Part 4 out of 7
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
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
Such a life was mine, not indeed for four years, but
for the earlier part of my stay at the Academy.
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.
PLEASURES AND PRIVILEGES.
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
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,
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.
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.
ADDRESS BY PROFESSOR C. O. THOMPSON,
President of the Board of Visitors.
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.
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,
Who did not draw the sword before he blew the horn."
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.
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.
INCIDENT, HUMOR, ETC.
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."
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