16: Smith at West Point
Preface || TOC
James Webster Smith, a native of South Carolina, was
appointed to a cadetship at the United States Military
Academy at West Point, New York, in 1870, by the Hon.
S. L. Hoge. He reported, as instructed, at the Military
Academy in the early summer of 1870, and succeeded in
passing the physical and intellectual examination
prescribed, and was received as a "conditional cadet."
At the same time one Howard reported, but unfortunately
did not succeed in "getting in."
In complexion Smith was rather light, possibly an
octoroon. Howard, on the contrary, was black. Howard
had been a student at Howard University, as also had
been Smith. Smith, before entering the Academy, had
graduated at the Hartford High School, and was well
prepared to enter upon the new course of studies at
In studies he went through the first year's course
without any difficulty, but unfortunately an affaire
d'honneur—a "dipper fight"—caused him to be put back
one year in his studies. In going over this course
again he stood very high in his class, but when it
was finished he began going down gradually until he
became a member of the last section of his class, an
"immortal," as we say, and in constant danger of being
He continued his course in this part of his class
till the end of his second class year, when he was
declared deficient in natural and experimental
philosophy, and dismissed. At this time he had been
in the Academy four years, but had been over only a
three-years' course, and would not have graduated
until the end of the next year, June, 1875.
As to his trials and experiences while a cadet, I
shall permit him to speak. The following articles
embrace a series of letters written by him, after his
dismissal, to the New National Era and Citizen, the
political organ of the colored people, published at
Washington, D. C.:
THE COLORED CADET AGAIN.
PERTINENT OR IMPERTINENT CARD FROM CADET SMITH.
"COLUMBIA, S.C., July 27,1874.
To the Editor of the National Republican:
"SIR: I saw an article yesterday in one of our local
papers, copied from the Brooklyn Argus, concerning
my dismissal from the Military Academy. The article
referred to closes as follows: 'Though he has written
letters to his friends, and is quite sanguine about
returning and finally graduating, the professors and
cadets say there is not the slightest chance. Said a
professor to a friend, the other day: "It will be a
long time before any one belonging to the colored race
can graduate at West Point."'
"Now, Sir, I would like to ask a few questions
through the columns of your paper concerning these
statements, and would be glad to have them answered
by some of the knowing ones.
"In the first place, what do the professors and
cadets know of my chances for getting back, and
if they know any thing, how did they find it out?
At an interview which I had with the Secretary of
War, on the 17th instant, he stated that he went
to West Point this year for a purpose, and that he
was there both before and after my examination, and
conversed with some of the professors concerning me.
Now, did that visit and those conversations have any
thing to do with the finding of the Academic Board?
Did they have any thing to do with that wonderful
wisdom and foresight displayed by the professors and
cadets in commenting upon my chances for getting back?
Why should the Secretary of War go to West Point this
year 'for a purpose,' and converse with the professors
about me both before and after the examination? Besides,
he spoke of an interview he had had with Colonel Ruger,
Superintendent of the Academy, in New York, on Sunday,
the 12th instant, in reference to me; during which
Colonel Ruger had said that the Academic Board would
not recommend me to return. Is it very wonderful that
the Academic Board should refuse such recommendation
after those very interesting conversations which were
held 'both before and after the recommendation?' Why
was the secretary away from West Point at the time of
"In the next place, by what divine power does that
learned oracle, a professor, prophesy that it will
be a long time before any one belonging to the
colored race can graduate at West Point? It seems
that he must have a wonderful knowledge of the negro
that he can tell the abilities of all the colored
boys in America. But it is possible that he is one
of the younger professors, perhaps the professor of
philosophy, and therefore expects to live and preside
over that department for a long time, though to the
unsophisticated mind it looks very much as though he
would examine a colored cadet on the color of his face.
"I think he could express himself better and come much
nearer the truth by substituting shall for can in that
sentence. Of course, while affairs remain at West Point
as they have always been, and are now, no colored boy
will graduate there; but there are some of us who are
sanguine about seeing a change, even if we can't get
"J. W. SMITH,
"Late Cadet U.S.M.A."
THE DIPPER DIFFICULTY.
"COLUMBIA, S.C., July 30, 1874.
To the Editor of the New National Era:
As I told you in my last communication, I shall now
proceed to give you an account of my four years' stay
at West Point.
"I reported there on the 31st of May, 1870, and had
not been there an hour before I had been reminded by
several thoughtful cadets that I was 'nothing but a
d—d nigger.' Another colored boy, Howard, of
Mississippi, reported on the same day, and we were
put in the same room, where we stayed until the
preliminary examination was over, and Howard was sent
away, as he failed to pass.
"While we were there we could not meet a cadet
anywhere without having the most opprobrious
epithets applied to us; but after complaining two
or three times, we concluded to pay no attention
to such things, for, as we did not know these
cadets, we could get no satisfaction.
"One night about twelve o'clock some one came into
our room, and threw the contents of his slop-pail
over us while we were asleep. We got to our door
just in time to hear the 'gentleman' go into his
room on the floor above us. This affair reported
itself the next morning at 'Police Inspection,' and
the inspector ordered us to search among the tobacco
quids, and other rubbish on the floor, for something
by which we might identify the perpetrator of the
affair. The search resulted in the finding of an old
envelope, addressed to one McCord, of Kentucky. That
young 'gentleman' was questioned in reference, but
succeeded in convincing the authorities that he had
nothing to do with the affair and knew nothing of it.
"A few days after that, Howard was struck in the
face by that young 'gentleman,' 'because,' as he
says, 'the d—d nigger didn't get out of the way
when I was going into the boot-black's shop.' For
that offence Mr. McCord was confined to his room,
but was never punished, as in a few days thereafter
he failed at the preliminary examination, and was
sent away with all the other unfortunates, including
"On the 28th of June, 1870, those of us who had
succeeded in passing the preliminary examination
were taken in 'plebe camp,' and there I got my taste
of 'military discipline,' as the petty persecutions
of about two hundred cadets were called. Left alone
as I was, by Howard's failure, I had to take every
insult that was offered, without saying any thing,
for I had complained several times to the Commandant
of Cadets, and, after 'investigating the matter,' he
invariably came to the conclusion, 'from the evidence
deduced,' that I was in the wrong, and I was cautioned
that I had better be very particular about any statements
that I might make, as the regulations were very strict
on the subject of veracity.
"Whenever the 'plebes' (new cadets) were turned out to
'police' camp, as they were each day at 5 A.M. and 4
P.M., certain cadets would come into the company street
and spit out quids of tobacco which they would call for
me to pick up. I would get a broom and shovel for the
purpose, but they would immediately begin swearing at
and abusing me for not using my fingers, and then the
corporal of police would order me to put down that broom
and shovel, 'and not to try to play the gentleman here,'
for my fingers were 'made for that purpose.' Finding
there was no redress to be had there, I wrote my friend
Mr. David Clark, of Hartford, Ct., to do something for
me. He had my letter published, and that drew the
attention of Congress to the matter, and a board was
sent to West Point to inquire into the matter and
report thereon. That board found out that several
cadets were guilty of conduct unbecoming a cadet and
a gentleman and recommended that they be court-
martialled, but the Secretary of War thought a
reprimand would be sufficient. Among those reprimanded
were Q. O'M. Gillmore, son of General Gillmore; Alex. B.
Dyer, son of General Dyer; and James H. Reid, nephew of
the Secretary of War (it is said). I was also reprimanded
for writing letters for publication.
"Instead of doing good, these reprimands seemed
only to increase the enmity of the cadets, and they
redoubled their energies to get me into difficulty,
and they went on from bad to worse, until from words
they came to blows, and then occurred that 'little
onpleasantness' known as the 'dipper fight.' On the
13th of August, 1870, I, being on guard, was sent to
the tank for a pail of water. I had to go a distance
of about one hundred and fifty yards, fill the pail by
drawing water from the faucet in a dipper (the faucet
was too low to permit the pail to stand under it), and
return to the guard tent in ten minutes. When I reached
the tank, one of my classmates, J. W. Wilson, was standing
in front of the faucet drinking water from a dipper. He
didn't seem inclined to move, so I asked him to stand
aside as I wanted to get water for the guard. He said:
'I'd like to see any d—d nigger get water before I get
through.' I said: 'I'm on duty, and I've got no time to
fool with you,' and I pushed the pail toward the faucet.
He kicked the pail over, and I set it up and stooped
down to draw the water, and then he struck at me with
his dipper, but hit the brass plate on the front of my
hat and broke his dipper. I was stooping down at the
time, but I stood up and struck him in the face with
my left fist; but in getting up I did not think of a
tent fly that was spread over the tank, and that pulled
my hat down over my eyes. He then struck me in the face
with the handle of his dipper (he broke his dipper at
the first blow), and then I struck him two or three
times with my dipper, battering it, and cutting him
very severely on the left side of 'his head near the
temple. He bled very profusely, and fell on the ground
near the tank.
"The alarm soon spread through the camp, and all the
cadets came running to the tank and swearing vengeance
on the 'd—d nigger.'
"An officer who was in his tent near by came out and
ordered me to be put under guard in one of the guard
tents, where I was kept until next morning, when I
was put 'in arrest.' Wilson was taken to the hospital,
where he stayed two or three weeks, and as soon as he
returned to duty he was also placed in arrest. This
was made the subject for a court-martial, and that
court-martial will form the subject of my next
"J. W. SMITH,
"Late Cadet U.S.M.A."
THE INJUSTICE AT WEST POINT.
"COLUMBIA, S.C., August 7, 1874.
To the Editor of the New National Era:
"SIR: In my last communication I related the
circumstances of the 'dipper fight,' and now we
come to the court-martial which resulted therefrom.
"But there was another charge upon which I was tried
at the same time, the circumstances of which I will
"On the 15th of August, 1870, just two days after the
'dipper fight,' Cadet Corporal Beacom made a report
against me for 'replying in a disrespectful manner to
a file-closer when spoken to at drill, P.M. For this
alleged offence I wrote an explanation denying the
charge; but Cadet Beacom found three cadets who swore
that they heard me make a disrespectful reply in ranks
when Cadet Beacom, as a file-closer on duty, spoke to
me, and the Commandant of Cadets, Lieutenant Colonel
Upton, preferred charges against me for making false
"The court to try me sat in September, with General O.
O. Howard as President. I plead 'not guilty' to the
charge of assault on Cadet Wilson, and also to the
charge of making false statements.
"The court found both Cadet Wilson and myself 'guilty'
of assault, and sentenced us to be confined for two or
three weeks, with some other light punishment in the
form of 'extra duty.'
The finding of the court was approved by President
Grant in the case of Cadet Wilson, but disapproved
in my case, on the ground that the punishment was
not severe enough. Therefore, Cadet W. served his
punishment and I did not serve mine, as there was
no authority vested in the President to increase it.
"On the second charge I was acquitted, for I proved,
by means of the order book of the Academy that there
was no company drill on that day—the 15th of August
—that there was skirmish drill, and by the guard
reports of the same date, that Cadet Beacom and two
of his three witnesses were on guard that day, and
could not have been at drill, even if there had been
one. To some it might appear that the slight
inconsistencies existing between the sworn testimony
of those cadets and the official record of the Academy,
savored somewhat of perjury, but they succeeded in
explaining the matter by saying that 'Cadet Beacom
only made a mistake in date.' Of course he did; how
could it be otherwise? It was necessary to explain it
in some way so that I might be proved a liar to the
corps of cadets, even if they failed to accomplish
that object to the satisfaction of the court.
"I was released in November, after the proceedings
and findings of the court had been returned from
Washington, where they had been sent for the approval
of the President, having been in arrest for three
months. But I was not destined to enjoy my liberty
for any length of time, for on the 13th of December,
same year, I was in the ranks of the guard, and was
stepped on two or three times by Cadet Anderson, one
of my classmates, who was marching beside me.
"As I had had some trouble with the same cadet some
time before, on account of the same thing I believed
that he was doing it intentionally, and as it was very
annoying, I spoke to him about it, saying: "I wish you
would not tread on my toes.' He answered: 'Keep your
d—d toes out of the way.' Cadet Birney, who was
standing near by, then made some invidious remarks
about me, to which I did not condescend to reply. One
of the Cadet Corporals, Bailey, reported me for
'inattention in ranks,' and in my written explanation
of the offence, I detailed the circumstances, but both
Birney and Anderson denied them, and the Commandant of
Cadets took their statement in preference to mine, and
preferred charges against me for falsehood.
"I was court martialled in January, 1871, Captain
Piper, Third Artillery, being President of the court.
By this court I was found I 'guilty,' as I had no
witnesses, and had nothing to expect from the
testimony of the witnesses for the prosecution. Cadet
Corporal Bailey, who made the report, Cadets Birney
and Anderson were the witnesses who convicted me; in
fact they were the only witnesses summoned to testify
in the case. The sentence of the court was that I
should be dismissed, but it was changed to one year's
suspension, or, since the year was almost gone before
the finding of the court was returned from Washington,
where it was sent for the approval of President Grant,
I was put back one year.
"I had no counsel at this trial, as I knew it would be
useless, considering the one-sided condition of affairs.
I was allowed to make the following written statement
of the affair to be placed among the records of the
proceedings of the court:
"'May it please the court: I stand here to-day
charged with a most disgraceful act—one which
not only affects my character, but will, if I am
found guilty, affect it during my whole life—and
I shall attempt, in as few words as possible, to
show that I am as innocent as any person in this
room. I was reported on the 18th of December, 1870,
for a very trivial offence. For this offence I
submitted an explanation to the Commandant of
Cadets. In explanation I stated the real cause of
committing the offence for which I was reported.
But this cause, as stated, involved another cadet,
who, finding himself charged with an act for which
he was liable to punishment, denies all knowledge
of it. He tries to establish his denial by giving
evidence which I shall attempt to prove absurd. On
the morning of the 13th of December, 1870, at guard-
mounting, after the new guard had marched past the
old guard, and the command of "Twos left, halt!" had
been given, the new guard was about two or three yards
to the front and right of the old guard. Then the
command of "Left backward, dress," was given to the
new guard, "Order arms, in place rest." I then turned
around to Cadet Anderson, and said to him, "I wish you
would not tread on my toes." This was said in a moderate
tone, quite loud enough for him to hear. He replied, as
I understood, " Keep your d-d toes out of the way." I
said nothing more, and he said nothing more. I then
heard Cadet Birney say to another cadet—I don't know
who it was—standing by his side, "It (or the thing) is
speaking to Mr. Anderson. If he were to speak to me I
would knock him down." I heard him distinctly, but as
I knew that he was interfering in an affair that did
not concern him, I took no further notice of him, but
turned around to my original position in the ranks.
What was said subsequently I do not know, for I paid
no further attention to either party. I heard nothing
said at any time about taking my eyes away, or of Cadet
Anderson compromising his dignity. Having thus reviewed
the circumstances which gave rise to the charge, may
it please the court, I wish to say a word as to the
witnesses. Each of these cadets testifies to the fact
that they have discussed the case in every particular,
both with each other and with other cadets. That is,
they have found out each other's views and feelings in
respect to it, compared the evidence which each should
give, the probable result of the trial; and one has
even testified that he has expressed a desire as to
the result. Think you that Cadet Birney, with such a
desire in his breast, influencing his every thought
and word, with such an end in view, could give evidence
unbiassed, unprejudiced, and free from that desire that
"Cadet Smith might be sent away and proved a liar?"
Think you that he could give evidence which should be
"the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,
so help me God?" It seems impossible for me to have
justice done me by the evidence of such witnesses, but
I will leave that for the court to decide. There is
another question here which must be answered by the
finding of the court. It is this: "Shall Cadet Smith
be allowed to complain to the Commandant of Cadets when
he considers himself unjustly dealt with?" When the
court takes notice of the fact that this charge and
these specifications are the result of a complaint made
by me, it will agree with me as to the importance its
findings will have in answering that question. As to
what the finding will be, I can say nothing; but if the
court is convinced that I have lied, then I shall expect
a finding and sentence in accordance with such
conviction. A lie is as disgraceful to one man as another,
be he white or black, and I say here, as I said to the
Commandant of Cadets, "If I were guilty of falsehood, I
should merit and expect the same punishment as any other
cadet;" but, as I said before, I am as innocent of this
charge as any person in this room. The verdict of an
infallible judge—conscience— is, "Not guilty," and that
is the finding I ask of this court.
(Signed) "'J. W. SMITH,
"'Thus ended my second and last court-martial.
"J. W. SMITH,
"Late Cadet U.S.M.A."
THE HONOR OF A CADET AND GENTLEMAN.
To the Editor of the New National Era.:
"SIR: In relating the events of my first year at West
Point, I omitted one little affair which took place,
and I will now relate the circumstances. One Sunday,
at dinner, I helped myself to some soup, and one cadet,
Clark, of Kentucky, who sat opposite me at table, asked
me what I meant by taking soup before he had done so. I
told him that I took it because I wished it, and that
there was a plenty left. He seemed to be insulted at
that, and asked: 'Do you think I would eat after a d—d
Nigger?' I replied: 'I have not thought at all on the
subject, and, moreover, I don't quite understand you,
as I can't find that last word in the dictionary.' He
then took up a glass and said he would knock my head
off. I told him to throw as soon as he pleased, and as
soon as he got through I would throw mine. The commandant
of the table here interfered and ordered us to stop
creating a disturbance at the table, and gave me to
understand that thereafter I should not touch any thing
on that table until the white cadets were served.
"When we came back from dinner, as I was going into
my room, Cadet Clark struck at me from behind. He hit
me on the back of my neck, causing me to get into my
room with a little more haste than I anticipated, but
he did not knock me down. He came into my room,
following up his advantage, and attempted to take me
by the throat, but he only succeeded in scratching me
a little with his nails, as I defended myself as well
as possible until I succeeded in getting near my bayonet,
which I snatched from the scabbard and then tried to put
it through him. But being much larger and stronger than
I, he kept me off until he got to the door, but then he
couldn't get out, for some one was holding the door on
the outside, for the purpose, I suppose, of preventing
my escape, as no doubt they thought I would try to get
out. There were a great many cadets outside on the
stoop, looking through the window, and cheering their
champion, with cries of 'That's right, Clark; kill the
d—d nigger,' 'Choke him,' 'Put a head on him,' etc.,
but when they saw him giving way before the bayonet,
they cried, 'Open the door, boys,' and the door was
opened, and Mr. Clark went forth to rejoice in the
bosom of his friends as the hero of the day. The
cadet officer of the day 'happened around' just after
Clark had left, and wanted to know what did I mean by
making all that noise in and around my quarters. I
told him what the trouble was about, and soon after
I was sent for by the 'officer in charge,' and
questioned in reference to the affair. Charges were
preferred against Clark for entering my room and
assaulting me, but before they were brought to trial
he sent two of his friends tome asking if I would
withdraw the charges providing he made a written
apology. I told these cadets that I would think of
the matter and give them a definite answer the next
"I was perfectly well satisfied that he would be
convicted by any court that tried him; but the cadets
could easily prove (according to their way of giving
evidence) that I provoked the assault, and I, besides,
was utterly disgusted with so much wrangling, so when
the cadets called that evening I told them that if his
written apology was satisfactory I would sign it, submit
it to the approval of the Commandant of Cadets, and
have the charges withdrawn.
"They then showed me the written apology offered by
Clark, in which he stated that his offence was caused
by passion, because he thought that when I passed him
on the steps in going to my room I tried to brush
against him. He also expressed his regret for what he
had done, and asked forgiveness. I was satisfied with
his apology, and signed it, asking that the charges be
withdrawn, which was done, of course, and Clark was
released from arrest. I will, in justice to Cadet
Clark, state that I never had any further trouble with
him, for, while he kept aloof from me, as the other
cadets did, he alway thereafter acted perfectly fair
by me whenever I had any official relations with him.
"A few days after the settlement of our dispute I found,
on my return from fencing one day, that some one had
entered my room and had thrown all my clothes and other
property around the floor, and had thrown the water out
of my water-pail upon my bed. I immediately went to the
guard-house and reported the affair to the officer of
the day, who, with the 'officer in charge,' came to my
room to see what had been done. The officer of the day
said that he had inspected my quarters soon after I went
to the Fencing Academy and found everything in order,
and that it must have been done within a half hour. The
Commandant of the Cadets made an investigation of the
matter, but could not find out what young 'gentleman'
did it, for every cadet stated that he knew nothing of
it, although the corps of cadets has the reputation of
being a truthful set of young men.
"'Upon my honor as a cadet and a gentleman,'" is a
favorite expression with the West Point cadet; but
what kind of honor is that by which a young man can
quiet his conscience while telling a base falsehood
for the purpose of shielding a fellow-student from
punishmen for a disgraceful act? They boast of the
esprit de corps existing among the cadets; but it is
merely a cloak for the purpose of covering up their
iniquities and silencing those (for there are some)
who would, if allowed to act according to the dictates
of their own consciences, be above such disgraceful
acts. Some persons might attribute to me the same
motives that actuated the fox in crying 'sour grapes,'
and to such I will say that I never asked for social
equality at West Point. I never visited the quarters
of any professor, official, or cadet except on duty,
for I did not wish any one to think that I was in any
way desirous of social recognition by those who felt
themselves superior to me on account of color. As I
was never recognized as 'a cadet and a gentleman,' I
could not enjoy that blessed privilege of swearing
'upon my honor,' boasting of my share in the esprit de
corps, nor of concealing my sins by taking advantage of
them. Still, I hope that what I lost (?) by being
deprived of these little benefits will be compensated
for the 'still small voice,' which tells me that I have
done my best.
"J. W. SMITH,
"Late Cadet U.S.M.A."
COLUMBIA, S.C., August 19, 1874.
To the Editor of the New National Era.:
"SIR: My communications, thus far, have brought me
to the end of my first year at the Academy, and now
we come to the events of the second. In June of 1871,
the proverbial silver lining, which the darkest cloud
is said to have, began to shine very faintly in the
West Point firmament, and I thought that at last the
darkness of my cadet life was to be dispelled by the
appearance above the horizon of another colored cadet.
And, indeed, I was not disappointed, for, one day, I
was greeted by the familiar face and voice of Mr. H. A.
Napier, a former fellow-student at Howard University.
Soon after his arrival, and admittance, the corps of
'cadets, accompanied by the 'plebes,' took up quarters
in camp— 'plebe camp' to the latter, and 'yearling
camp' to us who had entered the previous year.
"During the cadet encampment there are certain dances
given three times each week, known as 'Cadet Hops.'
These 'hops' are attended by the members of the first
and third classes, and their lady friends, and no
'plebe' ever has the assurance of dreaming of
attending the 'hops' until he shall have risen to
the dignity of a 'yearling'—third-classman. So long
as I was a 'plebe,' no one anticipated any such dire
calamity as that I would attend the 'hops,' but as
soon as I became a 'yearling,' and had a perfect right
to go, if I wished, there was a great hue and cry
raised that the sanctity of the 'hop' room was to be
violated by the colored cadet.
"Meetings were held by the different classes, and
resolutions passed to the effect that as soon as
the colored cadet entered the 'hop' room, the 'hop'
managers were to declare the 'hop' ended, and dismiss
the musicians. But the 'hops' went on undisturbed
by the presence of the colored cadet for two or three
weeks, and all began to get quiet again, when one day
my brother and sister, with a couple of lady friends
whom they had come to visit, came to camp to see me.
"This started afresh the old report about the 'hops,'
and every one was on the qui vive to get a glimpse of
'nigger Jim and the nigger wenches who are going to
the hops,' as was remarked by a cadet who went up from
the guard tent to spread the alarm through camp.
"In a few minutes thereafter the 'gentlemen' had all
taken position at the end of the 'company street,' and,
with their opera-glasses, were taking observations upon
those who, as they thought, had come to desecrate the
'hop' room. I was on guard that day, but not being on
post at that time, I was sitting in rear of the guard
tents with my friends—that place being provided with
camp-stools for the accommodation of visitors— when a
cadet corporal, Tyler, of Kentucky, came and ordered me
to go and fasten down the corner of the first guard tent,
which stood a few paces from where we were sitting.
"I went to do so, when he came there also, and
immediately began to rail at me for being so slow,
saying he wished me to know that when he ordered
me to do anything, I must 'step out' about it, and
not try to shirk it. I said nothing, but fastened
down the corner of the tent, and went back to where
my friends were.
"In a few minutes afterwards he came back, and wanted to
know why I hadn't fastened down that tent wall. I told
him that I had.
"He said it was not fastened then, and that he did not
wish any prevarication on my part.
"I then told him that he had no authority to charge
me with prevarication, and that if he believed that
I had not fastened down the tent wall, the only thing
he could do was to report me. I went back to the tent
and found that either Cadet Tyler or some other cadet
had unfastened the tent wall, so I fastened it down
again. Nothing now was said to me by Cadet Tyler, and
I went back to where my friends were: but we had been
sitting there only about a half hour, when a private
soldier came to us and said, 'It is near time for
parade, and you will have to go away from here.' I
never was more surprised in my life, and I asked the
soldier what he meant, for I surely thought be was
either drunk or crazy, but he said that the
superintendent had given him orders to allow no
colored persons near the visitors' seats during parade.
"I asked him if he recognized me as a cadet. He said
he did. I then told him that those were my friends;
that I had invited them there to see the parade, and
that they were going to stay. He said he had nothing
to do with me, of course, but that he had to obey the
orders of the superintendent. I then went to the officer
of the guard, who was standing near by, and stated the
circumstances to him, requesting him to protect us from
such insults. He spoke to the soldier, saying that he
had best not try to enforce that order, as the order was
intended to apply to servants, and then the soldier went
off and left us.
"Soon after that the drum sounded for parade, and
I was compelled to leave my friends for the purpose
of falling in ranks, but promising to return as soon
as the parade was over, little thinking that I should
not be able to redeem that promise; but such was the
case, as I shall now proceed to show.
"Just as the companies were marching off the parade
ground, and before the guard was dismissed, the
'officer in charge,' Lieutenant Charles King, Fifth
Cavalry, came to the guard tent and ordered me to
step out of ranks three paces to the front, which I
"He then ordered me to take off my accoutrements and
place them with my musket on the gun rack. That being
done, he ordered me to take my place in the centre of
the guard as a prisoner, and there I stood until the
ranks were broken, when I was put in the guard tent.
Of course my friends felt very bad about it, as they
thought that they were the cause of it, while I could
Not speak a word to them, as they went away; and even
if I could have spoken to them, I could not have
explained the matter, for I did not know myself why I
had been put there—at least I did not know what charge
had been trumped up against me, though I knew well
enough that I had been put there for the purpose of
keeping me from the 'hop,' as they expected I would go.
The next morning I was put 'in arrest' for 'disobedience
of orders in not fastening down tent wall when ordered,'
and 'replying in a disrespectful manner to a cadet
corporal,' etc.; and thus the simplest thing was
magnified into a very serious offence, for the purpose
of satisfying the desires of a few narrow-minded cadets.
That an officer of the United States Army would allow
his prejudices to carry him so far as to act in that
way to a subordinate, without giving him a chance to
speak a word in his defence—nay, without allowing him
to know what charge had been made against him, and that
he should be upheld in such action by the 'powers that
be,' are sufficient proof to my mind of the feelings
which the officers themselves maintained towards us.
While I was in ranks, during parade, and my friends
were quietly sitting down looking at the parade, another
model 'officer and gentleman,' Captain Alexander Piper,
Third Artillery—he was president of my second court-
martial—came up, in company with a lady, and ordered
my brother and sister to get up and let him have their
camp-stools, and he actually took away the camp-stools
and left them standing, while a different kind of a
gentleman—an 'obscure citizen,' with no aristocratic
West Point dignity to boast of—kindly tendered his
camp-stool to my sister.
"I only wish I knew the name of that gentleman; but I
could not see him then, or I should certainly have
found it out, though in answer to my brother's question
as to his name, he simply replied, 'I am an obscure
citizen.' What a commentary on our 'obscure citizens,'
who know what it is to be gentlemen in something else
besides the name—gentlemen in practice, not only in
theory—and who can say with Burns that 'a mans a man
for a' that,' whether his face be as black as midnight
or as white as the driven snow.
"There is something in such a man which elevates him
above many others who, having nothing else to boast of,
can only say, 'I am a white man, and am therefore your
superior,' or 'I am a West Point graduate, and therefore
an officer and a gentleman.'
"After the usual 'investigation' by the Commandant of
Cadets, I was sentenced to be confined to the 'company
street' until the 15th of August, about five weeks, so
that I could not get out to see my brother and sister
after that, except when I was at drill, and then I could
not speak to them. I tried to get permission to see them
in the 'Visitors' Tent' the day before they left the
'Point' on their return home, but my permit was not
granted, and they left without having the privilege of
"I must say a word in reference to the commandant's
method of making 'investigations.' After sending for
Cadet Corporal Tyler and other white cadets, and
hearing their side of the story in reference to the
tent wall and the disrespectful reply, he sent for
me to hear what I had to say, and after I had given
my version of the affair, he told me that I must
surely be mistaken, as my statement did not coincide
with those of the other cadets, who were unanimous
in saying that I used not only disrespectful, but
also profane language while addressing the cadet
corporal. I told him that new Cadet Napier and my
brother were both there and heard the conversation,
and they would substantiate my statement if allowed
to testify. He said he was convinced that I was in
the wrong, and he did not send for either of them.
What sort of justice is that which can be meted out
to one without allowing him to defend himself, and
even denying him the privilege of calling his evidence?
What a model Chief Justice the Commandant of Cadets
would make, since he can decide upon the merits of the
case as soon as he has heard one side. Surely he has
missed his calling by entering the army, or else the
American people cannot appreciate true ability,
for that 'officer and gentleman' ought now to be
wearing the judicial robe so lately laid down by the
"In reply to my complaint about the actions of the
soldier in ordering my friends away from the visitors'
seats, he said that the soldier had misunderstood his
orders, as the superintendent had told him to keep the
colored servants on the 'Point' from coming in front
of the battalion at parade, and that it was not meant
to apply to my friends, who could come there whenever
"It seems, though, very strange to me that the soldier
could misunderstand his orders, when he saw me sitting
there in company with them, for it is one of the
regulations of the Academy which forbids any cadet to
associate with a servant, and if I had been seen doing
such a thing I would have been court-martialled for
'conduct unbecoming a cadet and a gentleman."
"The cadets were, of course, very much rejoiced
at my being 'in arrest,' and after my sentence
had been published at parade, they had quite a
jubilee over it, and boasted of 'the skill and
tact which Cadet Tyler had shown in putting the
nigger out of the temptation of taking those black
wenches to the hops.' They thought, no doubt, that
their getting me into trouble frightened me out of
any thoughts I might have had of attending the 'hops;'
but if I had any idea of going to the 'hops,' I should
have been only more determined to go, and should have
done so as soon as my term of confinement was ended.
I have never thought of going to the 'hops,' for it
would be very little pleasure to go by myself, and I
should most assuredly not have asked a lady to subject
herself to the insults consequent upon going there.
Besides, as I said before, I did not go to West Point
for the purpose of advocating social equality, for
there are many cadets in the corps with whom I think
it no honor for any one to associate, although they are
among the high-toned aristocrats, and will, no doubt,
soon be numbered among the 'officers and gentlemen' of
the United States Army.
"J. W. SMITH,
"Late Cadet U.S.M.A."
REPLY TO THE "WASHINGTON CHRONICLE."
"COLUMBIA, S.C., August 25, 1874.
To the Editor of the New National Era.:
"SIR: The following article appeared in the Washington
Chronicle of the 14th inst., and as I feel somewhat
interested in the statements therein contained, I
desire to say a few words in reference to them. The
article referred to reads as follows:
"'The recent attack of the colored, ex-Cadet Smith
upon the Board of Visitors at West Point has attracted
the attention of the officers of the War Department.
They say that the Secretary of War was extremely liberal
in his interpretation of the regulations on behalf of
Cadet Smith, and that he did for him what had never been
done for a white boy in like circumstances. The officers
also say that Smith was manifestly incompetent, that he
had a fair examination, and that the Congressional Board
of Visitors unanimously testified to his incompetency.'
"Now, sir, I am at a loss to know what are 'the recent
attacks of the colored ex-Cadet Smith upon the Board of
Visitors,' for I am not aware that I have said any thing,
either directly or indirectly, concerning the Board of
Visitors. My remarks thus far have been confined to the
Academic Board and Secretary of War.
"As the members of the Board of Visitors were simply
spectators, and as they were not present when I was
examined, I had no reason to make any 'attack' upon
them, and, therefore, as I said before, confined my
remarks (or 'attacks,' if that word is more acceptable
to the Chronicle) to those who acted so unjustly toward
"As to the extreme liberality of the Secretary of War,
in his interpretation of the regulations on behalf of
Cadet Smith, and that he did for him what he had never
'done for a white boy in like circumstances,' I hardly
know what to say; for such absurd cant seems intended
to excite the laughter of all who know the circumstances
of the case. What devoted servants those officers of the
War Department must be, that they can see in their chief
so much liberality!
"But in what respect was the Secretary of War so
'liberal in his interpretation of the regulations?'
"Was it in dismissing me, and turning back to a lower
class two white cadets who had been unable to complete
successfully the first year of the course with everything
in their favor, while I had completed three years of the
same course in spite of all the opposition which the whole
corps of cadets, backed by the 'powers that be,' could
throw in my way? Or was it his decision that 'I can give
Mr. Smith a re-examination, but I won't?' The Chronicle
is perfectly correct in saying 'that he did for him what
had never been done for a white boy in like circumstances,'
for, in the first place, I don't think there ever was 'a
white boy in like circumstances,' certainly not while I
was at the Academy, and if there ever were a white boy so
placed, we are pretty safe in concluding, from the general
treatment of white boys, that the secretary was not so
frank in his remarks nor so decided in his action.
"'I want another cadet to represent your district at
West Point, and I have already sent to Mr. Elliott to
appoint one,' means something more than fair dealing
(or, as the Chronicle would imply, partiality) toward
the colored cadet. It means that the gentleman was
pleasing himself in the choice of a cadet from the
Third Congressional District of South Carolina, and
that he did not recognize the rights of the people of
that district to choose for themselves. 'You are out
of the service and will stay out,' for 'the Academic
Board will not recommend you to come back under any
circumstances,' shows that it is the Academic Board
That must choose our representative, and not we
ourselves, and that our wishes are only secondary in
comparison with those of the service and the Academic
Board. We are no longer free citizens of a sovereign
State, and of the United States, with the right to
choose for ourselves those who shall represent us; but
we must be subordinate to the Secretary of War and the
Academic Board, and must make our wishes subservient to
those of the above-named powers, and unless we do that
we are pronounced to be 'naturally bad'—as remarked
the Adjutant of the Academy, Captain R. H. Hall, to a
Sun reporter—and must have done for us 'what had never
been done for a white boy in like circumstances.' Now,
sir, let us see what has 'been done for a white boy in
like circumstances.' In July, 1870, the President was
in Hartford, Ct., and in a conversation with my friend
the Hon. David Clark, in reference to my treatment at
West Point, he said: 'Don't take him away now; the battle
might just as well be fought now as at any other time,'
and gave him to understand that he would see me protected
in my rights; while his son Fred, who was then a cadet,
said to the same gentleman, and in the presence of his
father, that 'the time had not come to send colored boys
to West Point.' Mr. Clark said if the time had come for
them to be in the United States Senate, it had surely
come for them to be at West Point, and that he would do
all in his power to have me protected. Fred Grant then
said: 'Well, no d—d nigger will ever graduate from West
Point.' This same young gentleman, with other members of
his class, entered the rooms of three cadets, members of
the fourth class, on the night of January 3, 1871, took
those cadets out, and drove them away from the 'Point,'
with nothing on but the light summer suits that they wore
when they reported there the previous summer. Here was a
most outrageous example of Lynch law, disgraceful alike
to the first class, who were the executors of it, the
corps of cadets, who were the abettors of it, and the
authorities of the Academy, who were afraid to punish the
perpetrators because the President's son was implicated,
or, at least, one of the prime movers of the affair.
Congress took the matter in hand, and instructed the
Secretary of War to dismiss all the members of the class
who were implicated, but the latter gentleman 'was
extremely liberal in his interpretation of the
regulations,' and declined to be influenced by the action
of Congress, and let the matter drop.
"Again, when a Court of Inquiry, appointed by Congress to
investigate complaints that I had made of my treatment,
reported in favor of a trial by court-martial of General
Gillmore's son, General Dyer's son, the nephew of the
Secretary of War, and some other lesser lights of America's
aristocracy, the secretary decided that a reprimand was
sufficient for the offence; yet 'he did for me what had
never been done for a white boy in like circumstances.'
Now, sir, by consulting my Register of the Academy, issued
in 1871, I find that three cadets of the fourth class were
declared 'deficient ' in mathematics—Reid, Boyle, and
Walker—and that the first named was turned back to join
the next class, while the other two were dismissed. Now
Reid is the Secretary's nephew, so that is the reason for
his doing 'for him what had never been done for a white
boy in like circumstances.'
"Mr. Editor, I have no objection whatever to any
favoritism that may be shown 'any member of the Royal.
Family, so long as it does not infringe upon any right
of my race or myself; but when any paper tries to show
that I have received such impartial treatment at the
hands of 'the powers that be,' and even go so far, in
their zealous endeavors to shield any one from charges
founded upon facts, as to try to make it appear that I
was a favorite, a pet lamb, or any other kind of a pet,
at West Point, I think it my duty to point out any errors
that may accidentally (?) creep into such statements.
"'The officers also say that Smith was manifestly
incompetent, that he had a fair examination,' etc. What
officers said that? Those of the War Department, whose
attention was attracted by the 'recent attacks on the
Board of Visitors,' or those who decided the case at
West Point? In either case, it is not surprising that
they should say so, for one party might feel jealous
because 'the Secretary of War was extremely liberal
in his interpretation of the regulations on behalf of
Cadet Smith, and that he did for him what had never
been done for a white boy in like circumstances,' while
the other party might have been actuated by the desire
to prove that 'no colored boy can ever graduate at West
Point,' or, as the young gentleman previously referred
to said, 'No d—d nigger shall ever graduate at West
Point.' As for the unanimous testimony of the Board of
Visitors, I can only say that I know not on what ground
such testimony is based, for, as I said before, the
members of that board were not in the library when I
was examined in philosophy; but perhaps, this is only
one of the 'they says' of the officers. There are some
things in this case which are not so manifest as my
alleged incompetency, and I would like to bring them to
the attention of the Chronicle, and of any others who
may feel interested in the matter. There has always been
a system of re-examinations at the Military Academy for
the purpose of giving a second chance to those cadets
who failed at the regular examination. This year the re-
examinations were abolished; but for what reason? It is
true that I had never been re-examined, but does it not
appear that the officers had concluded 'that Smith was
manifestly incompetent,' and that this means was taken
to deprive me of the benefit of a re-examination when
they decided that I was 'deficient?' Or was it done so
that the officers might have grounds for saying that 'he
did for him what had never been done for a white boy in
like circumstances?' Again, the examinations used to be
public; but this year two sentinels were posted at the
door of the library, where the examinations were held,
and when a visitor came he sent in his card by one
of the sentinels, while the other remained at the door,
and was admitted or not at the discretion of the
superintendent. It is said that this precaution was
taken because the visitors disturbed the members of the
Academic Board by walking across the floor. Very good
excuse, for the floor was covered with a very thick
carpet. We must surely give the Academic Board credit
for so much good judgment and foresight, for it would
have been a very sad affair, indeed, for those gentlemen
to have been made so nervous (especially the Professor
of Philosophy) as to be unable to see how 'manifestly
incompetent' Cadet Smith was, and it would have deprived
the Secretary of War of the blissful consciousness that
'he did for him what had never been done for a white boy
in like circumstances,' besides losing the privilege of
handing down to future generations the record of his
extreme liberality 'in his interpretation of the
regulations on behalf of Cadet Smith.'
"Oh, that this mighty deed might be inscribed on a
lasting leather medal and adorn the walls of the War
Department, that it might act as an incentive to some
future occupant of that lofty station! I advise the
use of leather, because if we used any metal it might
convey to our minds the idea of 'a sounding brass or a
"J. W. SMITH,
"Late Cadet U.S.M.A."
THE NEGRO CADETS.
"We publish this morning an account of Cadet Smith's
standing at West Point, which should be taken with a
few grains of allowance. The embryo colored soldier
and all his friends—black, white and tan—believe
that the administrationists have used him shamefully,
especially in view of their professions and of the
chief source of their political strength. Grant went
into the White House by means of colored votes, and
his shabby treatment of the first member of the dusky
army who reached the point of graduation in the country's
military school, is a sore disappointment to them.
"Cadet Smith has been a thorn in the side of the
Administration from the start. He could not be bullied
out or persecuted out of the institution by the insults
or menaces of those who, for consistency's sake, should
have folded him to their bosoms. He stood his ground
bravely, and much against the will of its rulers. West
Point was forced to endure his unwelcome presence up to
the time of graduation. At that point a crisis was
reached. If the odious cadet were allowed to graduate,
his commission would entitle him to assignment in our
much-officered army, which contains Colonel Fred Grant
and a host of other favorites whose only service has
been of the Captain Jinks order. The army revolted at
the idea. Theoretically they were and are sound on the
nigger, but they respectfully and firmly objected to a
practical illustration. The Radical General Belknap was
easily convinced that the assignment of the unoffending
Smith to duty would cause a lack of discipline in any
regiment that would be fearful to contemplate.
"Something must be done, and that something was quickly
accomplished. They saved the army and the dignity of the
horse marines by sacrificing the cadet. To do so, some
tangible cause must be alleged, and a deficiency in
'philosophy' was hit upon.
"In vain did Smith appeal to the Secretary of War for
an opportunity to be re-examined; in vain did he ask
permission to go back and join the class below—all
appeals were in vain. 'Gentlemen,' says the secretary,
'I don't wish to be misquoted as saying that I can't
give Mr. Smith a re-examination, for I say I won't do
it.' The victim of the army has since published a three-
column card in Fred Douglass's paper, in which he says
he was dropped for politico-military reasons, and in
the course of which he makes an almost unanswerable case
for himself, but the Radicals have dropped him in his
hour of necessity, and he must submit."
(From the New York Sun.)
CADET SMITH'S EXPULSION.
"James W. Smith, the first colored cadet appointed to
the Military Academy of West Point, was dismissed
after the June examination, having failed to pass an
examination in some other studies. Recently the Sun
received letters from South Carolina charging that the
prejudices of the officers of the Academy led to the
dismissal; and to ascertain the truth a Sun reporter
went to West Point to investigate the matter. He accosted
a soldier thus:
"'Were you here before Smith was dismissed?'
"'Yes, sir; I've been here many years.'
"'Can you tell me why he was dismissed?'
"'Well, I believe he didn't pass in philosophy and some
"'What kind of a fellow was he?'
"'The soldiers thought well of him, but the cadets
didn't. They used to laugh and poke fun at him in
Riding Hall, and in the artillery drill all of them
refused to join hands with him when the cannoneers
were ordered to mount. This is dangerous once in a
while, for sometimes they mount when the horses are
on a fast trot. But he used to run on as plucky as
you please, and always got into his seat without help.
Some of the officers used to try to make them carry out
the drill, but it was no use. I never saw one of the
young fellows give him a hand to make a mount. He was
a proud negro, and had good pluck. I never heard him
complain, but his black eyes used to flash when he was
insulted, and you could see easy enough that he was in
a killin' humor. But after the first year he kept his
temper pretty well, though he fought hard to do it.'
"Captain Robert H. Hall, the post adjutant, said:
'Young Smith was a bad boy.'
His temper was hot, and his disposition not honorable. I
can assure you that the officers at this post did every
thing in their power to help him along in his studies,
as well as to improve his standing with his comrades.
But his temper interfered with their efforts in the
latter direction, while his dulness precluded his
passing through the course of studies prescribed.
"REPORTER—'He was always spoken of as a very bright
"CAPTAIN HALL—'He was not bright or ready. He lacked
comprehension. In his first year he was very troublesome.
First came his assault upon, or affray with, another
young gentleman (Cadet Wilson), but the Court of Inquiry
deemed it inadvisable to court-martial either of them.
Then he was insolent to his superior on drill, and being
called upon for an explanation he wrote a deliberate
falsehood. For this he was court-martialled and sentenced
to dismissal, but subsequently the findings of the
committee were reversed, and Cadet Smith was put back one
year. This fact accounts for his good standing on the
examination next before the last. You see he went over the
same studies twice.'
"REPORTER—'What was Cadet Smith found deficient in?'
"CAPTAIN HALL—'HIS worst failure was in natural and
experimental philosophy, which embraces the higher
mathematics, dynamics, optics, mechanics, and other
studies. He missed a very simple question in optics,
and the examiners, who were extremely lenient with him,
chiefly, I believe, because he was colored and not white,
tried him with another, which was also missed.'
"REPORTER—'Is optical science deemed an absolutely
essential branch of learning for an officer in the
DEFICIENT IN HIS STUDIES.
"CAPTAIN HALL—'It is useful to engineers, for instance.
But that is not the question. In most educational
institutions of the grade of West Point, the standing
of a student in his studies is decided by a general
average of all studies in which he is examined. Here
each branch is considered separately, and if the cadet
fails in any one he cannot pass. I will assure you once
more that in my opinion Cadet Smith received as fair an
examination as was ever given to any student. If anything,
he was a little more favored.'
"REPORTER—'What was his conduct in the last year of his
stay at the Academy?'
"CAPTAIN HALL—'Good. He ranked twenty in a class of
forty in discipline. Discipline is decided by the number
of marks a cadet receives in the term. If he goes beyond
a certain number he is expelled.'
"REPORTER—'This record seems hardly consistent with
his previous turbulent career.'
"CAPTAIN HALL—'Oh! in the last years of his service
he learned to control his temper, but he never seemed
happy unless in some trouble.'
"REPORTER—'Have you any more colored cadets?'
"CAPTAIN HALL—'Only one—Henry O. Flipper, of Georgia.
He is a well-built lad, a mulatto, and is bright,
intelligent, and studious.'
"REPORTER—'Do the cadets dislike him as much as they
"CAPTAIN HALL—'No, Sir, I am told that he is more
popular. I have heard of no doubt he will get through
all right. And here I will say, that had Mr. Smith been
white he would not have gone so far as he did.'
"Other officers of the post concur with Captain Hall,
but the enlisted men seem to sympathize with Smith. One
of them said, 'I don't believe the officers will ever
let a negro get through. They don't want them in the
"Cadet Smith's career for the three years of his
service was indeed a most unhappy one, but whether
that unhappiness arose from
THE INFIRMITIES OF TEMPER
or from the persistent persecutions of his comrades
cannot be authoritatively said. One officer attributed
much of the pugnacity which Smith exhibited early in
his course to the injudicious letters sent him by his
friends. In some of these he was advised to 'fight for
the honor of his race,' and others urged him to brook
no insult at the hands of the white cadets. The menial
duties which the 'plebes' are called upon to do in
their first summer encampment were looked upon by Smith
as personal insults thrust upon him, althought his
comrades made no complaint. Then the social ostracism
to a lad of his sensitive nature was almost unbearable,
and an occasional outbreak is not to be wondered at.
"Before he had been in the Academy a week he wrote to a
friend complaining of the treatment he received from his
fellows, and this letter being published intensified the
hostility of the other cadets. Soon after this he had a
fight with Cadet Wilson and cut his face with a dipper.
Then followed the breach of discipline on drill, the
court-martial and sentence, and finally the Congressional
investigation, which did not effect any good. Smith says
that frequently on squad drill he was detached from the
squad by the cadet corporal, and told that he was not to
stand side by side with white men.
"WEST POINT, June 19."
THE COLORED CADET.
HIS TRIALS AND PERSECUTIONS—THREE YEARS OF ABUSE—
SETTLED AT LAST—"ELI PERKINS" TELLS THE STORY.
To the Editor of the Daily Graphic:
About the 20th of May, 1870, I saw the colored Cadet,
James W. Smith land at the West Point Dock. He was
appointed by a personal friend of mine, Judge Hoge,
Member of Congress from Columbia, South Carolina.
The mulatto boy was about five feet eight inches high,
with olive complexion and freckles. Being hungry he
tipped his hat to a cadet as he jumped from the ferry
-boat and asked him the way to the hotel.
"'Over there, boy,' replied the cadet, pointing to
the Rose Hotel owned by the government.
"On arriving there the colored boy laid down his carpet-
bag, registered his name, and asked for something to eat.
"'What! A meal of victuals for a nigger?' asked the clerk.
"'Yes, Sir, I'm hungry and I should like to buy something
"'Well, you'll have to be hungry a good while if you
wait to get something to eat here,' and the clerk of
the government hotel pushed the colored boy's carpet
-bag off upon the floor.
"Jimmy Smith's father, who fought with General Sherman,
and came back to become an alderman in Columbia, had
told the boy that when he got to West Point among soldiers
he would be treated justly, and you can imagine how the
hungry boy felt when he trudged back over the hot campus
to see Colonel Black and General Schriver, who was then
Superintendent of the Academy.
"The black boy came and stood before the commandant and
handed him his appointment papers and asked him to read
them. Colonel Black, Colonel Boynton, and other officers
looked around inquiringly. Then they got up to take a
good look at, the first colored cadet. The colonel, red
in the face, waved the boy away with his hand, and, one
by one, the officers departed, speechless with amazement.
"In a few moments the news spread through the Academy.
The white cadets seemed paralyzed.
"Several cadets threatened to resign, some advocated
maiming him for life, and a Democratic 'pleb' from
Illinois exclaimed, 'I'd rather die than drill with
the black devil.' But wiser counsels prevailed, and
the cadets consented to tolerate Jimmy Smith and not
drown or kill him for four weeks, when it was thought
the examiners would 'bilge' him.
"On the 16th of June, 1870, I saw Jimmy Smith again at
West Point and wrote out my experiences. He was the
victim of great annoyance.
"At these insults the colored cadet showed a suppressed
emotion. He could not break the ranks to chastise his
assaulter. Then if he had fought with every cadet who
called him a '—black-hearted nigger,' he would have
fought with the whole Academy. Not the professors,
for they have been as truly gentlemen as they are good
officers. If they had feelings against the colored cadet
they suppressed them. I say now that the indignities
heaped upon Jimmy Smith would have been unbearable to
any white boy of spirit. Hundreds of times a day he was
publicly called names so mean that I dare not write them.
"Once I met Jimmy Smith after drill. He bore the
insulting remarks like a Christian.
"'I expected it,' he said; 'but it was not so at the
Hartford High School. There I had the second honors
of my class.' Then he showed me a catalogue of the
Hartford High School, and there was the name of James
W. Smith as he graduated with the next highest honor.
"On that occasion I asked Jimmy who his father was.
"'His name is Israel Smith. He used to belong to Sandres
Guignard, of Columbia.'
"'Then he was a slave?'
"'Yes, but when Sherman's army freed him he became a
"'And your mother?'
"'She is Catherine Smith, born free.' Here Jimmy showed
his mother's photograph. She looked like a mulatto
woman, with straight hair and regular features. She had
a serious, Miss-Siddons-looking face.
"'How did you come to "the Point?"' I asked.
"'Well, Mr. David Clark, of Hartford, promised to educate
me, and he got Congressman Hoge to appoint me.'
"'How came Mr. Clark to become interested in you?'
"'Well, a very kind white lady—Miss Loomis—came to
Columbia to teach the freedmen. I went to school to her
and studied so hard and learned so fast that she told
Mr. Clark about me. My father is able to support me,
but Mr. Clark is a great philanthropist and he has taken
a liking to me and he is going to stand by me.'
"'What does Mr. Clark say when you write about how the
cadets treat you?'
"The colored boy handed me this letter from his
"'HARTFORD, June 7, 1870.
"'DEAR JEMMY: Yours, 1st inst., is at hand and noted. I
herewith inclose stamps.
"'Let them call "nigger" as much as they please; they
will laugh out of the other corner of their mouth before
the term is over.
"'Your only way is to maintain your dignity. Go straight
ahead. If any personal insult is offered, resist it, and
then inform me; I will then see what I can do. But I think
you need have no fear on that score. Have been out to
Windham a few days. All well, and send kind regards. Mary
sails for Europe Saturday. President Grant is to be here
the 2d. He will be my guest or Governor Jewell's.
"'So Mr. Clark knows the President, does he?'
"'Why, yes; he knows everybody—all the great men. He's
a great man himself;' and this poor colored boy stood up,
I thought, the proudest champion David Clark ever had.
"'Yes, David Clark is a good man,' I mused, as I saw the
grateful tears standing in the colored cadet's eyes.
"When I got back to the hotel I heard a wishy-washy girl,
who came up year after year with a party to flirt with
the cadets say:
"'O dear! it is hawid to have this colod cadet—perfectly
dre'fful. I should die to see my George standing next to
"But Miss Schenck, the daughter of General Schenck, our
Minister to the Court of St. James, told Jimmy Smith
that she hoped he would graduate at the head of his
class, and when the colored boy told me about it he said:
"'Oh, sir, a splendid lady called to see me to-day. I
wish I knew her name. I want to tell David Clark.'
"Every white boy at West Point now agreed to cut the
colored boy. No one was to say a single word to him,
or even answer yes or no. At the same time they would
abuse him and swear at him in their own conversation
loud enough for him to hear. It is a lamentable fact
that every white cadet at the Point swears and chews
tobacco like the army in Flanders.
"Again I saw Jimmy Smith on the 9th of July. The officers
of the Academy had been changed. Old General Schriver had
given place to young General Upton. The young general is
a man of feeling and a lover of justice. He sent for the
colored boy, and taking his hand he said:
"'My boy, you say you want to resign, that you can stand
this persecution no longer. You must not do it. You are
here an officer of the army. You have stood a severe
examination. You have passed honorably and you shall not
be persecuted into resigning. I am your friend. Come to
me and you shall have justice.'
"Then General Upton addressed the cadets on dress parade.
He told them personal insults against their brother cadet,
whose only crime was color, must cease.
"One day a cadet came to Jimmy and said he would befriend
him if he dared to, 'but you know I would be ostracized
if I should speak to you.'
"'What was the cadet's name?' I asked.
"'Oh, I dare not tell?' replied the colored boy. 'He would
be ruined, too.'
"'Did your father write to you when you thought of
"'Yes; here is his letter,' replied the colored boy:
"'COLUMBIA, S.C., July 3, 1870.
"'My DEAR SON: I take great pleasure in answering your
kind letter received last night. I pray God that my
letter may find you in a better state of consolation
than when you wrote to me. I told you that you would
have trials and difficulties to endure. Do not mind them,
for they will go like chaff before the wind, and your
enemies will soon be glad to gain your friendship. They
do the same to all newcomers in every college. You are
elevated to a high position, and you must stand it like
a man. Do not let them run you away, for then they will
say, the "nigger" won't do. Show your spunk, and let
them see that you will fight. That is what you are sent
to West Point for. When they find you are determined to
stay, they will let you alone. You must not resign on any
account, for it is just what the Democrats want. They are
betting largely here that you won't get in. The rebels
say if you are admitted, they will devil you so much that
you can't stay. Be a man; don't think of leaving, and let
me know all about your troubles. The papers say you have
not been received. Do write me positively whether you are
received or not.
"'Times are lively here, for everybody is preparing for
the Fourth of July. There are five colored companies
here, all in uniform, and they are trying to see who shall
excel in drill.
"'Stand your ground; don't resign, and write me soon.
"'From your affectionate father,
"On the 11th of January I visited West Point again. I
found all the cadets still against the colored boy. A
system of terrorism reigned supreme. Every one who did
not take sides against the colored boy was ostracized.
"At drill one morning Cadet Anderson trod on the colored
boy's toes. When Smith expostulated Anderson replied,
'Keep your— toes away.' When Smith told about it Anderson
got two other white cadets to say he never said so. This
brought the colored boy in a fix.
"Last July I saw the colored cadet again. He was still
ostracized. No cadet ever spoke to him. He lived a, hermit
life, isolated and alone.
"When I asked him how he got on with his studies he said:
'As well as I am able, roaming all alone, with no one to
help me and no one to clear up the knotty points. If there
is an obscure point in my lesson I must go to the class
with it. I cannot go to a brother cadet.'
"'If you should ask them to help you what would they say?'
"'They would call me a — nigger, and tell me to go back
to the plantation.'
"Yesterday, after watching the colored cadet for three
years, I saw him again. He has grown tall and slender.
He talks slowly, as if he had lost the use of language.
Indeed many days and weeks he has gone without saying
twenty lines a day in a loud voice, and that in the
"When they were examining him the other day he spoke
slowly, but his answers were correct. His answers in
philosophy were correct. But they say he answered
slowly, and they will find him deficient for that.
Find him deficient for answering slowly when the boy
almost lost the use of language! When he knew four
hundred eyes were on him and two hundred malign arts
all praying for his failure!
"The colored cadet is now in his third year. The
great question at West Point is, Will he pass his
examination? No one will know till the 30th of June.
It is my impression that the young officers have
marked him so low that he will be found deficient.
The young officers hate him almost as bad as the
cadets, and whenever they could make a bad mark
against him they have done it.
"'Does anyone ever speak to you now?' I asked.
"'No. I dare not address a cadet. I do not want
to provoke them. I simply want to graduate. I am
satisfied if they do not strike or harm me; though
if I had a kind word now and then I should be
happier, and I could study better,' Then the colored
boy drew a long sigh.
"To-day I met General Howard, who was present at the
colored cadet's court-martial. I asked him to tell me
"'Well, Mr. Perkins,' said the General, 'they tried to
make out that the colored boy lied.'
"'Yes,' I interrupted, 'and they all say he did lie at
the Point now. How was it?'
"'It was this way: They accused him of talking on parade,
and, while trying to convict him out of his own mouth,
they asked him "If on a certain day he did not speak to
a certain cadet while on drill?" "I did not speak to this
cadet while on drill the day you mention," answered Cadet
Smith, "for the cadet was not in the parade that day."'
"This answer startled the prosecutors, and, looking over
the diary of parade days, they were astonished to find
Cadet Smith correct.
"'What then?' I asked.
"'Why they accuse him of telling a lie in spirit, though
not in form, for he had talked on a previous day. Just
as if he was obliged to say any thing to assist the
prosecutors except to answer their questions.'
"General Howard believes Cadet Smith to be a good,
honest boy. I believe the same.
(From the Savannah (Ga.) Morning-News.)
"Lieutenant Flipper seems to have gone back on his
Atlanta friends. He came home from West Point with
a good Academy record, behaved himself with becoming
dignity. The officers at the barracks treated him—
not socially, but as an officer of the army—with
due respect, as did the citizens of Atlanta, who felt
that he had won credit by his good conduct and success.
But in an evil hour the colored friends (?) of Flipper
gave him a reception, and in full uniform he made them
a speech. Now speech-making is a dangerous thing, and
this colored warrior seems to have been made a victim
of it. He distorted the official courtesies of the
officers at the barracks into social courtesies, and
abused the white people of the South because they did
not give him and his race social equality. Not only
were sensible colored people displeased with his
remarks, but many white citizens who went to the
meeting friendly to Flipper left disgusted with his
*If a man walks on the streets with me, invites me
to his quarters, introduces me to his comrades,
and other like acts of courtesy, ought I to consider
him treating me socially or officially? I went to
the garrison in Atlanta to pay my respects to the
commanding officer. I expected nothing. I met an
officer, who, with four others, had introduced
himself to me on the cars. My official call had been
made. He took me around, introduced me to the officers,
and showed me all possible attention. I met another
officer in the city several days after this. He offered
cigars. We walked up and down the streets together.
Many times did we hear and comment upon the remarks we
overheard: "Is he walking with that nigger?" and the
like. He invited me into a druggist's to take some soda-
water. I went in and got it, although it was never sold
there before to a person of color. We rode out to the
garrison together, and every attention was shown me by
all. Another officer told me that before I came the
officers of the garrison assembled to consider whether
or not they should recognize me. The unanimous vote was
"yes." Was all this official? No. It is the white people,
the disappointed tyrants of Georgia, who try to distort
social courtesies in official ones. The "many white"
people were some half-dozen newspaper reporters, whose
articles doubtless were partly written when they came.
"Old Si" in his spectacles was prominently conspicuous
(From the Savannah (Ga.) Morning News.)
A COLORED ARMY OFFICER.
"Lieutenant Flipper is his name. He is a living
result of the policy of Radicalism which has
declared from the first its determination that,
under any circumstances, the American citizen of
African descent shall enjoy all the privileges of
his white brethren. Carrying out this determination,
and not dismayed at the fate of colored cadet Smith,
who figured so largely in West Point annals a few
years ago, cadet Flipper was sent to that institution
to try his hand. He has graduated, and now holds the
commission of Second Lieutenant of Cavalry in the
United States Army, the first of his race who has
ever attained such a position.
"It will be curious to watch young Flipper's career
as an officer. Time was when army officers were a
very aristocratic and exclusive set of gentlemen,
whether they still hold to their old ideas, or not,
we do not know. There seems to be enough of the old
feeling left, however, to justify the belief that
until some other descendants of African parents
graduate at the institution, Flipper will have a
lonely time. During his cadetship, we learn from no
less an authority than the New York Tribune, 'the
paper founded by Horace Greeley,' that he was let
severely alone by his fellow-students. According to
that paper, one of the cadets said, 'We have no
feeling against him, but we could not associate with
him. It may have been prejudice but still we couldn't
do it.' This shows very clearly the animus which will
exist in the army against the colored officer. If at
West Point, where he had to drill, recite, eat, and
perhaps sleep with his white brothers, they couldn't
associate with him (notwithstanding the fact that the
majority of these whites were Northern men and ardent
advocates of Radicalism, with its civil rights and
social equality record), how can it be expected that
they will overcome their prejudices any more readily
after they become officers. The Tribune thinks they
will, and that in time the army will not hesitate to
receive young Flipper, and all of his race who may
hereafter graduate at West Point, with open arms; but
the chances are that the Tribune is wrong. Your model
Yankee is very willing to use the negro as a hobby-
horse upon which to ride into place and power, but
when it comes to inviting him to his house and
embracing him as a brother he is very apt to be found
wanting. The only society Lieutenant of Cavalry Flipper
can ever hope to enjoy is that which will exist when
there are enough of his race in the army to form a
corps d'Afrique, and by that time he will be too old
to delight in social pleasures. Meanwhile he will be
doomed to a life of solitude and self-communings, and
be subjected to many such snubs as the venerable
Frederick Douglass has but recently received at the
hands of that champion mourner for the poor African—Rutherford B, Hayes."
The New York Tribune is right. The army is officered
by men, not by West Point cadets, who are only students
(From the Savannah (Ga.) Morning News.)
CHEERS FOR FLIPPER.
"The miscegenationists and social equality advocates
are making a great deal of noise over the facts, first,
that a negro has graduated at West Point, and holds
to-day a commission in the United States Army; and
second, that when he went up to receive his diploma,
he was, alone of all the members of his class, the
recipient of a round of applause. Great things are
augured from these two circumstances, especially the
"It is reasoned that now, that a negro has at last been
able to secure a commission in the military service of
the country, the first step towards the recognition of
his race on the basis of social equality is accomplished,
by degrees prejudice will wear away, and, in course of
time, black and white citizens of this republic will
mingle freely and without reserve; and this, it is
claimed, is shown by the applause with which the
reception into the army of this African pioneer was
greeted. For our part we don't see that these negro
devotees and miscegenationists have any reason to
rejoice. It is just as impossible to establish perfect
social equality between the Anglo-Saxon and African
races as it is to make oil and water unite. It is
against nature, and nowhere in the world is the
antipathy to such a mingling shown more than in the
North, and by no people so strongly as by the very
men who whine so incessantly and so pretentiously
about 'men and brethren.' The negro in the South has
always found the white man of the South to be his best
and truest friend, and such will always be the case,
notwithstanding that the Southern white will never
consent to social equality with his fellow-citizen of
"As to the applause which greeted Flipper, that can
easily be accounted for. Nothing is more likely than
that at West Point there should have been gathered
together a lot of old-time South-haters, who were
ready to applaud, not so much to flatter Flipper as
to show that they were happy over what they felt to
be a still further humiliation of the South. That is
all there is in that.
"We have no objections to such demonstrations of
delight. As far as we are concerned they may be
indulged in to the heart's content by those who so
desire. But one piece of information we can give to
the young colored Georgia lieutenant. If he thinks
those who applauded him are going to invite him to
their houses he will be greatly disappointed. And
if he does not die of overeating until those invite
him to dine with them, he will live to a good old
age. Let him take the fate of the recognized leader
of his race, Fred Douglass, as an example, and steer
clear of his too demonstrative friends. Experience
shows that so long as they can use him, they will be
very profuse in their professions of friendship; but
when that is done all is done, and he will find
himself completely cast aside. If Flipper sees these
words, let him mark our prediction."
"And many false prophets shall arise, and deceive
many" (Matt. 24:11). Amen. That is all that article
(From the Monmouth Inquirer, Freehold, N.J.)
"When Congress founded West Point, to be a training
school for those who were to be paid as public servants
and to wear the public livery, we do not think that it
was intended that the institution should serve as a
hotbed for the fostering of aristocratic prejudices and
the assumption of aristocratic airs. Nor do we think
that when Lincoln declared the negro a freeman, and
entitled to a freeman's rights, either he or the nation
designed that the dusky skin of the enfranchised slave
should serve as an excuse for ignominy, torture, and
disgrace. Yet here, this year, in the graduating class
from West Point, steps a young man among his white-
skinned fellows, fiftieth in a class of seventy-six
members, whose four years of academic life have been
one long martyrdom; who has stood utterly alone, ignored
and forsaken among his fellows; who has had not one
helping hand from professors or students to aid him in
fighting his hard battle, and whom only his own talents
and sturdy pluck have saved from entire oblivion. Yet in
spite of all, he was graduated; he has left twenty-six
white students behind him; he is a second lieutenant in
the regular army, and the story of his struggles and his
hard-won victory is known from Oregon to Florida. All
honor to the first of his race who has stemmed the tide
and won the prize.
"We do not think the faculty at West Point have done
their duty in this matter. One word, one example from
them, would have stopped the persecution, and it is to
their disgrace that no such word was spoken and no such
I have not a world to say against any of the professors
or instructors who were at West Point during the period
of my cadetship. I have every thing to say in their praise,
and many things to be thankful for. I have felt perfectly
free to go to any officer for assistance, whenever I have
wanted it, because their conduct toward me made me feel
that I would not be sent away without having received
whatever help I may have wanted. All I could say of the
professors and officers at the Academy would be
unqualifiedly in their favor.
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