New Orleans Papers – Henry Flipper

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?

Lieutenant Flipper

“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 following:

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 Difference.

“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 traveled 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.)

West Point.”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 days.

“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 today 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 demonstration.”

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 today 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 today 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 tomorrow.”

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 glory.

 



MLA Source Citation:

Flipper, Henry Ossian. The Colored Cadet at West Point: Autobiography of Lieut. Henry Ossian Flipper, first graduate of color from the U. S. Military Academy. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 2 August 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/black-genealogy/new-orleans-papers-henry-flipper.htm - Last updated on Mar 7th, 2013


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