourned.
I pass over the preceding article with the silent
contempt it deserves. Some of the papers commented
upon it. I give two such articles:
(From the Atlanta (Ga.) Republican.)
"The Atlanta Constitution, true to principle, comes
out in a slanderous attack upon Lieutenant Flipper.
In its issue of Tuesday, July 10th, it calls him a
fraud. Would to heaven we had ten thousand such frauds
in Georgia for the good of the State and progress in
"It takes exception, too, to the manner in which the
colored lieutenant appeared at the reception given by
the colored people in his honor. He was 'lavishly
dressed in full regimentals,' it says, 'with gold cord.
He sat upon the stage with his massive and ponderous
sword, looking like Wellington or Grant in war council.
He made remarks uncalled for and distasteful.' Oh dear!
"Now we (that is I, this individual, Mr. Editor,
for I would not assume your grand editorial pronoun)
should like to know how the Constitution would have
the young officer dress. Surely it was entirely proper
and becoming that he should appear in full regimental
cap, coat, boots, spurs, and all, full fledged, just
as he issued forth from West Point.
"In the first place it was a novel sight for the
colored people. Surely the Constitution would not
rob us of the privilege and pleasure of seeing in
full military costume the first and only one of our
race who has been permitted to pass through West Point
"In regard to the ostentatious manner in which the
lieutenant conducted himself on that evening, nothing
could be further from the truth. In fact, the general
comment of the evening by both black and white was on
the modesty of his bearing.
"It is not strange, however, that the Constitution,
whose judgment and sense of right and justice have
been perverted through years of persistent sinning,
should see things in a different light.
"The 'uncalled for and distasteful' remarks were
doubtless those made in regard to the fact that
Northern people coming into contact with Southern
prejudice are tainted by it, and that West Pointers
are generally better educated than the Southern
people. Of course this would stir up the wrath of
the Constitution; for what could be more hateful in
its sight than truth?
(From the New York World.)
Lieutenant Flipper would have shown better sense if
he had not made any speech at Atlanta. But if he was
to make any speech at all upon the subject of his
treatment at West Point, it could scarcely be expected
that he should make one more modest, manly and sensible
than that which is reported in our news columns."
Here are two other articles of the abusive order from
the Southern press:
(From the Griffin (Ga.) News.)
"J. C. Freeman, the only white man in Georgia that
ever disgraced the military of the United States, was
in the city yesterday. It will be remembered that this
individual at one time misrepresented this district in
Congress, and during that time he appointed one negro
by color, and Flipper by name, to West Point. But then,
nevertheless, the negro is as good as he is, and better
too, and we have no doubt but what Freeman thinks he did
a big thing, but the good people of the State think
different. This notice is not paid for."
(From the Warrenton (Ga.) Clipper.)
"The following is the way the Southerners solidify
their section--that is, it is one way--the other,
being the masked Kuklux. What it says, however, about
the North, is just about so:
"'Lieutenant Flipper, the colored cadet, is in Macon,
and the darkies there think him a bigger man that
General Grant. They'll want him to be President after
awhile, and the Northern people will then be the first
to say no.'"
The article of social equality referred to was clipped
from the New York Evening Telegram. It is as follows:
NEGRO EQUALITY IN THE ARMY.
"There is no danger of negro equality, oh no! But it
will be so delightful for the white soldier to be
commanded to pace the greensward before the tent of
Lieutenant Flipper, the negro graduate of West Point,
and the white soldier will probably indulge in a
strange train of thought while doing it. And when
promotion comes, and the negro becomes Majah Flippah,
or Colonel Flippah, the prospects of the white captains
and lieutenants will be so cheerful, particularly if
they have families and are stationed at some post
in the far West, where any neglect in the social
courtesies toward their superior officer would probably
go hard with them and their families."
To go back to the article "Flying Around Flipper," I
want to say the white people of Georgia can claim no
credit for any part of my education. The Storrs school
was not a public school at the time I went to school
there. It did not become such until I went to West
Point. The Atlanta University receives $8000 per annum
From the State of Georgia in lieu of the share of the
agricultural land scrip due to the colored people for
educational purposes. Efforts have been made to take
even this from the university, but all have been
(From the Macon (Ga.) Telegram and Messenger.)
"On Monday evening the colored companies of the city
had a battalion parade and review.
"The three companies, viz., the Lincoln Guards, the
Bibb County Blues, and the Central City Light Infantry,
formed on Fourth Street, and to martial music marched
up Mulberry to First, down First to Walnut, up Walnut
to Spring Street, and there formed for dress parade and
"On the right of the line were the Light Infantry
under Captain W. H. DeLyons. The Blues bore the
colors, and were commanded by Spencer Moses, Captain,
and the Guards supported the extreme left. T. N. M.
Sellers, Captain of the Lincoln Guards, acted as
major. After some preliminary movements the troops
were inspected by Lieutenant Flipper, the colored
graduate of West Point. The troops then marched around
the inspecting officer.
"The line was again formed, and the major addressed
Lieutenant Flipper in a short speech, in which was
expressed gratitude to the government and thanks to
the inspecting officer.
"Lieutenant Flipper replied in a few very sensible
and appropriate remarks: That he wished all success,
honor, and thanks to the companies for their kindness
and courtesy. Hoped they would all make soldiers and
tight for their country. That he was a soldier rather
than a speaker. That he had tried to do his duty at
West Point, and that he expected to continue to try
to do his duty, and 'again thanking you for your
hospitality, kindness, and attention to myself, I
renew my wish for your future success.'
"After the speaking there was a general hand-shaking.
The entire parade was very creditable indeed, showing
considerable proficiency in the tactics, and was
witnessed by a large crowd of about twelve hundred of
whites and blacks.
"This is the first review ever held by the colored
troops in the city of Macon. About eighty men rank
and file were out. The colors used was the United
States flag. The uniforms were tasty and well gotten
There was a very scurrilous article in one of the
Charleston (S.C.) papers. I have not been able to
get it. I am informed that after commenting on my
graduation, assignment, etc., it indulged in much
speculation as to my future. It told how I would
live, be treated, etc., how I would marry, beget
"little Flippers," and rear them up to "don the
army blue," and even went far enough to predict
their career. It was a dirty piece of literature,
and I am not very sorry I couldn't obtain it.
(From the Atlanta (Ga.) Republican.)
SUCCESSFUL COLORED YOUNG MEN.
"At length a colored youth has overcome the difficulties
that surrounded him as a student at the West Point
Military Academy, and has graduated, with the respect
of his white associates who were at first very much
opposed to him. Mr. Flipper, the successful young man
is a Georgia boy, and was appointed a cadet to West
Point from the Fifth Congressional District--the
Atlanta District--by Congressman Freeman, we believe.
He was raised by Rev. Frank Quarles, of this city, and
is regarded by him almost as a son.
"John F. Quarles, Esq., the son of Rev. Frank Quarles,
is spending a few days with his father. Mr.. J. F.
Quarles was educated in Pennsylvania since the war,
and returned to Georgia in 1870. He read law and was
admitted to the Augusta bar after a careful examination
before three of the ablest lawyers at that bar, which
is noted for its talent. He passed a very creditable
examination, and is, we believe, the only colored man
who has been admitted to the Georgia bar. He was soon
after appointed consul to Port Mahon, in the Mediterranean
Sea, and served with credit until he was legislated of
office by the Democratic Congress. President Hayes
recently appointed him consul to Malaga, Spain.
"Rev. Mr. Quarles is justly proud of two such boys."
Here, too, is a venerable colored man claiming the
honor of having raised me. Why, I never was away
from my mother and father ten consecutive hours in
my life until I went to West Point. It is possible,
nay, very probable, that he jumped me on his knee,
or boxed me soundly for some of my childish pranks,
but as to raising me, that honor is my mother's,
Before leaving West Point the following communications
were sent me from the head-quarters of the Liberia
Exodus Association, 10 Mary Street, Charleston S.C.
I replied in very courteous terms that I was opposed
to the whole scheme, and declined to have any thing to
do with it. I was in Charleston later in the year, and
while there I was besieged by some of the officers of
the association, who had not yet despaired of making me
"Generalissimo of Liberia's Army," as one of them
expressed himself. Wearied of their importunities, and
having no sympathy with the movement, I published the
following in the Charleston News and Courier:
FLIPPER ON LIBERIA.
"Lieutenant Flipper, of the Tenth United States Cavalry,
the newly- fledged colored West Pointer, has something
to say on the question of the Liberian Exodus, which
will be interesting to the people of his race. The
lieutenant, by his creditable career as a cadet at the
Military Academy, has certainly earned the right to be
heard by the colored population with at least as much
respect and attention as has been given to the very best
of the self-constituted apostles of the Exodus. Here is
To the Editor of The News and Courier:
"'SIR: A rumor has come to me from various sources,
to the effect-that I have promised to resign my
commission in the army after serving the two years
required by law, and to then accept another as General
Commander-in-Chief of the Liberian Army.
"'It has also come to my notice that many, particularly
in the counties adjoining Georgia, are being persuaded,
and intend going to Liberia because I have made this
"'I shall consider it no small favor if you will state
that there is no law requiring me to serve two years,
that I never authorized any such statement as here made,
that I have no sympathy whatever for the "Liberian
Exodus" movement, that I give it neither countenance nor
support, but will oppose it whenever I feel that the
occasion requires it. I am not at all disposed to flee
from one shadow to grasp at another--from the supposed
error of Hayes's Southern policy to the prospective
glory of commanding Liberia's army.
"'Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
"'HENRY O. FLIPPER,
"'Second Lieutenant Tenth U. S. Cavalry.
"'CHARLESTON, S.C., October 19, 1877.'"
THE LETTERS FROM CHARLESTON.
ROOMS OF THE LIBERIAN AFRICAN ASSOCIATION,
10 MARY STREET, CHARLESTON, S.C.,
June 22, 1877.
To HENRY O. FLIPPER, Esq.,
U. S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y.:
DEAR FRIEND AND BROTHER: Your future, as foreshadowed
by the press of this country, looks dismal enough. We
have conned its remarks with mingled feelings of
sympathy and exultation. Exultation! because we believe
fate has something higher and better in store for you
than they or you ever dreamed. Inclosed please find
copy of a letter to the Honorable the Secretary of
State. We have not yet received a reply. Also, inclosed,
a number of the Missionary Record containing the call
referred to. We have mentioned you in our note to His
Excellency Anthony Gardner, President of Liberia.
Please communicate with us and say if this letter and
inclosures do not open up a bright vista in the future
to your imagination and reasonable aspirations? We
picture to ourselves our efforts to obtain a line of
steamers crowned with success; and behold you as
commander-in-chief organizing and marshalling Liberia's
military forces in the interests of humanity at large,
and the especial development of a grand African
nationality that shall command the respect of the
So Afric shall resume her seat in the
Hall of Nations vast;
And strike upon her restrung lyre
The requiem of the past:
And sing a song of thanks to God,
For his great mercy shown,
In leading, with an outstretched arm,
The benighted wanderer home. Selah!
Provide yourself at once with maps, etc., master the
chorography of Africa in general, and the topography
of Liberia in particular, that is to say, the whole
range of the Kong mountains, including its eastern
slope on to the Niger, our natural boundary! for the
next thirty years! after that, onward! Cultivate
especially the artillery branch of the service; this
is the arm with which we can most surely overawe all
thought of opposition among the native tribes; whilst
military engineering will dot out settlements with
forts, against which, they will see, 'twould be
madness to hurl themselves. We desire to absorb and
cultivate them. The great obstacle to this is their
refusal to have their girls educated. This results
from their institution of polygamy. Slavery is the
same the world over--it demands the utter ignorance
of its victims. We must compel their enlightenment.
Have we not said enough? Does not your intelligence
grasp, and your ambition spring to the great work?
Let us hear from you. You can be a great power in
assisting to carry out our Exodus. If you desire we
will elect you a member of our council and keep you
advised of our proceedings. We forward you by this
mail some of our numbers and the Charleston News of
the 20th. See the article on yourself, and let it
nerve you to thoughts and deeds of greatness. Let
us know something about Baker and McClennan. Are
they at Annapolis? Cadets? (We will require a navy
as well as an army.) Also something about yourself.
What part of the State are you from? Hon. R. H. Cain
is not here, or probably he could inform us.
Affectionately yours. By our President,
B. F. PORTER,
Pastor of Morris Brown Chapel.
GEO. CURTIS, Corresponding Secretary.
P. S.--We have received a reply from the Secretary
of State--very courteous in its tone--but "regrets"
to say that he has "no special means of forming an
opinion upon the subject. The measure referred to
would require an Act of Congress, in respect to
whose future proceedings it would not be prudent
to venture a prediction."
The answer is all we expected. We have made ourselves
known to, and are recognized by, the Executive; our
next step is to address Senators Morton and Blaine--
Hon. R. H. Cain will see to it, that the question is
pushed in the House. G.C.
Rooms OF THE LIBERIA EXODUS ASSOCIATION,
10 MARY STREET, CHARLESTON, S.C.
June 14, 1877.
HON. WM. J. EVARTS,
Secretary of State, Washington, D.C.:
Sir: Inclosed please find a call on our people to
prepare to organize for an exodus to Liberia.
We think it explains itself, but any further
explanation called for we will gladly supply.
In the event of a sufficient response to our call,
please inform us if there is any probability of our
government placing one or more steamers on the route
between here, or Port Royal, and Liberia for our
transportation; and if so, then the charge for
passage; and if, to those unable to pay ready money,
time will be given, and the payment received in produce?
Tens of thousands are now eager to go from this State
alone, but we want a complete exodus, if possible,
from the whole United States; thus leaving you a
homogeneous people, opening up an immense market
for your products, giving a much required impetus
to your trade, commerce, and manufactures; and for
ourselves attaining a position where, removed from
under the shade of a "superior race," we will have
full opportunity for developing whatever capacity
of soul growth our Creator has endowed us with.
That Africa will be developed, and chiefly through the
instrumentality of its five millions of descendants in
America, is certain. Now the question is, who shall have
the chief handling and consequent benefit of this grand
instrument, next to itself, of course, for we are treating
of a sentient instrumentality. We beseech you that you do
not send us, Columbus-like, from court to court offering
the development of a new world to incredulous ears. We
are asking the President of Liberia, the American
Colonization Society, and all friends of the measure,
for their aid, advice, and co-operation.
We desire to carry our first shipment of emigrants not
later than September or October proximo.
We have the honor to be, Sir, in all respect and loyalty,
yours to command.
The Council of the L. E. A. By our President,
B. F. PORTER,
Pastor Morris Brown A.M.E. Church.
Here is an article from some paper in New Orleans.
Contempt is all it deserves. I am sure all my readers
will treat it as I do. Frogs will croak, won't they?
"With the successful examination of the colored cadet
Flipper, at West Point, and his appearance in the
gazette as a full-fledged lieutenant of cavalry, the
long vexed question has been settled just as it ceased
to be a question of any practical import. Out of three
or four experiments Flipper is the one success. As the
whole South has now passed into Democratic control, and
the prospect for Southern Republican congressmen is
small, the experiments will hardly be repeated, and
he must stand for those that might have been.
"It would be interesting to know how Flipper is to
occupy his time. The usual employments of young
lieutenants are of a social nature, such as leading
the German at Narraganset Pier and officiating in
select private theatricals in the great haunts of
Fashion. Flipper is described as a little bow-legged
grif of the most darkly coppery hue, and of a general
pattern that even the most enthusiastic would find it
hard to adopt. Flipper is not destined to uphold the
virtues and graces of his color in the salons of
Boston and New York, then, nor can he hope to escape
the disagreeably conspicuous solitude he now inhabits
among his fellow-officers through any of those agencies
of usage and familiarity which would result if other
Flippers were to follow him into the army and help to
dull the edge of the innovation. Just what Flipper is
to do with himself does not seem altogether clear.
Even the excitement of leading his men among the
redskins will be denied him, now that Spotted Tail has
pacified the malcontents and Sitting Bull has retired
to the Canadas. It is to be presumed that those persons
who patronized Flipper and had him sent to West Point
are gratified at the conclusion, and there is a sort of
reason for believing that Flipper himself is contented
with the lot he has accepted; but whether the experiment
is worth all the annoyance it occasions is a problem not
so easily disposed of.
"His prospects don't appear to be very brilliant as
regards social delights or domestic enjoyments, but
of course that is Flipper's business-- not ours. It
merely struck us that things had happened a little
unfortunately for him, to become the lonesome
representative of his race in the midst of associations
that object to him and at a time when the supply of
colored officers is permanently cut off. Personally we
are not interested in Flipper."
I am indebted to a Houston Texas, paper for the
THE COLORED WEST POINTER.
"We had a call yesterday from Lieutenant H. O.
Flipper, of the United States Army. Mr. Flipper,
it will be remembered, is the colored cadet who
graduated at the Military Academy at West Point
last session, occupying in his class a position
that secured his appointment to the cavalry service,
a mark of distinction. He was gazetted as second
lieutenant in the Tenth Cavalry, and he enjoys the
honor of being the first colored man who has passed
by all the regular channels into an official station
in the army.
"This young officer is a bright mulatto, tall and
soldierly, with a quiet unobtrusive manner, and the
bearing of a gentleman. As the forerunner of his race
in the position he occupies, he is placed in a delicate
and trying situation, a fact which he realizes. He
remarked that he knew it was one of the requirements of
an officer of the army to be a gentleman, a man of honor
and integrity under all circumstances, and he hoped to
be equal to his duties in this regard. He goes on to
Fort Concho to join his regiment, which is likely to
have work to do soon, if there is anything in the signs
of the times.
"We bespeak for this young officer the just consideration
to which the difficulties of his position entitle him."
I was originally ordered to Fort Concho, but at Houston,
Texas I met my lieutenant-colonel, who informed me that
My company was en route to Fort Sill. My orders were then
changed, and I proceeded to Sill.
Here is another article from a paper in the same place:
"The Age yesterday had a call from Henry O. Flipper
second lieutenant Tenth United States Cavalry, who
is on his way under orders to join his regiment at
Fort Concho. So far there is nothing very unusual
in this item, but interest will be given to it when
we add that Lieutenant Flipper is the first colored
graduate of West Point. He went to the institution
from Georgia, and graduated last June, fifty-fifth
in a class of seventy-six. There is a preponderance
of white blood in his veins, and in general appearance,
except for color, he is a perfect image of Senator
Plumb of Kansas. He reports that since he has struck
the South he has been treated like a gentleman, which
is something different from his experience in the North.
He made the acquaintance of Senator Maxey at West Point--
the Senator himself being a graduate of the Academy--and
regards him as a very pleasant gentleman. During the ten
minutes he spent in the Age editorial rooms several
prominent democrats of the city called to see and shake
hands with him, partly out of curiosity to see the colored
cadet who was so bitterly persecuted by Northern students
at West Point, and partly to bid him a welcome to the
South such as none of his political party friends would
have thought of giving him in the North. Before many
years he will be, as all intelligent colored men will
be, a democrat."
Wherever I have travelled in the South it has been
thrown into my face that the Southern people had,
would, and did treat me better than the Northern
people. This is wholly untrue. It is true that the
men generally speak kindly and treat me with due
courtesy, but never in a single instance has a
Southern man introduced me to his wife or even
invited me to his house. It was done North in every
place I stopped. In many cases, when invited to visit
gentlemen's residences, they have told me they wanted
their wives to meet me. A distinguished New York lady,
whose name has occurred in print several times with
mine, gave me with her own hands a handsome floral
tribute, just after receiving my diploma. During five
months' stay in the South, after my graduation, not a
single Southern white woman spoke to me. I mistake. I
did buy some articles from one who kept a book-store
in a country town in Georgia. This is the only exception.
This is the way Southern people treated me better than
Northern people. The white people (men) of Houston,
Texas, showed me every possible courtesy while I was
there. My treatment there was in high and honorable
contrast to that I received in Atlanta.
Here are two articles that have a few words to say
about me. I adopt and quote them at length:
(From the New York Tribune.)
"The examinations of the boys in the national school
have become an object of national interest this year
more than any other, simply because there is a
stagnation of other news. While the public is waiting
for an outbreak from Kars or the new party, it has
leisure to look into the condition of these incipient
officers. Hence reporters have crowded to West Point,
the Board of Visitors and cadets have both been
quickened to unwonted zeal by the consciousness of
the blaze of notoriety upon them, and the country has
read with satisfaction each morning of searching
examinations and sweeping cavalry charges, giving a
shrug however, at the enthusiastic recommendation of
certain members of the board that the number of yearly
appointments should be doubled or quadrupled. In this
cold ague of economy with which the nation is attacked
just now, and which leaves old army officers unpaid
for a disagreeably long time, the chances of any
addition to the flock in the nest are exceedingly
small. In fact, while the average American in war time
recognized the utility of a trained band of tacticians,
he is apt to grumble at their drain upon his pocket in
piping times of peace. Only last year he relieved himself
in Congress and elsewhere by a good deal of portentous
talking as to the expediency of doing away with the naval
and military free schools altogether. He has, in short,
pretty much the opinion of the army officer that Hodge
has of his parish priest, 'useful enough for Sundays and
funerals, but too consumedly expensive a luxury for week
"This opinion, no doubt, appears simply ludicrous
and vulgar to the gallant young fellows who are
being trained for their country's service up the
Hudson, and who already look upon themselves as its
supports and bulwarks, but there is a substratum of
common-sense in it which we commend to their
consideration, because, if for no other reason, that
the average American is the man who pays their bills
and to whom they owe their education and future
livelihood. If they do not accept his idea of the
conduct and motives of action by which they may
properly repay him the debt they owe, it certainly
is fitting that their own idea should be indisputably
a higher one. We begin to doubt whether it is not much
lower. The country, in establishing this school, simply
proposed to train a band of men skilled to serve it
when needed as tacticians, engineers, or disciplinarians;
the more these men founded their conduct on the bases of
good sense, honor, and republican principles, the better
and higher would be their service. The idea of the boys
themselves, however, within later years, seems to be
that they constitute an aristocratic class (moved by
any thing but republican principles) entitled to lay
down their own laws of good-breeding and honor. Accounts
which reach us of their hazing, etc., and notably their
treatment of the colored cadets, show that these notions
are quite different from those accepted elsewhere. Now
such ideas would be natural in pupils of the great French
or Austrian military schools, where admission testifies
to high rank by birth or to long, patient achievement on
the part of the student. But really our boys at West
Point must remember that they belong to a nation made
up of working and trades men; that they are the sons of
just such people; that the colored laborer helps to pay
for their support as well as that of the representative
of his race who sits beside them. Furthermore, they have
done nothing as yet to entitle them to assume authority
in such matters. They have recited certain lessons,
learned to drill and ride, and to wear their clothes
with precision; but something more is needed. The knight
of old was skilled in gentleness and fine courtesy to the
weak and unfortunate as well as in horsemanship. It was
his manners, not his trousers, which were beyond reproach.
"It is not as trifling a matter as it seems that these
young fellows should thus imbibe mistaken ideas of their
own position or the requirements of real manliness and
good-breeding. The greatest mistakes in the war were in
consequence of just such defects in some of our leading
officers, and the slaughter of the Indians in the South-
West upon two occasions proceeded from their inability
to recognize the rights of men of a different color from
themselves. Even in trifles, however, such matters follow
the rule of inexorable justice--as, for instance, in this
case of Cadet Flipper, who under ordinary circumstances
might have passed without notice, but is now known from
one end of the country to the other as a credit to his
profession in scholarship, pluck, and real dignity; while
his classmates are scarcely mentioned, though higher
in rank, except in relation to their cruel and foolish
conduct toward him."
(From the New York World.)
"WEST POINT, August 29.--In my earnest desire to do
justice to the grand ball last night I neglected to
mention the arrival of the new colored candidate for
admission into the United States, Military Academy,
although I saw him get off at the steamboat lauding
and was a witness to the supreme indifference with
which he was treated, save by a few personal friends.
Minnie passed the physical examination easily, for he
is a healthy mulatto. Whether this stern Alma Mater
will matriculate him is still a question. It is
really astonishing, and perhaps alarming, in view of
the enthusiastic endeavors of the Republican party
to confer upon the colored race all the rights and
privileges of citizens of the United States, to see
with what lofty contempt every candidate for academic
honors who is in the slightest degree 'off color,' is
received. As you are aware, there is at present a
colored, or partly colored, cadet in the Freshman
Class--Whittaker by name. This poor young mulatto is
completely ostracized not only by West Point society,
but most thoroughly by the corps of cadets itself.
Flipper got through all right, and, strange to say,
the cadets seem to have a certain kind of respect for
him, although he was the darkest 'African' that has
yet been seen among the West Point cadets. Flipper
had remarkable pluck and nerve, and was accorded his
parchment--well up on the list, too--at last graduation
day. He is made of sterner staff than poor Whittaker.
"A most surprising fact is that not one of the cadets
--and I think I might safely include the professors--
tries to dissemble his animosity for the black, mulatto,
or octoroon candidate. When I asked a cadet to-day some
questions concerning the treatment of Cadet Whittaker
by the corps, he said : 'Oh, we get along very well,
sir. The cadets simply ignore him, and he understands
very well that we do not intend to associate with him.'
This cadet and several others were asked whether Minnie,
if admitted, would also be ostracized socially. Their
only answer was: 'Certainly; that is well understood by
all. We don't associate with these men, but they have
all the rights that we have nevertheless.' I asked if
he knew whether Whittaker attended the ball last night.
The cadet said he didn't see him at the ball, but that
he might have been looking on from the front stoop! 'How
does this young man Whittaker usually amuse himself when
the rest of the boys are at play?' I asked. 'Well, we
don't get much play, and I think that Whittaker has as
much as he can do to attend to his studies. He managed
to pull through at last examination, but I doubt if he
ever graduates,' was the reply. Meeting another cadet
to whom I had been introduced I asked what he had heard
of the prospects of the new colored candidate, Minnie.
'I haven't heard any thing, but I hope he won't get
through,' said the cadet. Another cadet who stood near
said that the case of Flipper, who graduated so
successfully, was an exceptional one. Flipper didn't care
for any thing except to graduate, but he was confident
that these other colored cadets would fail. So far as I
have been able to ascertain, the Faculty have never
attempted to prevent the colored cadets from having an
equal chance with their white fellows. In fact under the
present management it would be next to impossible for
them to do so."
I can't let this article pass without quoting a few
words from a letter I have from Whittaker, now at West
Point. He says:
"I have been treated bully since I came in from camp
(of summer of '77). Got only one 'skin' last month
(Deccember, '77). I am still under '--' (tactical
officer), and he treats me bully; he wanted to have
a man court-martialled, when we were in camp, for
refusing to close up on me. One day a corporal put
me in the rear rank when there were plebes in the
front rank, and--told him if any such act ever
occurred again he would have him and the file confined
to the guard-house. He has never 'skinned' me since
you left. He is O.K. towards me, and the others are
afraid of him . . . . As I am sitting in my room on
third floor, sixth 'div,' a kind of sadness creeps over
me, for I am all alone. Minnie went home on last Friday.
He was weighed in the 'math' scale and found wanting.
The poor fellow did not study his 'math' and could not
help being 'found.' He was treated fairly and squarely,
but he did not study. I did all I could to help and
encourage him, but it was all in vain. He did not
like--(an instructor) very much, and a carelessness
seized him, which resulted in his dismissal. I was
sorry to see him go away, and he himself regretted it
very much. He saw his great error only when it was
too late. On the day he left he told me that he did
not really study a 'math' lesson since he entered; and
was then willing to give any thing to remain and redeem
himself. He had a very simple subject on examination,
and when he came back he told me that he had not seen
the subject for some two or three weeks before, and he,
consequently, did not know what to put on the board. All
he had on it was wrong, and he could not make his
The World reporter seems to be as ignorant as some
of the others. I was by no means the "darkest 'African'
that has yet been seen among the West Point cadets."
Howard, who reported in 1870 with Smith, was unadulterated,
as also were Werle and White, who reported in 1874. There
were others who were also darker than I am: Gibbs and
Napier, as I am informed. I never saw the last two.
The Brooklyn Eagle is more generous in its views. It
proposes to utilize me. See what it says:
"Probably Lieutenant Flipper could be made much more
useful than as a target for Indian bullets, if our
government would withdraw him from the army and place
him in some colored college, where he could teach the
pupils engineering, so that when they reach Africa they
could build bridges, railroads, etc."
This article was signed by "H. W. B." It is not
difficult to guess who that is.
I have had considerable correspondence with an army
officer, a stranger to me, on this subject of being
detailed at some college. He is of opinion it would
be best for me. I could not agree with him. After I
joined my company an effort (unknown to me) was made
by the Texas Mechanical and Agricultural College to
have me detailed there. It was published in the papers
that I had been so detailed. I made some inquiries,
learned of the above statements, and that the effort
had completely failed. Personally I'd rather remain
with my company. I have no taste and no tact for
teaching. I would decline any such appointment.
(From the Thomasville (Ga.) Times.)
"Wm. Flipper, the colored cadet, has graduated at West
Point and been commissioned as a second lieutenant of
cavalry in the United States Army. He is the first
colored individual who ever held a commission in the
army, and it remains to be seen how the thing will work.
Flipper's father resides here, and is a first-class boot
and shoe maker. A short time back he stated that he had
no idea his son would be allowed to graduate, but he
will be glad to know that he was mistaken."
Of course everybody knows my name is not William.
(From the, Thomasville (Ga.) Enterprise.)
"Lieutenant Henry O. Flipper of the United States Army
is spending a few days here with his father's family,
he has been on the streets very little, spending most
of his time at home. He wears an undress uniform and
deports himself, so far as we have heard, with perfect
propriety. This we believe he has done since his
graduation, with the exception of his unnecessary and
uncalled-for criticisms on the Southern people in his
Atlanta speech. He made a mistake there; one which his
sense and education ought to teach him not to repeat.
Not that it would affect our people, or that they care
about it, but for his own good."*
*In all the places I visited after graduation I was
treated with the utmost respect and courtesy except
in Atlanta. The white people, with one exception,
didn't notice me at all. All foreigners treated me
with all due consideration. One young man, whom I
knew many years, who has sold me many an article,
and awaited my convenience for his pay, and who met
me in New York, and walked and talked with me, hung
his head and turned away from me, just as I was about
to address him on a street in Atlanta. Again and again
have I passed and repassed acquaintances on the streets
without any sign of recognition, even when I have
addressed them. Whenever I have entered any of their
stores for any purpose, they have almost invariably
"gotten off" some stuff about attempts on the part of
the authorities at West Point to "freeze me out," or
about better treatment from Southern boys than from
those of the North. That is how they treated me in
Atlanta, although I had lived there over fourteen years,
and was known by nearly every one in the city. In
Thomasville, Southwest, Ga., where I was born, and which
I had not seen for eighteen years, I was received and
treated by the whites almost as one of themselves.
That "undress uniform" was a "cit" suit of blue Cheviot. The people there, like those in Atlanta, don't seem to know a black button from a brass one,
or a civilian suit from a military uniform.
(From the Charleston (S.C.) News and Courier.)
THE COLORED WESTPOINTER.
Lieutenant H. O. Flipper, the colored graduate of West Point, was entertained in style at Tully's, King Street, Tuesday night. The hosts were a colored organization called tile Amateur Literary and Fraternal Association, which determined that the lieutenant who will leave this city to-day to join his regiment, the Tenth Cavalry, now in Texas, should not do so without some evidence of their appreciation of him personally, and of the fact that he had reflected credit on their race by passing through the National Academy. Over forty persons were at the entertainment, to whom the lieutenant was presented by A. J. Ransier, the colored ex-member of Congress. The lieutenant responded briefly, as he has invariably done, and expressed his warm thanks for the courtesy shown by the association. A number of sentiments were offered and speeches made, and the evening passed off very agreeably to all, especially so to the recipient of the hospitality.
"Lieutenant Flipper expects to start to-day for Texas. While he has been in this city he has made friends with whites and blacks by he sensible course he has pursued."
(From the Charleston (S.C.) Commercial.)
LIEUTENANT FLIPPER'S ENTERTAINMENT.
"The Amateur Literary and Fraternal Association, of which A. J. Ransier is the President, learning that Lieutenant Flipper, of the United States Cavalry, was preparing to depart to the position assigned him on
duty on the plains in Texas, at once determined to give him a reception, and for this purpose the following committee was appointed to arrange the
details and programme for an entertainment: J. N. Gregg, W. H. Birny, A. J. Ransier, C. C. Leslie, and George A. Gibson.
"The arrangements were made, and the members of the association and invited guests to the number of some forty, of the most respectable colored people of Charleston, met last night at Tully's Hall, King Street, where a bounteous feast was prepared for the occasion. The guest, Lieutenant Flipper, soon arrived, and was introduced to the party, and, in the course of time, all sat down at the table, upon which was spread the most palatable dishes which the king caterer of Charleston could prepare. This was vigorously attacked by all.
"Wines were then brought on, and speech-making introduced as a set off. A. J. Ransier, in one of his usual pleasant speeches, introduced Lieutenant
Flipper, paying him a deserved tribute for his success in the attainment of the first commission issued to a colored graduate of West Point.
"Lieutenant Flipper, in a brief and courteous speech, acknowledged the compliment, and thanked the association for the kind attention paid him, promising them that in his future career in the army of his country he would
ever strive to maintain a position which would do credit to his race.
"W. H. Birney next responded in eloquent terms to
the toast, 'The State of South Carolina.' J. N. Gregg
was called upon, and responded in a wise and discreet
manner to the toast of 'The Future of the Colored Man
in this Country.' 'The Press' and 'Woman' were next
respectively toasted, and responded to by Ransier and
F. A. Carmand. Other speeches were made by C. C. Leslie,
J. J. Connor, and others, and at a late hour the party
retired, after a most pleasant evening's enjoyment.
Lieutenant Flipper leaves for Texas to-morrow."
Before closing my narrative I desire to perform a very
pleasant duty. I sincerely believe that all my success
at West Point is due not so much to my perseverance and
general conduct there as to the early moral and mental
training I received at the hands of those philanthropic
men and women who left their pleasant homes in the North
to educate and elevate the black portion of America's
citizens, and that, too, to their own discomfort and
disadvantage. How they have borne the sneers of the
Southern press, the ostracism from society in the South,
the dangers of Kuklux in remote counties, to raise up a
downtrodden race, not for personal aggrandizement, but
for the building up and glory of His kingdom who is no
respecter of persons, is surely worthy our deepest
gratitude, our heartfelt thanks, and our prayers and
blessing. Under the training of a good Christian old
lady, too old for the work, but determined to give her
mite of instruction, I learned to read and to cipher--
this in 1866. From her I was placed under control of a
younger person, a man. From him I passed to the control
of another lady at the famous "Storr's School." I
remained under her for two years more or less, when I
passed to the control of another lady in what was called
a Normal School. From here I went to the Atlanta
University, and prepared for the college course, which
in due time I took up. This course of training was the
foundation of all my after-success. The discipline,
which I learned to heed, because it was good, has been
of incalculable benefit to me. It has restrained and
shaped my temper on many an occasion when to have
yielded to it would have been ruin. It has regulated
my acts when to have committed them as I contemplated
would have been base unmanliness. And it has made my
conduct in all cases towards others generous, courteous,
and Christian, when it might otherwise have been mean,
base, and degrading. It taught me to be meek, considerate,
and kind, and I have verily been benefited by it.
The mind-training has been no less useful. Its
thoroughness, its completeness, and its variety
made me more than prepared to enter on the curriculum
of studies prescribed at West Point. A less thorough,
complete, or varied training would never have led to
the success I achieved. I was not prepared expressly
for West Point. This very thoroughness made me
competent to enter any college in the land.
How my heart looks back and swells with gratitude to
these trainers of my youth! My gratitude is deeply
felt, but my ability to express it is poor. May Heaven
reward them with long years of happiness and usefulness
here, and when this life is over, and its battles won,
may they enter the bright portals of heaven, and at His
feet and from His own hands receive crowns of immortal
JAMES WEBSTER SMITH, a native of South Carolina, was
appointed to a cadetship at the United States Military
Academy at West Point, New York, in 1870, by the Hon.
S. L. Hoge. He reported, as instructed, at the Military
Academy in the early summer of 1870, and succeeded in
passing the physical and intellectual examination
prescribed, and was received as a "conditional cadet."
At the same time one Howard reported, but unfortunately
did not succeed in "getting in."
In complexion Smith was rather light, possibly an
octoroon. Howard, on the contrary, was black. Howard
had been a student at Howard University, as also had
been Smith. Smith, before entering the Academy, had
graduated at the Hartford High School, and was well
prepared to enter upon the new course of studies at
In studies he went through the first year's course
without any difficulty, but unfortunately an affaire
d'honneur--a "dipper fight"--caused him to be put back
one year in his studies. In going over this course
again he stood very high in his class, but when it
was finished he began going down gradually until he
became a member of the last section of his class, an
"immortal," as we say, and in constant danger of being
He continued his course in this part of his class
till the end of his second class year, when he was
declared deficient in natural and experimental
philosophy, and dismissed. At this time he had been
in the Academy four years, but had been over only a
three-years' course, and would not have graduated
until the end of the next year, June, 1875.
As to his trials and experiences while a cadet, I
shall permit him to speak. The following articles
embrace a series of letters written by him, after his
dismissal, to the New National Era and Citizen, the
political organ of the colored people, published at
Washington, D. C.:
THE COLORED CADET AGAIN.
PERTINENT OR IMPERTINENT CARD FROM CADET SMITH.
"COLUMBIA, S.C., July 27,1874.
To the Editor of the National Republican:
"SIR: I saw an article yesterday in one of our local
papers, copied from the Brooklyn Argus, concerning
my dismissal from the Military Academy. The article
referred to closes as follows: 'Though he has written
letters to his friends, and is quite sanguine about
returning and finally graduating, the professors and
cadets say there is not the slightest chance. Said a
professor to a friend, the other day: "It will be a
long time before any one belonging to the colored race
can graduate at West Point."'
"Now, Sir, I would like to ask a few questions
through the columns of your paper concerning these
statements, and would be glad to have them answered
by some of the knowing ones.
"In the first place, what do the professors and
cadets know of my chances for getting back, and
if they know any thing, how did they find it out?
At an interview which I had with the Secretary of
War, on the 17th instant, he stated that he went
to West Point this year for a purpose, and that he
was there both before and after my examination, and
conversed with some of the professors concerning me.
Now, did that visit and those conversations have any
thing to do with the finding of the Academic Board?
Did they have any thing to do with that wonderful
wisdom and foresight displayed by the professors and
cadets in commenting upon my chances for getting back?
Why should the Secretary of War go to West Point this
year 'for a purpose,' and converse with the professors
about me both before and after the examination? Besides,
he spoke of an interview he had had with Colonel Ruger,
Superintendent of the Academy, in New York, on Sunday,
the 12th instant, in reference to me; during which
Colonel Ruger had said that the Academic Board would
not recommend me to return. Is it very wonderful that
the Academic Board should refuse such recommendation
after those very interesting conversations which were
held 'both before and after the recommendation?' Why
was the secretary away from West Point at the time of
"In the next place, by what divine power does that
learned oracle, a professor, prophesy that it will
be a long time before any one belonging to the
colored race can graduate at West Point? It seems
that he must have a wonderful knowledge of the negro
that he can tell the abilities of all the colored
boys in America. But it is possible that he is one
of the younger professors, perhaps the professor of
philosophy, and therefore expects to live and preside
over that department for a long time, though to the
unsophisticated mind it looks very much as though he
would examine a colored cadet on the color of his face.
"I think he could express himself better and come much
nearer the truth by substituting shall for can in that
sentence. Of course, while affairs remain at West Point
as they have always been, and are now, no colored boy
will graduate there; but there are some of us who are
sanguine about seeing a change, even if we can't get
"J. W. SMITH,
"Late Cadet U.S.M.A."
THE DIPPER DIFFICULTY.
"COLUMBIA, S.C., July 30, 1874.
To the Editor of the New National Era:
As I told you in my last communication, I shall now
proceed to give you an account of my four years' stay
at West Point.
"I reported there on the 31st of May, 1870, and had
not been there an hour before I had been reminded by
several thoughtful cadets that I was 'nothing but a
d--d nigger.' Another colored boy, Howard, of
Mississippi, reported on the same day, and we were
put in the same room, where we stayed until the
preliminary examination was over, and Howard was sent
away, as he failed to pass.
"While we were there we could not meet a cadet
anywhere without having the most opprobrious
epithets applied to us; but after complaining two
or three times, we concluded to pay no attention
to such things, for, as we did not know these
cadets, we could get no satisfaction.
"One night about twelve o'clock some one came into
our room, and threw the contents of his slop-pail
over us while we were asleep. We got to our door
just in time to hear the 'gentleman' go into his
room on the floor above us. This affair reported
itself the next morning at 'Police Inspection,' and
the inspector ordered us to search among the tobacco
quids, and other rubbish on the floor, for something
by which we might identify the perpetrator of the
affair. The search resulted in the finding of an old
envelope, addressed to one McCord, of Kentucky. That
young 'gentleman' was questioned in reference, but
succeeded in convincing the authorities that he had
nothing to do with the affair and knew nothing of it.
"A few days after that, Howard was struck in the
face by that young 'gentleman,' 'because,' as he
says, 'the d--d nigger didn't get out of the way
when I was going into the boot-black's shop.' For
that offence Mr. McCord was confined to his room,
but was never punished, as in a few days thereafter
he failed at the preliminary examination, and was
sent away with all the other unfortunates, including
"On the 28th of June, 1870, those of us who had
succeeded in passing the preliminary examination
were taken in 'plebe camp,' and there I got my taste
of 'military discipline,' as the petty persecutions
of about two hundred cadets were called. Left alone
as I was, by Howard's failure, I had to take every
insult that was offered, without saying any thing,
for I had complained several times to the Commandant
of Cadets, and, after 'investigating the matter,' he
invariably came to the conclusion, 'from the evidence
deduced,' that I was in the wrong, and I was cautioned
that I had better be very particular about any statements
that I might make, as the regulations were very strict
on the subject of veracity.
"Whenever the 'plebes' (new cadets) were turned out to
'police' camp, as they were each day at 5 A.M. and 4
P.M., certain cadets would come into the company street
and spit out quids of tobacco which they would call for
me to pick up. I would get a broom and shovel for the
purpose, but they would immediately begin swearing at
and abusing me for not using my fingers, and then the
corporal of police would order me to put down that broom
and shovel, 'and not to try to play the gentleman here,'
for my fingers were 'made for that purpose.' Finding
there was no redress to be had there, I wrote my friend
Mr. David Clark, of Hartford, Ct., to do something for
me. He had my letter published, and that drew the
attention of Congress to the matter, and a board was
sent to West Point to inquire into the matter and
report thereon. That board found out that several
cadets were guilty of conduct unbecoming a cadet and
a gentleman and recommended that they be court-
martialled, but the Secretary of War thought a
reprimand would be sufficient. Among those reprimanded
were Q. O'M. Gillmore, son of General Gillmore; Alex. B.
Dyer, son of General Dyer; and James H. Reid, nephew of
the Secretary of War (it is said). I was also reprimanded
for writing letters for publication.
"Instead of doing good, these reprimands seemed
only to increase the enmity of the cadets, and they
redoubled their energies to get me into difficulty,
and they went on from bad to worse, until from words
they came to blows, and then occurred that 'little
onpleasantness' known as the 'dipper fight.' On the
13th of August, 1870, I, being on guard, was sent to
the tank for a pail of water. I had to go a distance
of about one hundred and fifty yards, fill the pail by
drawing water from the faucet in a dipper (the faucet
was too low to permit the pail to stand under it), and
return to the guard tent in ten minutes. When I reached
the tank, one of my classmates, J. W. Wilson, was standing
in front of the faucet drinking water from a dipper. He
didn't seem inclined to move, so I asked him to stand
aside as I wanted to get water for the guard. He said:
'I'd like to see any d--d nigger get water before I get
through.' I said: 'I'm on duty, and I've got no time to
fool with you,' and I pushed the pail toward the faucet.
He kicked the pail over, and I set it up and stooped
down to draw the water, and then he struck at me with
his dipper, but hit the brass plate on the front of my
hat and broke his dipper. I was stooping down at the
time, but I stood up and struck him in the face with
my left fist; but in getting up I did not think of a
tent fly that was spread over the tank, and that pulled
my hat down over my eyes. He then struck me in the face
with the handle of his dipper (he broke his dipper at
the first blow), and then I struck him two or three
times with my dipper, battering it, and cutting him
very severely on the left side of 'his head near the
temple. He bled very profusely, and fell on the ground
near the tank.
"The alarm soon spread through the camp, and all the
cadets came running to the tank and swearing vengeance
on the 'd--d nigger.'
"An officer who was in his tent near by came out and
ordered me to be put under guard in one of the guard
tents, where I was kept until next morning, when I
was put 'in arrest.' Wilson was taken to the hospital,
where he stayed two or three weeks, and as soon as he
returned to duty he was also placed in arrest. This
was made the subject for a court-martial, and that
court-martial will form the subject of my next
"J. W. SMITH,
"Late Cadet U.S.M.A."
THE INJUSTICE AT WEST POINT.
"COLUMBIA, S.C., August 7, 1874.
To the Editor of the New National Era:
"SIR: In my last communication I related the
circumstances of the 'dipper fight,' and now we
come to the court-martial which resulted therefrom.
"But there was another charge upon which I was tried
at the same time, the circumstances of which I will
"On the 15th of August, 1870, just two days after the
'dipper fight,' Cadet Corporal Beacom made a report
against me for 'replying in a disrespectful manner to
a file-closer when spoken to at drill, P.M. For this
alleged offence I wrote an explanation denying the
charge; but Cadet Beacom found three cadets who swore
that they heard me make a disrespectful reply in ranks
when Cadet Beacom, as a file-closer on duty, spoke to
me, and the Commandant of Cadets, Lieutenant Colonel
Upton, preferred charges against me for making false
"The court to try me sat in September, with General O.
O. Howard as President. I plead 'not guilty' to the
charge of assault on Cadet Wilson, and also to the
charge of making false statements.
"The court found both Cadet Wilson and myself 'guilty'
of assault, and sentenced us to be confined for two or
three weeks, with some other light punishment in the
form of 'extra duty.'
The finding of the court was approved by President
Grant in the case of Cadet Wilson, but disapproved
in my case, on the ground that the punishment was
not severe enough. Therefore, Cadet W. served his
punishment and I did not serve mine, as there was
no authority vested in the President to increase it.
"On the second charge I was acquitted, for I proved,
by means of the order book of the Academy that there
was no company drill on that day--the 15th of August
--that there was skirmish drill, and by the guard
reports of the same date, that Cadet Beacom and two
of his three witnesses were on guard that day, and
could not have been at drill, even if there had been
one. To some it might appear that the slight
inconsistencies existing between the sworn testimony
of those cadets and the official record of the Academy,
savored somewhat of perjury, but they succeeded in
explaining the matter by saying that 'Cadet Beacom
only made a mistake in date.' Of course he did; how
could it be otherwise? It was necessary to explain it
in some way so that I might be proved a liar to the
corps of cadets, even if they failed to accomplish
that object to the satisfaction of the court.
"I was released in November, after the proceedings
and findings of the court had been returned from
Washington, where they had been sent for the approval
of the President, having been in arrest for three
months. But I was not destined to enjoy my liberty
for any length of time, for on the 13th of December,
same year, I was in the ranks of the guard, and was
stepped on two or three times by Cadet Anderson, one
of my classmates, who was marching beside me.
"As I had had some trouble with the same cadet some
time before, on account of the same thing I believed
that he was doing it intentionally, and as it was very
annoying, I spoke to him about it, saying: "I wish you
would not tread on my toes.' He answered: 'Keep your
d--d toes out of the way.' Cadet Birney, who was
standing near by, then made some invidious remarks
about me, to which I did not condescend to reply. One
of the Cadet Corporals, Bailey, reported me for
'inattention in ranks,' and in my written explanation
of the offence, I detailed the circumstances, but both
Birney and Anderson denied them, and the Commandant of
Cadets took their statement in preference to mine, and
preferred charges against me for falsehood.
"I was court martialled in January, 1871, Captain
Piper, Third Artillery, being President of the court.
By this court I was found I 'guilty,' as I had no
witnesses, and had nothing to expect from the
testimony of the witnesses for the prosecution. Cadet
Corporal Bailey, who made the report, Cadets Birney
and Anderson were the witnesses who convicted me; in
fact they were the only witnesses summoned to testify
in the case. The sentence of the court was that I
should be dismissed, but it was changed to one year's
suspension, or, since the year was almost gone before
the finding of the court was returned from Washington,
where it was sent for the approval of President Grant,
I was put back one year.
"I had no counsel at this trial, as I knew it would be
useless, considering the one-sided condition of affairs.
I was allowed to make the following written statement
of the affair to be placed among the records of the
proceedings of the court:
"'May it please the court: I stand here to-day
charged with a most disgraceful act--one which
not only affects my character, but will, if I am
found guilty, affect it during my whole life--and
I shall attempt, in as few words as possible, to
show that I am as innocent as any person in this
room. I was reported on the 18th of December, 1870,
for a very trivial offence. For this offence I
submitted an explanation to the Commandant of
Cadets. In explanation I stated the real cause of
committing the offence for which I was reported.
But this cause, as stated, involved another cadet,
who, finding himself charged with an act for which
he was liable to punishment, denies all knowledge
of it. He tries to establish his denial by giving
evidence which I shall attempt to prove absurd. On
the morning of the 13th of December, 1870, at guard-
mounting, after the new guard had marched past the
old guard, and the command of "Twos left, halt!" had
been given, the new guard was about two or three yards
to the front and right of the old guard. Then the
command of "Left backward, dress," was given to the
new guard, "Order arms, in place rest." I then turned
around to Cadet Anderson, and said to him, "I wish you
would not tread on my toes." This was said in a moderate
tone, quite loud enough for him to hear. He replied, as
I understood, " Keep your d-d toes out of the way." I
said nothing more, and he said nothing more. I then
heard Cadet Birney say to another cadet--I don't know
who it was--standing by his side, "It (or the thing) is
speaking to Mr. Anderson. If he were to speak to me I
would knock him down." I heard him distinctly, but as
I knew that he was interfering in an affair that did
not concern him, I took no further notice of him, but
turned around to my original position in the ranks.
What was said subsequently I do not know, for I paid
no further attention to either party. I heard nothing
said at any time about taking my eyes away, or of Cadet
Anderson compromising his dignity. Having thus reviewed
the circumstances which gave rise to the charge, may
it please the court, I wish to say a word as to the
witnesses. Each of these cadets testifies to the fact
that they have discussed the case in every particular,
both with each other and with other cadets. That is,
they have found out each other's views and feelings in
respect to it, compared the evidence which each should
give, the probable result of the trial; and one has
even testified that he has expressed a desire as to
the result. Think you that Cadet Birney, with such a
desire in his breast, influencing his every thought
and word, with such an end in view, could give evidence
unbiassed, unprejudiced, and free from that desire that
"Cadet Smith might be sent away and proved a liar?"
Think you that he could give evidence which should be
"the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,
so help me God?" It seems impossible for me to have
justice done me by the evidence of such witnesses, but
I will leave that for the court to decide. There is
another question here which must be answered by the
finding of the court. It is this: "Shall Cadet Smith
be allowed to complain to the Commandant of Cadets when
he considers himself unjustly dealt with?" When the
court takes notice of the fact that this charge and
these specifications are the result of a complaint made
by me, it will agree with me as to the importance its
findings will have in answering that question. As to
what the finding will be, I can say nothing; but if the
court is convinced that I have lied, then I shall expect
a finding and sentence in accordance with such
conviction. A lie is as disgraceful to one man as another,
be he white or black, and I say here, as I said to the
Commandant of Cadets, "If I were guilty of falsehood, I
should merit and expect the same punishment as any other
cadet;" but, as I said before, I am as innocent of this
charge as any person in this room. The verdict of an
infallible judge--conscience-- is, "Not guilty," and that
is the finding I ask of this court.
(Signed) "'J. W. SMITH,
"'Thus ended my second and last court-martial.
"J. W. SMITH,
"Late Cadet U.S.M.A."
THE HONOR OF A CADET AND GENTLEMAN.
To the Editor of the New National Era:
"SIR: In relating the events of my first year at West
Point, I omitted one little affair which took place,
and I will now relate the circumstances. One Sunday,
at dinner, I helped myself to some soup, and one cadet,
Clark, of Kentucky, who sat opposite me at table, asked
me what I meant by taking soup before he had done so. I
told him that I took it because I wished it, and that
there was a plenty left. He seemed to be insulted at
that, and asked: 'Do you think I would eat after a d--d
Nigger?' I replied: 'I have not thought at all on the
subject, and, moreover, I don't quite understand you,
as I can't find that last word in the dictionary.' He
then took up a glass and said he would knock my head
off. I told him to throw as soon as he pleased, and as
soon as he got through I would throw mine. The commandant
of the table here interfered and ordered us to stop
creating a disturbance at the table, and gave me to
understand that thereafter I should not touch any thing
on that table until the white cadets were served.
"When we came back from dinner, as I was going into
my room, Cadet Clark struck at me from behind. He hit
me on the back of my neck, causing me to get into my
room with a little more haste than I anticipated, but
he did not knock me down. He came into my room,
following up his advantage, and attempted to take me
by the throat, but he only succeeded in scratching me
a little with his nails, as I defended myself as well
as possible until I succeeded in getting near my bayonet,
which I snatched from the scabbard and then tried to put
it through him. But being much larger and stronger than
I, he kept me off until he got to the door, but then he
couldn't get out, for some one was holding the door on
the outside, for the purpose, I suppose, of preventing
my escape, as no doubt they thought I would try to get
out. There were a great many cadets outside on the
stoop, looking through the window, and cheering their
champion, with cries of 'That's right, Clark; kill the
d--d nigger,' 'Choke him,' 'Put a head on him,' etc.,
but when they saw him giving way before the bayonet,
they cried, 'Open the door, boys,' and the door was
opened, and Mr. Clark went forth to rejoice in the
bosom of his friends as the hero of the day. The
cadet officer of the day 'happened around' just after
Clark had left, and wanted to know what did I mean by
making all that noise in and around my quarters. I
told him what the trouble was about, and soon after
I was sent for by the 'officer in charge,' and
questioned in reference to the affair. Charges were
preferred against Clark for entering my room and
assaulting me, but before they were brought to trial
he sent two of his friends tome asking if I would
withdraw the charges providing he made a written
apology. I told these cadets that I would think of
the matter and give them a definite answer the next
"I was perfectly well satisfied that he would be
convicted by any court that tried him; but the cadets
could easily prove (according to their way of giving
evidence) that I provoked the assault, and I, besides,
was utterly disgusted with so much wrangling, so when
the cadets called that evening I told them that if his
written apology was satisfactory I would sign it, submit
it to the approval of the Commandant of Cadets, and
have the charges withdrawn.
"They then showed me the written apology offered by
Clark, in which he stated that his offence was caused
by passion, because he thought that when I passed him
on the steps in going to my room I tried to brush
against him. He also expressed his regret for what he
had done, and asked forgiveness. I was satisfied with
his apology, and signed it, asking that the charges be
withdrawn, which was done, of course, and Clark was
released from arrest. I will, in justice to Cadet
Clark, state that I never had any further trouble with
him, for, while he kept aloof from me, as the other
cadets did, he alway thereafter acted perfectly fair
by me whenever I had any official relations with him.
"A few days after the settlement of our dispute I found,
on my return from fencing one day, that some one had
entered my room and had thrown all my clothes and other
property around the floor, and had thrown the water out
of my water-pail upon my bed. I immediately went to the
guard-house and reported the affair to the officer of
the day, who, with the 'officer in charge,' came to my
room to see what had been done. The officer of the day
said that he had inspected my quarters soon after I went
to the Fencing Academy and found everything in order,
and that it must have been done within a half hour. The
Commandant of the Cadets made an investigation of the
matter, but could not find out what young 'gentleman'
did it, for every cadet stated that he knew nothing of
it, although the corps of cadets has the reputation of
being a truthful set of young men.
"'Upon my honor as a cadet and a gentleman,'" is a
favorite expression with the West Point cadet; but
what kind of honor is that by which a young man can
quiet his conscience while telling a base falsehood
for the purpose of shielding a fellow-student from
punishmen for a disgraceful act? They boast of the
esprit de corps existing among the cadets; but it is
merely a cloak for the purpose of covering up their
iniquities and silencing those (for there are some)
who would, if allowed to act according to the dictates
of their own consciences, be above such disgraceful
acts. Some persons might attribute to me the same
motives that actuated the fox in crying 'sour grapes,'
and to such I will say that I never asked for social
equality at West Point. I never visited the quarters
of any professor, official, or cadet except on duty,
for I did not wish any one to think that I was in any
way desirous of social recognition by those who felt
themselves superior to me on account of color. As I
was never recognized as 'a cadet and a gentleman,' I
could not enjoy that blessed privilege of swearing
'upon my honor,' boasting of my share in the esprit de
corps, nor of concealing my sins by taking advantage of
them. Still, I hope that what I lost (?) by being
deprived of these little benefits will be compensated
for the 'still small voice,' which tells me that I have
done my best.
"J. W. SMITH,
"Late Cadet U.S.M.A."
COLUMBIA, S.C., August 19, 1874.
To the Editor of the New National Era:
"SIR: My communications, thus far, have brought me
to the end of my first year at the Academy, and now
we come to the events of the second. In June of 1871,
the proverbial silver lining, which the darkest cloud
is said to have, began to shine very faintly in the
West Point firmament, and I thought that at last the
darkness of my cadet life was to be dispelled by the
appearance above the horizon of another colored cadet.
And, indeed, I was not disappointed, for, one day, I
was greeted by the familiar face and voice of Mr. H. A.
Napier, a former fellow-student at Howard University.
Soon after his arrival, and admittance, the corps of
'cadets, accompanied by the 'plebes,' took up quarters
in camp-- 'plebe camp' to the latter, and 'yearling
camp' to us who had entered the previous year.
"During the cadet encampment there are certain dances
given three times each week, known as 'Cadet Hops.'
These 'hops' are attended by the members of the first
and third classes, and their lady friends, and no
'plebe' ever has the assurance of dreaming of
attending the 'hops' until he shall have risen to
the dignity of a 'yearling'--third-classman. So long
as I was a 'plebe,' no one anticipated any such dire
calamity as that I would attend the 'hops,' but as
soon as I became a 'yearling,' and had a perfect right
to go, if I wished, there was a great hue and cry
raised that the sanctity of the 'hop' room was to be
violated by the colored cadet.
"Meetings were held by the different classes, and resolutions passed to the effect that as soon as the colored cadet entered the 'hop' room, the 'hop'
managers were to declare the 'hop' ended, and dismiss the musicians. But the 'hops' went on undisturbed by the presence of the colored cadet for two or three weeks, and all began to get quiet again, when one day my brother and sister, with a couple of lady friends whom they had come to visit, came to camp to see me.
"This started afresh the old report about the 'hops,' and every one was on the qui vive to get a glimpse of 'nigger Jim and the nigger wenches who are going to the hops,' as was remarked by a cadet who went up from the guard tent to spread the alarm through camp.
"In a few minutes thereafter the 'gentlemen' had all taken position at the end of the 'company street,' and, with their opera-glasses, were taking observations upon those who, as they thought, had come to desecrate the
'hop' room. I was on guard that day, but not being on post at that time, I was sitting in rear of the guard tents with my friends--that place being provided with camp-stools for the accommodation of visitors-- when a
cadet corporal, Tyler, of Kentucky, came and ordered me to go and fasten down the corner of the first guard tent, which stood a few paces from where we were sitting.
"I went to do so, when he came there also, and immediately began to rail at me for being so slow, saying he wished me to know that when he ordered
me to do anything, I must 'step out' about it, and not try to shirk it. I said nothing, but fastened down the corner of the tent, and went back to where my friends were.
"In a few minutes afterwards he came back, and wanted to know why I hadn't fastened down that tent wall. I told him that I had.
"He said it was not fastened then, and that he did not wish any prevarication on my part.
"I then told him that he had no authority to charge me with prevarication, and that if he believed that I had not fastened down the tent wall, the only thing he could do was to report me. I went back to the tent and found that either Cadet Tyler or some other cadet had unfastened the tent wall, so I fastened it down again. Nothing now was said to me by Cadet Tyler, and
I went back to where my friends were: but we had been sitting there only about a half hour, when a private soldier came to us and said, 'It is near time for parade, and you will have to go away from here.' I never was more surprised in my life, and I asked the soldier what he meant, for I surely thought be was either drunk or crazy, but he said that the superintendent had given him orders to allow no colored persons near the visitors' seats during parade.
"I asked him if he recognized me as a cadet. He said he did. I then told him that those were my friends; that I had invited them there to see the parade, and that they were going to stay. He said he had nothing to do with me, of course, but that he had to obey the orders of the superintendent. I then went to the officer of the guard, who was standing near by, and stated the
circumstances to him, requesting him to protect us from such insults. He spoke to the soldier, saying that he had best not try to enforce that order, as the order was intended to apply to servants, and then the soldier went
off and left us.
"Soon after that the drum sounded for parade, and I was compelled to leave my friends for the purpose of falling in ranks, but promising to return as soon as the parade was over, little thinking that I should not be able to redeem that promise; but such was the case, as I shall now proceed to show.
"Just as the companies were marching off the parade ground, and before the guard was dismissed, the 'officer in charge,' Lieutenant Charles King, Fifth
Cavalry, came to the guard tent and ordered me to step out of ranks three paces to the front, which I did.
"He then ordered me to take off my accoutrements and
place them with my musket on the gun rack. That being
done, he ordered me to take my place in the centre of
the guard as a prisoner, and there I stood until the
ranks were broken, when I was put in the guard tent.
Of course my friends felt very bad about it, as they
thought that they were the cause of it, while I could
Not speak a word to them, as they went away; and even
if I could have spoken to them, I could not have
explained the matter, for I did not know myself why I
had been put there--at least I did not know what charge
had been trumped up against me, though I knew well
enough that I had been put there for the purpose of
keeping me from the 'hop,' as they expected I would go.
The next morning I was put 'in arrest' for 'disobedience
of orders in not fastening down tent wall when ordered,'
and 'replying in a disrespectful manner to a cadet
corporal,' etc.; and thus the simplest thing was
magnified into a very serious offence, for the purpose
of satisfying the desires of a few narrow-minded cadets.
That an officer of the United States Army would allow
his prejudices to carry him so far as to act in that
way to a subordinate, without giving him a chance to
speak a word in his defence--nay, without allowing him
to know what charge had been made against him, and that
he should be upheld in such action by the 'powers that
be,' are sufficient proof to my mind of the feelings
which the officers themselves maintained towards us.
While I was in ranks, during parade, and my friends
were quietly sitting down looking at the parade, another
model 'officer and gentleman,' Captain Alexander Piper,
Third Artillery--he was president of my second court-
martial--came up, in company with a lady, and ordered
my brother and sister to get up and let him have their
camp-stools, and he actually took away the camp-stools
and left them standing, while a different kind of a
gentleman--an 'obscure citizen,' with no aristocratic
West Point dignity to boast of--kindly tendered his
camp-stool to my sister.
"I only wish I knew the name of that gentleman; but I
could not see him then, or I should certainly have
found it out, though in answer to my brother's question
as to his name, he simply replied, 'I am an obscure
citizen.' What a commentary on our 'obscure citizens,'
who know what it is to be gentlemen in something else
besides the name--gentlemen in practice, not only in
theory--and who can say with Burns that 'a mans a man
for a' that,' whether his face be as black as midnight
or as white as the driven snow.
"There is something in such a man which elevates him
above many others who, having nothing else to boast of,
can only say, 'I am a white man, and am therefore your
superior,' or 'I am a West Point graduate, and therefore
an officer and a gentleman.'
"After the usual 'investigation' by the Commandant of
Cadets, I was sentenced to be confined to the 'company
street' until the 15th of August, about five weeks, so
that I could not get out to see my brother and sister
after that, except when I was at drill, and then I could
not speak to them. I tried to get permission to see them
in the 'Visitors' Tent' the day before they left the
'Point' on their return home, but my permit was not
granted, and they left without having the privilege of
"I must say a word in reference to the commandant's
method of making 'investigations.' After sending for
Cadet Corporal Tyler and other white cadets, and
hearing their side of the story in reference to the
tent wall and the disrespectful reply, he sent for
me to hear what I had to say, and after I had given
my version of the affair, he told me that I must
surely be mistaken, as my statement did not coincide
with those of the other cadets, who were unanimous
in saying that I used not only disrespectful, but
also profane language while addressing the cadet
corporal. I told him that new Cadet Napier and my
brother were both there and heard the conversation,
and they would substantiate my statement if allowed
to testify. He said he was convinced that I was in
the wrong, and he did not send for either of them.
What sort of justice is that which can be meted out
to one without allowing him to defend himself, and
even denying him the privilege of calling his evidence?
What a model Chief Justice the Commandant of Cadets
would make, since he can decide upon the merits of the
case as soon as he has heard one side. Surely he has
missed his calling by entering the army, or else the
American people cannot appreciate true ability,
for that 'officer and gentleman' ought now to be
wearing the judicial robe so lately laid down by the
"In reply to my complaint about the actions of the
soldier in ordering my friends away from the visitors'
seats, he said that the soldier had misunderstood his
orders, as the superintendent had told him to keep the
colored servants on the 'Point' from coming in front
of the battalion at parade, and that it was not meant
to apply to my friends, who could come there whenever
"It seems, though, very strange to me that the soldier
could misunderstand his orders, when he saw me sitting
there in company with them, for it is one of the
regulations of the Academy which forbids any cadet to
associate with a servant, and if I had been seen doing
such a thing I would have been court-martialled for
'conduct unbecoming a cadet and a gentleman."
"The cadets were, of course, very much rejoiced
at my being 'in arrest,' and after my sentence
had been published at parade, they had quite a
jubilee over it, and boasted of 'the skill and
tact which Cadet Tyler had shown in putting the
nigger out of the temptation of taking those black
wenches to the hops.' They thought, no doubt, that
their getting me into trouble frightened me out of
any thoughts I might have had of attending the 'hops;'
but if I had any idea of going to the 'hops,' I should
have been only more determined to go, and should have
done so as soon as my term of confinement was ended.
I have never thought of going to the 'hops,' for it
would be very little pleasure to go by myself, and I
should most assuredly not have asked a lady to subject
herself to the insults consequent upon going there.
Besides, as I said before, I did not go to West Point
for the purpose of advocating social equality, for
there are many cadets in the corps with whom I think
it no honor for any one to associate, although they are
among the high-toned aristocrats, and will, no doubt,
soon be numbered among the 'officers and gentlemen' of
the United States Army.
"J. W. SMITH,
"Late Cadet U.S.M.A."
REPLY TO THE "WASHINGTON CHRONICLE."
"COLUMBIA, S.C., August 25, 1874.
To the Editor of the New National Era:
"SIR: The following article appeared in the Washington
Chronicle of the 14th inst., and as I feel somewhat
interested in the statements therein contained, I
desire to say a few words in reference to them. The
article referred to reads as follows:
"'The recent attack of the colored, ex-Cadet Smith
upon the Board of Visitors at West Point has attracted
the attention of the officers of the War Department.
They say that the Secretary of War was extremely liberal
in his interpretation of the regulations on behalf of
Cadet Smith, and that he did for him what had never been
done for a white boy in like circumstances. The officers
also say that Smith was manifestly incompetent, that he
had a fair examination, and that the Congressional Board
of Visitors unanimously testified to his incompetency.'
"Now, sir, I am at a loss to know what are 'the recent
attacks of the colored ex-Cadet Smith upon the Board of
Visitors,' for I am not aware that I have said any thing,
either directly or indirectly, concerning the Board of
Visitors. My remarks thus far have been confined to the
Academic Board and Secretary of War.
"As the members of the Board of Visitors were simply
spectators, and as they were not present when I was
examined, I had no reason to make any 'attack' upon
them, and, therefore, as I said before, confined my
remarks (or 'attacks,' if that word is more acceptable
to the Chronicle) to those who acted so unjustly toward
"As to the extreme liberality of the Secretary of War,
in his interpretation of the regulations on behalf of
Cadet Smith, and that he did for him what he had never
'done for a white boy in like circumstances,' I hardly
know what to say; for such absurd cant seems intended
to excite the laughter of all who know the circumstances
of the case. What devoted servants those officers of the
War Department must be, that they can see in their chief
so much liberality!
"But in what respect was the Secretary of War so
'liberal in his interpretation of the regulations?'
"Was it in dismissing me, and turning back to a lower
class two white cadets who had been unable to complete
successfully the first year of the course with everything
in their favor, while I had completed three years of the
same course in spite of all the opposition which the whole
corps of cadets, backed by the 'powers that be,' could
throw in my way? Or was it his decision that 'I can give
Mr. Smith a re-examination, but I won't?' The Chronicle
is perfectly correct in saying 'that he did for him what
had never been done for a white boy in like circumstances,'
for, in the first place, I don't think there ever was 'a
white boy in like circumstances,' certainly not while I
was at the Academy, and if there ever were a white boy so
placed, we are pretty safe in concluding, from the general
treatment of white boys, that the secretary was not so
frank in his remarks nor so decided in his action.
"'I want another cadet to represent your district at
West Point, and I have already sent to Mr. Elliott to
appoint one,' means something more than fair dealing
(or, as the Chronicle would imply, partiality) toward
the colored cadet. It means that the gentleman was
pleasing himself in the choice of a cadet from the
Third Congressional District of South Carolina, and
that he did not recognize the rights of the people of
that district to choose for themselves. 'You are out
of the service and will stay out,' for 'the Academic
Board will not recommend you to come back under any
circumstances,' shows that it is the Academic Board
That must choose our representative, and not we
ourselves, and that our wishes are only secondary in
comparison with those of the service and the Academic
Board. We are no longer free citizens of a sovereign
State, and of the United States, with the right to
choose for ourselves those who shall represent us; but
we must be subordinate to the Secretary of War and the
Academic Board, and must make our wishes subservient to
those of the above-named powers, and unless we do that
we are pronounced to be 'naturally bad'--as remarked
the Adjutant of the Academy, Captain R. H. Hall, to a
Sun reporter--and must have done for us 'what had never
been done for a white boy in like circumstances.' Now,
sir, let us see what has 'been done for a white boy in
like circumstances.' In July, 1870, the President was
in Hartford, Ct., and in a conversation with my friend
the Hon. David Clark, in reference to my treatment at
West Point, he said: 'Don't take him away now; the battle
might just as well be fought now as at any other time,'
and gave him to understand that he would see me protected
in my rights; while his son Fred, who was then a cadet,
said to the same gentleman, and in the presence of his
father, that 'the time had not come to send colored boys
to West Point.' Mr. Clark said if the time had come for
them to be in the United States Senate, it had surely
come for them to be at West Point, and that he would do
all in his power to have me protected. Fred Grant then
said: 'Well, no d--d nigger will ever graduate from West
Point.' This same young gentleman, with other members of
his class, entered the rooms of three cadets, members of
the fourth class, on the night of January 3, 1871, took
those cadets out, and drove them away from the 'Point,'
with nothing on but the light summer suits that they wore
when they reported there the previous summer. Here was a
most outrageous example of Lynch law, disgraceful alike
to the first class, who were the executors of it, the
corps of cadets, who were the abettors of it, and the
authorities of the Academy, who were afraid to punish the
perpetrators because the President's son was implicated,
or, at least, one of the prime movers of the affair.
Congress took the matter in hand, and instructed the
Secretary of War to dismiss all the members of the class
who were implicated, but the latter gentleman 'was
extremely liberal in his interpretation of the
regulations,' and declined to be influenced by the action
of Congress, and let the matter drop.
"Again, when a Court of Inquiry, appointed by Congress to
investigate complaints that I had made of my treatment,
reported in favor of a trial by court-martial of General
Gillmore's son, General Dyer's son, the nephew of the
Secretary of War, and some other lesser lights of America's
aristocracy, the secretary decided that a reprimand was
sufficient for the offence; yet 'he did for me what had
never been done for a white boy in like circumstances.'
Now, sir, by consulting my Register of the Academy, issued
in 1871, I find that three cadets of the fourth class were
declared 'deficient ' in mathematics--Reid, Boyle, and
Walker--and that the first named was turned back to join
the next class, while the other two were dismissed. Now
Reid is the Secretary's nephew, so that is the reason for
his doing 'for him what had never been done for a white
boy in like circumstances.'
"Mr. Editor, I have no objection whatever to any
favoritism that may be shown 'any member of the Royal.
Family, so long as it does not infringe upon any right
of my race or myself; but when any paper tries to show
that I have received such impartial treatment at the
hands of 'the powers that be,' and even go so far, in
their zealous endeavors to shield any one from charges
founded upon facts, as to try to make it appear that I
was a favorite, a pet lamb, or any other kind of a pet,
at West Point, I think it my duty to point out any errors
that may accidentally (?) creep into such statements.
"'The officers also say that Smith was manifestly
incompetent, that he had a fair examination,' etc. What
officers said that? Those of the War Department, whose
attention was attracted by the 'recent attacks on the
Board of Visitors,' or those who decided the case at
West Point? In either case, it is not surprising that
they should say so, for one party might feel jealous
because 'the Secretary of War was extremely liberal
in his interpretation of the regulations on behalf of
Cadet Smith, and that he did for him what had never
been done for a white boy in like circumstances,' while
the other party might have been actuated by the desire
to prove that 'no colored boy can ever graduate at West
Point,' or, as the young gentleman previously referred
to said, 'No d--d nigger shall ever graduate at West
Point.' As for the unanimous testimony of the Board of
Visitors, I can only say that I know not on what ground
such testimony is based, for, as I said before, the
members of that board were not in the library when I
was examined in philosophy; but perhaps, this is only
one of the 'they says' of the officers. There are some
things in this case which are not so manifest as my
alleged incompetency, and I would like to bring them to
the attention of the Chronicle, and of any others who
may feel interested in the matter. There has always been
a system of re-examinations at the Military Academy for
the purpose of giving a second chance to those cadets
who failed at the regular examination. This year the re-
examinations were abolished; but for what reason? It is
true that I had never been re-examined, but does it not
appear that the officers had concluded 'that Smith was
manifestly incompetent,' and that this means was taken
to deprive me of the benefit of a re-examination when
they decided that I was 'deficient?' Or was it done so
that the officers might have grounds for saying that 'he
did for him what had never been done for a white boy in
like circumstances?' Again, the examinations used to be
public; but this year two sentinels were posted at the
door of the library, where the examinations were held,
and when a visitor came he sent in his card by one
of the sentinels, while the other remained at the door,
and was admitted or not at the discretion of the
superintendent. It is said that this precaution was
taken because the visitors disturbed the members of the
Academic Board by walking across the floor. Very good
excuse, for the floor was covered with a very thick
carpet. We must surely give the Academic Board credit
for so much good judgment and foresight, for it would
have been a very sad affair, indeed, for those gentlemen
to have been made so nervous (especially the Professor
of Philosophy) as to be unable to see how 'manifestly
incompetent' Cadet Smith was, and it would have deprived
the Secretary of War of the blissful consciousness that
'he did for him what had never been done for a white boy
in like circumstances,' besides losing the privilege of
handing down to future generations the record of his
extreme liberality 'in his interpretation of the
regulations on behalf of Cadet Smith.'
"Oh, that this mighty deed might be inscribed on a
lasting leather medal and adorn the walls of the War
Department, that it might act as an incentive to some
future occupant of that lofty station! I advise the
use of leather, because if we used any metal it might
convey to our minds the idea of 'a sounding brass or a
"J. W. SMITH,
"Late Cadet U.S.M.A."
THE NEGRO CADETS.
"We publish this morning an account of Cadet Smith's
standing at West Point, which should be taken with a
few grains of allowance. The embryo colored soldier
and all his friends--black, white and tan--believe
that the administrationists have used him shamefully,
especially in view of their professions and of the
chief source of their political strength. Grant went
into the White House by means of colored votes, and
his shabby treatment of the first member of the dusky
army who reached the point of graduation in the country's
military school, is a sore disappointment to them.
"Cadet Smith has been a thorn in the side of the
Administration from the start. He could not be bullied
out or persecuted out of the institution by the insults
or menaces of those who, for consistency's sake, should
have folded him to their bosoms. He stood his ground
bravely, and much against the will of its rulers. West
Point was forced to endure his unwelcome presence up to
the time of graduation. At that point a crisis was
reached. If the odious cadet were allowed to graduate,
his commission would entitle him to assignment in our
much-officered army, which contains Colonel Fred Grant
and a host of other favorites whose only service has
been of the Captain Jinks order. The army revolted at
the idea. Theoretically they were and are sound on the
nigger, but they respectfully and firmly objected to a
practical illustration. The Radical General Belknap was
easily convinced that the assignment of the unoffending
Smith to duty would cause a lack of discipline in any
regiment that would be fearful to contemplate.
"Something must be done, and that something was quickly
accomplished. They saved the army and the dignity of the
horse marines by sacrificing the cadet. To do so, some
tangible cause must be alleged, and a deficiency in
'philosophy' was hit upon.
"In vain did Smith appeal to the Secretary of War for
an opportunity to be re-examined; in vain did he ask
permission to go back and join the class below--all
appeals were in vain. 'Gentlemen,' says the secretary,
'I don't wish to be misquoted as saying that I can't
give Mr. Smith a re-examination, for I say I won't do
it.' The victim of the army has since published a three-
column card in Fred Douglass's paper, in which he says
he was dropped for politico-military reasons, and in
the course of which he makes an almost unanswerable case
for himself, but the Radicals have dropped him in his
hour of necessity, and he must submit."
From the New York Sun.)
CADET SMITH'S EXPULSION.
"James W. Smith, the first colored cadet appointed to
the Military Academy of West Point, was dismissed
after the June examination, having failed to pass an
examination in some other studies. Recently the Sun
received letters from South Carolina charging that the
prejudices of the officers of the Academy led to the
dismissal; and to ascertain the truth a Sun reporter
went to West Point to investigate the matter. He accosted
a soldier thus:
"'Were you here before Smith was dismissed?'
"'Yes, sir; I've been here many years.'
"'Can you tell me why he was dismissed?'
"'Well, I believe he didn't pass in philosophy and some
"'What kind of a fellow was he?'
"'The soldiers thought well of him, but the cadets
didn't. They used to laugh and poke fun at him in
Riding Hall, and in the artillery drill all of them
refused to join hands with him when the cannoneers
were ordered to mount. This is dangerous once in a
while, for sometimes they mount when the horses are
on a fast trot. But he used to run on as plucky as
you please, and always got into his seat without help.
Some of the officers used to try to make them carry out
the drill, but it was no use. I never saw one of the
young fellows give him a hand to make a mount. He was
a proud negro, and had good pluck. I never heard him
complain, but his black eyes used to flash when he was
insulted, and you could see easy enough that he was in
a killin' humor. But after the first year he kept his
temper pretty well, though he fought hard to do it.'
"Captain Robert H. Hall, the post adjutant, said:
'Young Smith was a bad boy.'
His temper was hot, and his disposition not honorable. I
can assure you that the officers at this post did every
thing in their power to help him along in his studies,
as well as to improve his standing with his comrades.
But his temper interfered with their efforts in the
latter direction, while his dulness precluded his
passing through the course of studies prescribed.
"REPORTER--'He was always spoken of as a very bright
"CAPTAIN HALL--'He was not bright or ready. He lacked
comprehension. In his first year he was very troublesome.
First came his assault upon, or affray with, another
young gentleman (Cadet Wilson), but the Court of Inquiry
deemed it inadvisable to court-martial either of them.
Then he was insolent to his superior on drill, and being
called upon for an explanation he wrote a deliberate
falsehood. For this he was court-martialled and sentenced
to dismissal, but subsequently the findings of the
committee were reversed, and Cadet Smith was put back one
year. This fact accounts for his good standing on the
examination next before the last. You see he went over the
same studies twice.'
"REPORTER--'What was Cadet Smith found deficient in?'
"CAPTAIN HALL--'HIS worst failure was in natural and
experimental philosophy, which embraces the higher
mathematics, dynamics, optics, mechanics, and other
studies. He missed a very simple question in optics,
and the examiners, who were extremely lenient with him,
chiefly, I believe, because he was colored and not white,
tried him with another, which was also missed.'
"REPORTER--'Is optical science deemed an absolutely
essential branch of learning for an officer in the
DEFICIENT IN HIS STUDIES.
"CAPTAIN HALL--'It is useful to engineers, for instance.
But that is not the question. In most educational
institutions of the grade of West Point, the standing
of a student in his studies is decided by a general
average of all studies in which he is examined. Here
each branch is considered separately, and if the cadet
fails in any one he cannot pass. I will assure you once
more that in my opinion Cadet Smith received as fair an
examination as was ever given to any student. If anything,
he was a little more favored.'
"REPORTER--'What was his conduct in the last year of his
stay at the Academy?'
"CAPTAIN HALL--'Good. He ranked twenty in a class of
forty in discipline. Discipline is decided by the number
of marks a cadet receives in the term. If he goes beyond
a certain number he is expelled.'
"REPORTER--'This record seems hardly consistent with
his previous turbulent career.'
"CAPTAIN HALL--'Oh! in the last years of his service
he learned to control his temper, but he never seemed
happy unless in some trouble.'
"REPORTER--'Have you any more colored cadets?'
"CAPTAIN HALL--'Only one--Henry O. Flipper, of Georgia.
He is a well-built lad, a mulatto, and is bright,
intelligent, and studious.'
"REPORTER--'Do the cadets dislike him as much as they
"CAPTAIN HALL--'No, Sir, I am told that he is more
popular. I have heard of no doubt he will get through
all right. And here I will say, that had Mr. Smith been
white he would not have gone so far as he did.'
"Other officers of the post concur with Captain Hall,
but the enlisted men seem to sympathize with Smith. One
of them said, 'I don't believe the officers will ever
let a negro get through. They don't want them in the
"Cadet Smith's career for the three years of his
service was indeed a most unhappy one, but whether
that unhappiness arose from
THE INFIRMITIES OF TEMPER
or from the persistent persecutions of his comrades
cannot be authoritatively said. One officer attributed
much of the pugnacity which Smith exhibited early in
his course to the injudicious letters sent him by his
friends. In some of these he was advised to 'fight for
the honor of his race,' and others urged him to brook
no insult at the hands of the white cadets. The menial
duties which the 'plebes' are called upon to do in
their first summer encampment were looked upon by Smith
as personal insults thrust upon him, althought his
comrades made no complaint. Then the social ostracism
to a lad of his sensitive nature was almost unbearable,
and an occasional outbreak is not to be wondered at.
"Before he had been in the Academy a week he wrote to a
friend complaining of the treatment he received from his
fellows, and this letter being published intensified the
hostility of the other cadets. Soon after this he had a
fight with Cadet Wilson and cut his face with a dipper.
Then followed the breach of discipline on drill, the
court-martial and sentence, and finally the Congressional
investigation, which did not effect any good. Smith says
that frequently on squad drill he was detached from the
squad by the cadet corporal, and told that he was not to
stand side by side with white men.
"WEST POINT, June 19."
THE COLORED CADET.
HIS TRIALS AND PERSECUTIONS--THREE YEARS OF ABUSE--
SETTLED AT LAST--"ELI PERKINS" TELLS THE STORY.
To the Editor of the Daily Graphic:
About the 20th of May, 1870, I saw the colored Cadet,
James W. Smith land at the West Point Dock. He was
appointed by a personal friend of mine, Judge Hoge,
Member of Congress from Columbia, South Carolina.
The mulatto boy was about five feet eight inches high,
with olive complexion and freckles. Being hungry he
tipped his hat to a cadet as he jumped from the ferry
-boat and asked him the way to the hotel.
"'Over there, boy,' replied the cadet, pointing to
the Rose Hotel owned by the government.
"On arriving there the colored boy laid down his carpet-
bag, registered his name, and asked for something to eat.
"'What! A meal of victuals for a nigger?' asked the clerk.
"'Yes, Sir, I'm hungry and I should like to buy something to eat.'
"'Well, you'll have to be hungry a good while if you
wait to get something to eat here,' and the clerk of
the government hotel pushed the colored boy's carpet
-bag off upon the floor.
"Jimmy Smith's father, who fought with General Sherman,
and came back to become an alderman in Columbia, had
told the boy that when he got to West Point among soldiers
he would be treated justly, and you can imagine how the
hungry boy felt when he trudged back over the hot campus
to see Colonel Black and General Schriver, who was then
Superintendent of the Academy.
"The black boy came and stood before the commandant and
handed him his appointment papers and asked him to read
them. Colonel Black, Colonel Boynton, and other officers
looked around inquiringly. Then they got up to take a
good look at, the first colored cadet. The colonel, red
in the face, waved the boy away with his hand, and, one
by one, the officers departed, speechless with amazement.
"In a few moments the news spread through the Academy.
The white cadets seemed paralyzed.
"Several cadets threatened to resign, some advocated
maiming him for life, and a Democratic 'pleb' from
Illinois exclaimed, 'I'd rather die than drill with
the black devil.' But wiser counsels prevailed, and
the cadets consented to tolerate Jimmy Smith and not
drown or kill him for four weeks, when it was thought
the examiners would 'bilge' him.
"On the 16th of June, 1870, I saw Jimmy Smith again at
West Point and wrote out my experiences. He was the
victim of great annoyance.
"At these insults the colored cadet showed a suppressed
emotion. He could not break the ranks to chastise his
assaulter. Then if he had fought with every cadet who
called him a '--black-hearted nigger,' he would have
fought with the whole Academy. Not the professors,
for they have been as truly gentlemen as they are good
officers. If they had feelings against the colored cadet
they suppressed them. I say now that the indignities
heaped upon Jimmy Smith would have been unbearable to
any white boy of spirit. Hundreds of times a day he was
publicly called names so mean that I dare not write them.
"Once I met Jimmy Smith after drill. He bore the
insulting remarks like a Christian.
"'I expected it,' he said; 'but it was not so at the
Hartford High School. There I had the second honors
of my class.' Then he showed me a catalogue of the
Hartford High School, and there was the name of James
W. Smith as he graduated with the next highest honor.
"On that occasion I asked Jimmy who his father was.
"'His name is Israel Smith. He used to belong to Sandres
Guignard, of Columbia.'
"'Then he was a slave?'
"'Yes, but when Sherman's army freed him he became a
"'And your mother?'
"'She is Catherine Smith, born free.' Here Jimmy showed
his mother's photograph. She looked like a mulatto
woman, with straight hair and regular features. She had
a serious, Miss-Siddons-looking face.
"'How did you come to "the Point?"' I asked.
"'Well, Mr. David Clark, of Hartford, promised to educate
me, and he got Congressman Hoge to appoint me.'
"'How came Mr. Clark to become interested in you?'
"'Well, a very kind white lady--Miss Loomis--came to
Columbia to teach the freedmen. I went to school to her
and studied so hard and learned so fast that she told
Mr. Clark about me. My father is able to support me,
but Mr. Clark is a great philanthropist and he has taken
a liking to me and he is going to stand by me.'
"'What does Mr. Clark say when you write about how the
cadets treat you?'
"The colored boy handed me this letter from his benefactor:
"'HARTFORD, June 7, 1870.
"'DEAR JEMMY: Yours, 1st inst., is at hand and noted. I
herewith inclose stamps.
"'Let them call "nigger" as much as they please; they
will laugh out of the other corner of their mouth before
the term is over.
"'Your only way is to maintain your dignity. Go straight
ahead. If any personal insult is offered, resist it, and
then inform me; I will then see what I can do. But I think
you need have no fear on that score. Have been out to
Windham a few days. All well, and send kind regards. Mary
sails for Europe Saturday. President Grant is to be here
the 2d. He will be my guest or Governor Jewell's.
"'So Mr. Clark knows the President, does he?'
"'Why, yes; he knows everybody--all the great men. He's
a great man himself;' and this poor colored boy stood up,
I thought, the proudest champion David Clark ever had.
"'Yes, David Clark is a good man,' I mused, as I saw the
grateful tears standing in the colored cadet's eyes.
"When I got back to the hotel I heard a wishy-washy girl,
who came up year after year with a party to flirt with
the cadets say:
"'O dear! it is hawid to have this colod cadet--perfectly
dre'fful. I should die to see my George standing next to
"But Miss Schenck, the daughter of General Schenck, our
Minister to the Court of St. James, told Jimmy Smith
that she hoped he would graduate at the head of his
class, and when the colored boy told me about it he said:
"'Oh, sir, a splendid lady called to see me to-day. I
wish I knew her name. I want to tell David Clark.'
"Every white boy at West Point now agreed to cut the
colored boy. No one was to say a single word to him,
or even answer yes or no. At the same time they would
abuse him and swear at him in their own conversation
loud enough for him to hear. It is a lamentable fact
that every white cadet at the Point swears and chews
tobacco like the army in Flanders.
"Again I saw Jimmy Smith on the 9th of July. The officers
of the Academy had been changed. Old General Schriver had
given place to young General Upton. The young general is
a man of feeling and a lover of justice. He sent for the
colored boy, and taking his hand he said:
"'My boy, you say you want to resign, that you can stand
this persecution no longer. You must not do it. You are
here an officer of the army. You have stood a severe
examination. You have passed honorably and you shall not
be persecuted into resigning. I am your friend. Come to
me and you shall have justice.'
"Then General Upton addressed the cadets on dress parade.
He told them personal insults against their brother cadet,
whose only crime was color, must cease.
"One day a cadet came to Jimmy and said he would befriend
him if he dared to, 'but you know I would be ostracized
if I should speak to you.'
"'What was the cadet's name?' I asked.
"'Oh, I dare not tell?' replied the colored boy. 'He would
be ruined, too.'
"'Did your father write to you when you thought of
"'Yes; here is his letter,' replied the colored boy:
"'COLUMBIA, S.C., July 3, 1870.
"'My DEAR SON: I take great pleasure in answering your
kind letter received last night. I pray God that my
letter may find you in a better state of consolation
than when you wrote to me. I told you that you would
have trials and difficulties to endure. Do not mind them,
for they will go like chaff before the wind, and your
enemies will soon be glad to gain your friendship. They
do the same to all newcomers in every college. You are
elevated to a high position, and you must stand it like
a man. Do not let them run you away, for then they will
say, the "nigger" won't do. Show your spunk, and let
them see that you will fight. That is what you are sent
to West Point for. When they find you are determined to
stay, they will let you alone. You must not resign on any
account, for it is just what the Democrats want. They are
betting largely here that you won't get in. The rebels
say if you are admitted, they will devil you so much that
you can't stay. Be a man; don't think of leaving, and let
me know all about your troubles. The papers say you have
not been received. Do write me positively whether you are
received or not.
"'Times are lively here, for everybody is preparing for
the Fourth of July. There are five colored companies
here, all in uniform, and they are trying to see who shall
excel in drill.
"'Stand your ground; don't resign, and write me soon.
"'From your affectionate father,
"On the 11th of January I visited West Point again. I
found all the cadets still against the colored boy. A
system of terrorism reigned supreme. Every one who did
not take sides against the colored boy was ostracized.
"At drill one morning Cadet Anderson trod on the colored
boy's toes. When Smith expostulated Anderson replied,
'Keep your-- toes away.' When Smith told about it Anderson
got two other white cadets to say he never said so. This
brought the colored boy in a fix.
"Last July I saw the colored cadet again. He was still
ostracized. No cadet ever spoke to him. He lived a, hermit
life, isolated and alone.
"When I asked him how he got on with his studies he said:
'As well as I am able, roaming all alone, with no one to
help me and no one to clear up the knotty points. If there
is an obscure point in my lesson I must go to the class
with it. I cannot go to a brother cadet.'
"'If you should ask them to help you what would they say?'
"'They would call me a -- nigger, and tell me to go back to the plantation.'
"Yesterday, after watching the colored cadet for three
years, I saw him again. He has grown tall and slender.
He talks slowly, as if he had lost the use of language.
Indeed many days and weeks he has gone without saying
twenty lines a day in a loud voice, and that in the
"When they were examining him the other day he spoke
slowly, but his answers were correct. His answers in
philosophy were correct. But they say he answered
slowly, and they will find him deficient for that.
Find him deficient for answering slowly when the boy
almost lost the use of language! When he knew four
hundred eyes were on him and two hundred malign arts
all praying for his failure!
"The colored cadet is now in his third year. The
great question at West Point is, Will he pass his
examination? No one will know till the 30th of June.
It is my impression that the young officers have
marked him so low that he will be found deficient.
The young officers hate him almost as bad as the
cadets, and whenever they could make a bad mark
against him they have done it.
"'Does anyone ever speak to you now?' I asked.
"'No. I dare not address a cadet. I do not want
to provoke them. I simply want to graduate. I am
satisfied if they do not strike or harm me; though
if I had a kind word now and then I should be
happier, and I could study better,' Then the colored
boy drew a long sigh.
"To-day I met General Howard, who was present at the
colored cadet's court-martial. I asked him to tell me
"'Well, Mr. Perkins,' said the General, 'they tried to
make out that the colored boy lied.'
"'Yes,' I interrupted, 'and they all say he did lie at
the Point now. How was it?'
"'It was this way: They accused him of talking on parade,
and, while trying to convict him out of his own mouth,
they asked him "If on a certain day he did not speak to
a certain cadet while on drill?" "I did not speak to this
cadet while on drill the day you mention," answered Cadet
Smith, "for the cadet was not in the parade that day."'
"This answer startled the prosecutors, and, looking over
the diary of parade days, they were astonished to find
Cadet Smith correct.
"'What then?' I asked.
"'Why they accuse him of telling a lie in spirit, though
not in form, for he had talked on a previous day. Just
as if he was obliged to say any thing to assist the
prosecutors except to answer their questions.'
"General Howard believes Cadet Smith to be a good,
honest boy. I believe the same.
(From the Savannah (Ga.) Morning-News.)
"Lieutenant Flipper seems to have gone back on his
Atlanta friends. He came home from West Point with
a good Academy record, behaved himself with becoming
dignity. The officers at the barracks treated him--
not socially, but as an officer of the army--with
due respect, as did the citizens of Atlanta, who felt
that he had won credit by his good conduct and success.
But in an evil hour the colored friends (?) of Flipper
gave him a reception, and in full uniform he made them
a speech. Now speech-making is a dangerous thing, and
this colored warrior seems to have been made a victim
of it. He distorted the official courtesies of the
officers at the barracks into social courtesies, and
abused the white people of the South because they did
not give him and his race social equality. Not only
were sensible colored people displeased with his
remarks, but many white citizens who went to the
meeting friendly to Flipper left disgusted with his
*If a man walks on the streets with me, invites me
to his quarters, introduces me to his comrades,
and other like acts of courtesy, ought I to consider
him treating me socially or officially? I went to
the garrison in Atlanta to pay my respects to the
commanding officer. I expected nothing. I met an
officer, who, with four others, had introduced
himself to me on the cars. My official call had been
made. He took me around, introduced me to the officers,
and showed me all possible attention. I met another
officer in the city several days after this. He offered
cigars. We walked up and down the streets together.
Many times did we hear and comment upon the remarks we
overheard: "Is he walking with that nigger?" and the
like. He invited me into a druggist's to take some soda-
water. I went in and got it, although it was never sold
there before to a person of color. We rode out to the
garrison together, and every attention was shown me by
all. Another officer told me that before I came the
officers of the garrison assembled to consider whether
or not they should recognize me. The unanimous vote was
"yes." Was all this official? No. It is the white people,
the disappointed tyrants of Georgia, who try to distort
social courtesies in official ones. The "many white"
people were some half-dozen newspaper reporters, whose
articles doubtless were partly written when they came.
"Old Si" in his spectacles was prominently conspicuous
(From the Savannah (Ga.) Morning News.)
A COLORED ARMY OFFICER.
"Lieutenant Flipper is his name. He is a living
result of the policy of Radicalism which has
declared from the first its determination that,
under any circumstances, the American citizen of
African descent shall enjoy all the privileges of
his white brethren. Carrying out this determination,
and not dismayed at the fate of colored cadet Smith,
who figured so largely in West Point annals a few
years ago, cadet Flipper was sent to that institution
to try his hand. He has graduated, and now holds the
commission of Second Lieutenant of Cavalry in the
United States Army, the first of his race who has
ever attained such a position.
"It will be curious to watch young Flipper's career
as an officer. Time was when army officers were a
very aristocratic and exclusive set of gentlemen,
whether they still hold to their old ideas, or not,
we do not know. There seems to be enough of the old
feeling left, however, to justify the belief that
until some other descendants of African parents
graduate at the institution, Flipper will have a
lonely time. During his cadetship, we learn from no
less an authority than the New York Tribune, 'the
paper founded by Horace Greeley,' that he was let
severely alone by his fellow-students. According to
that paper, one of the cadets said, 'We have no
feeling against him, but we could not associate with
him. It may have been prejudice but still we couldn't
do it.' This shows very clearly the animus which will
exist in the army against the colored officer. If at
West Point, where he had to drill, recite, eat, and
perhaps sleep with his white brothers, they couldn't
associate with him (notwithstanding the fact that the
majority of these whites were Northern men and ardent
advocates of Radicalism, with its civil rights and
social equality record), how can it be expected that
they will overcome their prejudices any more readily
after they become officers. The Tribune thinks they
will, and that in time the army will not hesitate to
receive young Flipper, and all of his race who may
hereafter graduate at West Point, with open arms; but
the chances are that the Tribune is wrong. Your model
Yankee is very willing to use the negro as a hobby-
horse upon which to ride into place and power, but
when it comes to inviting him to his house and
embracing him as a brother he is very apt to be found
wanting. The only society Lieutenant of Cavalry Flipper
can ever hope to enjoy is that which will exist when
there are enough of his race in the army to form a
corps d'Afrique, and by that time he will be too old
to delight in social pleasures. Meanwhile he will be
doomed to a life of solitude and self-communings, and
be subjected to many such snubs as the venerable
Frederick Douglass has but recently received at the
hands of that champion mourner for the poor African--
Rutherford B, Hayes."
The New York Tribune is right. The army is officered
by men, not by West Point cadets, who are only students
(From the Savannah (Ga.) Morning News.)
CHEERS FOR FLIPPER.
"The miscegenationists and social equality advocates
are making a great deal of noise over the facts, first,
that a negro has graduated at West Point, and holds
to-day a commission in the United States Army; and
second, that when he went up to receive his diploma,
he was, alone of all the members of his class, the
recipient of a round of applause. Great things are
augured from these two circumstances, especially the
"It is reasoned that now, that a negro has at last been
able to secure a commission in the military service of
the country, the first step towards the recognition of
his race on the basis of social equality is accomplished,
by degrees prejudice will wear away, and, in course of
time, black and white citizens of this republic will
mingle freely and without reserve; and this, it is
claimed, is shown by the applause with which the
reception into the army of this African pioneer was
greeted. For our part we don't see that these negro
devotees and miscegenationists have any reason to
rejoice. It is just as impossible to establish perfect
social equality between the Anglo-Saxon and African
races as it is to make oil and water unite. It is
against nature, and nowhere in the world is the
antipathy to such a mingling shown more than in the
North, and by no people so strongly as by the very
men who whine so incessantly and so pretentiously
about 'men and brethren.' The negro in the South has
always found the white man of the South to be his best
and truest friend, and such will always be the case,
notwithstanding that the Southern white will never
consent to social equality with his fellow-citizen of
"As to the applause which greeted Flipper, that can
easily be accounted for. Nothing is more likely than
that at West Point there should have been gathered
together a lot of old-time South-haters, who were
ready to applaud, not so much to flatter Flipper as
to show that they were happy over what they felt to
be a still further humiliation of the South. That is
all there is in that.
"We have no objections to such demonstrations of
delight. As far as we are concerned they may be
indulged in to the heart's content by those who so
desire. But one piece of information we can give to
the young colored Georgia lieutenant. If he thinks
those who applauded him are going to invite him to
their houses he will be greatly disappointed. And
if he does not die of overeating until those invite
him to dine with them, he will live to a good old
age. Let him take the fate of the recognized leader
of his race, Fred Douglass, as an example, and steer
clear of his too demonstrative friends. Experience
shows that so long as they can use him, they will be
very profuse in their professions of friendship; but
when that is done all is done, and he will find
himself completely cast aside. If Flipper sees these
words, let him mark our prediction."
"And many false prophets shall arise, and deceive
many" (Matt. 24:11). Amen. That is all that article
(From the Monmouth Inquirer, Freehold, N.J.)
"When Congress founded West Point, to be a training
school for those who were to be paid as public servants
and to wear the public livery, we do not think that it
was intended that the institution should serve as a
hotbed for the fostering of aristocratic prejudices and
the assumption of aristocratic airs. Nor do we think
that when Lincoln declared the negro a freeman, and
entitled to a freeman's rights, either he or the nation
designed that the dusky skin of the enfranchised slave
should serve as an excuse for ignominy, torture, and
disgrace. Yet here, this year, in the graduating class
from West Point, steps a young man among his white-
skinned fellows, fiftieth in a class of seventy-six
members, whose four years of academic life have been
one long martyrdom; who has stood utterly alone, ignored
and forsaken among his fellows; who has had not one
helping hand from professors or students to aid him in
fighting his hard battle, and whom only his own talents
and sturdy pluck have saved from entire oblivion. Yet in
spite of all, he was graduated; he has left twenty-six
white students behind him; he is a second lieutenant in
the regular army, and the story of his struggles and his
hard-won victory is known from Oregon to Florida. All
honor to the first of his race who has stemmed the tide
and won the prize.
"We do not think the faculty at West Point have done
their duty in this matter. One word, one example from
them, would have stopped the persecution, and it is to
their disgrace that no such word was spoken and no such
I have not a world to say against any of the professors
or instructors who were at West Point during the period
of my cadetship. I have every thing to say in their praise,
and many things to be thankful for. I have felt perfectly
free to go to any officer for assistance, whenever I have
wanted it, because their conduct toward me made me feel
that I would not be sent away without having received
whatever help I may have wanted. All I could say of the
professors and officers at the Academy would be
unqualifiedly in their favor.
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