Surname: Flipper

Treatment Received – Henry Flipper

The kind of treatment we are to receive at the hands of others depends entirely upon ourselves. I think my life at West Point sufficiently proves the truth of this assertion. I entered the Academy at a time when, as one paper had it, West Point was a “hotbed of disloyalty and snobbery, a useless and expensive appendage.” I expected all sorts of ill treatment, and yet from the day I entered till the day I graduated I had not cause to utter so much as an angry word. I refused to obtrude myself upon the white cadets, and treated them all with uniform courtesy. I have been treated likewise. It simply depended on me what sort of treatment I should receive. I was careful to give no cause for bad treatment, and it was never put upon me. In making this assertion I purposely disregard the instances of malice, etc., mentioned elsewhere, for the reason that I do not believe they were due to any deep personal convictions of my inferiority or personal desire to impose upon me, but rather were due to the fear of being “cut” if they had acted otherwise. Our relations have been such, as any one will readily observe, that even officially they would have been obliged to recognize me to a greater or less extent, or at the expense of their consciences...

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Yearling Camp – Henry Flipper

In this chapter I shall describe only those phases of cadet life which are experienced by “yearlings” in their “yearling camp.” Beginning July 5th, or as soon after as practicable, the third class receive practical instruction in the nomenclature and manual of the field piece. This drill continues till August 1st, when they begin the “School of the Battery.” The class attend dancing daily. Attendance at dancing is optional with that part of the third class called “yearlings,” and compulsory for the “Seps,” who of course do not become yearlings till the following September. The third class also receive instruction in the duties of a military laboratory, and “target practice.” These instructions are not always given during camp. They may be given in the autumn or spring. Another delight of the yearling is to “bone colors.” Immediately in front of camp proper is a narrow path extending entirely across the ground, and known as the “color line.” On the 1st of August sometimes before the “color line” is established, this name being applied also to the purpose of the color line. This ceremony consists in stacking arms just in rear of the color line, and placing the colors on the two stacks nearest the centre of the line. >From the privates of the guard three are chosen to guard the stacks and to require every one who crosses the...

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The Secrecy of Hazing – Henry Flipper

Notwithstanding the secrecy of hazing, and the great care which those who practiced it took to prevent being “hived,” they sometimes overreached themselves and were severely punished. Cases have occurred where cadets have been dismissed for hazing, while others have been less severely punished. Sometimes, also, the joke, if I may so call it, has been turned upon the perpetrators to their utter discomfort. I will cite an instance. Quite often in camp two robust plebes are selected and ordered to report at a specified tent just after the battalion returns from supper. When they report each is provided with a pillow. They take their places in the middle of the company street, and at a given signal commence pounding each other. A crowd assembles from all parts of camp to witness the “pillow fight,” as it is called. Sometimes, also, after fighting awhile, the combatants are permitted to rest, and another set continues the fight. On one of these occasions, after fighting quite a while, a pillow bursted, and one of the antagonists was literally buried in feathers. At this a shout of laughter arose and the fun was complete. But alas for such pleasures! An officer in his tent, disturbed by the noise, came out to find its cause. He saw it at a glance, aided no doubt by vivid recollections of his own experience in his...

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Studies, Etc. – Henry Flipper

The academic year begins July 1st, and continues till about June 20th the following year. As soon after this as practicable depending upon what time the examination is finished the corps moves into camp, with the exception of the second class, who go on furlough instead. Between the 20th of August and the 1st of September, the “Seps,” or those candidates who were unable to do so in the spring previous, report. Before the 1st they have been examined and the deficient ones dismissed. On the 1st, unless that be Sunday, academic duties begin. The classes are arranged into a number of sections, according to their class rank, as determined at the previous annual examination, or according to rank in some particular study for instance, for instruction in engineering the first class is arranged according to merit in philosophy, and not according to general merit or class rank. The fourth, or “plebe” class, however, is arranged alphabetically since they as yet have no class rank. The first class study, during the first term, engineering law, and ordnance and gunnery. They recite on civil engineering from 8 to 11 A.M. daily, on ordnance and gunnery from 2 to 4 P.M., alternating with law. The second class have natural and experimental philosophy from 8 to 11 A.M. daily, and chemistry, alternating with riding, from 11 A.M. to 1 P.M.; also drawing...

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Treatment – Henry Flipper

A brave and honorable and courteous man Will not insult me; and none other can.” Cowper. “How do they treat you?” “How do you get along?” and multitudes of analogous questions have been asked me over and over again. Many have asked them for mere curiosity s sake, and to all such my answers have been as short and abrupt as was consistent with common politeness. I have observed that it is this class of people who start rumors, sometimes harmless, but more often the cause of needless trouble and ill feeling. I have considered such a class dangerous, and have therefore avoided them as much as it was possible. I will mention a single instance where such danger has been made manifest. A Democratic newspaper, published I know not where, in summing up the faults of the Republican party, took occasion to advert to West Point. It asserted in bold characters that I had stolen a number of articles from two cadets, had by them been detected in the very act, had been seen by several other cadets who had been summoned for the purpose that they might testify against me, had been reported to the proper authorities, the affair had been thoroughly investigated by them, my guilt established beyond the possibility of doubt, and yet my accusers had actually been dismissed while I was retained.* This is...

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Reporting – Henry Flipper

May 20th, 1873! Auspicious day! From the deck of the little ferry boat that steamed its way across from Garrison s on that eventful afternoon I viewed the hills about West Point, her stone structures perched thereon, thus rising still higher, as if providing access to the very pinnacle of fame, and shuddered. With my mind full of the horrors of the treatment of all former cadets of color, and the dread of inevitable ostracism, I approached tremblingly yet confidently. The little vessel having been moored, I stepped ashore and inquired of a soldier there where candidates should report. He very kindly gave me all needed information, wished me much success, for which I thanked him, and set out for the designated place. I soon reached it, and walked directly into the adjutant s office. He received me kindly, asked for my certificate of appointment, and receiving that or assurance that I had it: I do not now remember which directed me to write in a book there for the purpose the name and occupation of my father, the State, Congressional district, county and city of his residence, my own full name, age, State, county, and place of my birth, and my occupation when at home. This done I was sent in charge of an orderly to cadet barracks, where my “plebe quarters” were assigned me. The impression made...

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Resume – Henry Flipper

July 1, 1876! Only one year more; and yet how wearily the days come and go! How anxiously we watch them, how eagerly we count them, as they glimmer in the distance, and forget them as they fade! What joyous anticipation, what confident expectation, what hope animates each soul, each heart, each being of us! What encouragement to study this longing, this impatience gives us, as if it hastened the coming finale! And who felt it more than I? Who could feel it more than I? To me it was to be not only an end of study, of discipline, of obedience to the regulations of the Academy, but even an end to isolation, to tacit persecution, to melancholy, to suspense. It was to be the grand realization of my hopes, the utter, the inevitable defeat of the minions of pride, prejudice, caste. Nor would such consummation of hopes affect me only, or those around me. Nay, even I was but the point of “primitive disturbance,” whence emanates as if from a focus, from a new origin, prayer, friendly and inimical, to be focused again into realization on one side and discomfiture on the other. My friends, my enemies, centre their hopes on me. I treat them, one with earnest endeavor for realization, the other with supremest indifference. They are deviated with varying anxiety on either side, and hence...

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Retrospect – Henry Flipper

Henry Ossian Flipper, the eldest of five brothers, and the subject of this narrative, was born in Thomasville, Thomas County, Georgia, on the 21st day of March, 1856. He and his mother were the property (?) of Rev. Reuben H. Lucky, a Methodist minister of that place. His father, Festus Flipper, by trade a shoemaker and carriage trimmer, was owned by Ephraim G. Ponder, a successful and influential slave dealer. In 1859 Mr. Ponder, having retired from business, returned to Georgia from Virginia with a number of mechanics, all slaves, and among whom was the father of young Flipper. He established a number of manufactories in Atlanta, then a growing inland town of Georgia. He married about this time a beautiful, accomplished, and wealthy lady. “Flipper,” as he was generally called, had married before this, and had been taken back alone to his native Virginia to serve an apprenticeship under a carriage trimmer. This served, Mr. Ponder joined his wife in Thomasville, bringing with him, as stated, a number of mechanics. All were soon ready for transportation to Atlanta except “Flipper.” As he and his wife were each the property (?) of different persons, there was, under the circumstances, every probability of a separation. This, of course, would be to them most displeasing. Accordingly an application was made to Mr. Ponder to purchase the wife and son. This he...

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Plebe Camp – Henry Flipper

“Plebe Camp!” The very words are suggestive. Those who have been cadets know what “plebe camp” is. To a plebe just beginning his military career the first experience of camp is most trying. To him every thing is new. Every one seems determined to impose upon him, and each individual “plebe” fancies at times he s picked out from all the rest as an especially good subject for this abuse (?). It is not indeed a very pleasant prospect before him, nor should he expect it to be. But what must be his feelings when some old cadet paints for his pleasure camp scenes and experiences? Whatever he may have known of camp life before seems as naught to him now. It is a new sort of life he is to lead there, and he feels himself, although curious and anxious to test it, somewhat shy of entering such a place. There is no alternative. He accepts it resignedly and goes ahead. It is not always with smiling countenance that he marches out and surveys the site after reveille. Indeed, those who do have almost certainly received A highly colored sketch of camp life, and are hastening to sad disappointment, and not at all to the joys they’ve been led to expect. He marches into the company streets. He surveys them carefully and recognizes what is meant by “the...

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Pleasures and Privileges – Henry Flipper

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 privileges.” The cadets are encamped and are not supposed to leave their camp save by permission. This permission is granted by existing orders, or if for any reason it be temporarily denied it can be obtained by “permit” for some specified time. Such permission or privilege obtained by “permit” for a particular class is known as “class privileges,” and can be enjoyed only by the class that submits and gets the permit. “First-class privileges” permit all members of the first class to leave camp at any time between troop and retreat, except when on duty, and to take advantage of the usual “Saturday afternoon privileges,” which are allowed all classes and all cadets. These privileges, however, cannot be enjoyed on the Sabbath by any except the first-class officers, without special permission. The usual form of a permit is as follows: West Point, N. Y., November 6, 1876. Cadet A B C has permission to walk on public lands between the hours of 8 A.M. and 4 P.M. Lieut. Colonel First Art’y...

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To the Editor of the New National Era – Henry Flipper

Columbia, S.C., August 19, 1874. To the Editor of the New National Era: “Sir: My communications, thus far, have brought me to the end of my first year at the Academy, and now we come to the events of the second. In June of 1871, the proverbial silver lining, which the darkest cloud is said to have, began to shine very faintly in the West Point firmament, and I thought that at last the darkness of my cadet life was to be dispelled by the appearance above the horizon of another colored cadet. And, indeed, I was not disappointed, for, one day, I was greeted by the familiar face and voice of Mr. H. A. Napier, a former fellow student at Howard University. Soon after his arrival, and admittance, the corps of cadets, accompanied by the plebes, took up quarters in camp plebe camp to the latter, and yearling camp to us who had entered the previous year. “During the cadet encampment there are certain dances given three times each week, known as Cadet Hops. These hops are attended by the members of the first and third classes, and their lady friends, and no plebe ever has the assurance of dreaming of attending the hops until he shall have risen to the dignity of a yearling third-classman. So long as I was a plebe, no one anticipated any such...

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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...

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News Reports about Lieutenant Flipper – Henry Flipper

Here is an editorial article from the New York Tribune. It needs no comment, nor do the two following, which were clipped from the Christian Union. Lieutenant Flipper.”Among the West Point graduates this year is young Flipper, a lad of color and of African descent. It is stated that he acquitted himself very respectably in his examination by the Board of Visitors, that he will pass creditably, and that he will go into the cavalry, which is rather an aristocratic branch, we believe, of the service. Mr. Flipper must have had rather a hard time of it during his undergraduate career, if, as we find it stated, most if not all his white fellow students have declined to associate with him. He has behaved so well under these anomalous circumstances, that he has won the respect of those who, so far as the discipline of the school would permit, ignored his existence. We have no feeling against him, said one of the students, but still we could not associate with him. It may be prejudice, but still we couldn’t do it. Impossibilities should be required of no one, and if the white West Pointers could not treat Mr. Flipper as if he were one of themselves, why of course that is an end of the matter. So long as they kept within the rules of the service, and were...

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The Negro Cadets – Henry Flipper

“We publish this morning an account of Cadet Smith s standing at West Point, which should be taken with a few grains of allowance. The embryo colored soldier and all his friends black, white and tan believe that the administrationists have used him shamefully, especially in view of their professions and of the chief source of their political strength. Grant went into the White House by means of colored votes, and his shabby treatment of the first member of the dusky army who reached the point of graduation in the country s military school, is a sore disappointment to them. “Cadet Smith has been a thorn in the side of the Administration from the start. He could not be bullied out or persecuted out of the institution by the insults or menaces of those who, for consistency s sake, should have folded him to their bosoms. He stood his ground bravely, and much against the will of its rulers. West Point was forced to endure his unwelcome presence up to the time of graduation. At that point a crisis was reached. If the odious cadet were allowed to graduate, his commission would entitle him to assignment in our much officered army, which contains Colonel Fred Grant and a host of other favorites whose only service has been of the Captain Jinks order. The army revolted at the idea. Theoretically...

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Our Future Heroes – Henry Flipper

The West Point Cadets Vacation Ten Days of Centennial Sport for Prospective Warriors The Miseries of three hundred Young Gentlemen who are limited to Ten Pairs of White Trousers each. “Almost at the foot of George s Hill, and not far to the westward of Machinery Hall, is the camp of the West Point cadets. From morning till night the domestic economy of the three hundred young gentlemen who compose the corps is closely watched, and their guard mountings and dress parades attract throngs of spectators. It would be hard to find anywhere a body of young men so manly in appearance, so perfect in discipline, and so soldier like and intelligent. The system of competitive examination for admission, so largely adopted within the past few years in many of our large cities, has resulted in recruiting the corps with lads of bright intellect and more than ordinary attainments, while the strict physical examination has rigorously excluded all but those of good form and perfect health. The competitive system has also given to the Academy students who want to learn, instead of lads who are content to scramble through the prescribed course as best they can, escaping the disgrace of being “found” (a cadet term equivalent to the old college word “plucked”) by nearly a hair s breadth. “The camp. The camp is laid out in regulation style, and...

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