African American History: Lieutenant Henry O. Flipper

lieutenant henry o. flipperHenry Ossian Flipper (21 March 1856 – 3 May 1940) was an American soldier, former slave, and the first African American to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1877, earning a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army.

Following Flipper’s commission, he was transferred to one of the all-black regiments serving in the US Army which were historically led by white officers. Assigned to A Troop under the command of Captain Nicholas M. Nolan, he became the first non-white officer to lead Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry. Flipper served with competency and distinction during the Apache Wars and the Victorio Campaign but was haunted by rumors alleging improprieties. At one point he was court martialed and dismissed from the US Army.

After losing his commission in the Army, Flipper worked throughout Mexico and Latino America and as an assistant to the Secretary of the Interior. He retired to Atlanta in 1931 and died of natural causes in 1940.

In 1976 his descendants applied to the US military for a review of Flipper’s court martial and dismissal. A review found that the conviction and punishment were “unduly harsh and unjust” and recommended that Flipper’s dismissal be changed to a good conduct discharge. Shortly afterwards, an application for pardon was filed with the Secretary of the Army which was forwarded to the Department of Justice. President Bill Clinton pardoned Lieutenant Henry O. Flipper on 19 February 1999.

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About SouthernGirl2

A Native Texan who adores baby kittens, loves horses, rodeos, pomegranates, & collect Eagles. Enjoys politics, games shows, & dancing to all types of music. Loves discussing and learning about different cultures. A Phi Theta Kappa lifetime member with a passion for Social & Civil Justice.
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6 Responses to African American History: Lieutenant Henry O. Flipper

  1. Pingback: 8th Army Soldier - Adalbertus 35-023

  2. Ametia says:

    Thank you for this post, SG2. Lt. Henry O. Flipper’s LEGACY and SPIRIT can NOT be killed. Attempts dismiss co-opt Black invovation, creativity and acheivements continues today,

    What did Paul Mooney say?

    Like

  3. Lt. Henry O. Flipper’s Quest for Justice:
    “As honorable a record in the Army as any officer in it”

    http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/henry_o_flipper/

    Born into slavery in Thomasville, Georgia, on March 21, 1856, Henry Ossian Flipper was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1873. Over the next four years he overcame harassment, isolation, and insults to become West Point’s first African American graduate and the first African American commissioned officer in the regular U.S. Army. Flipper was stationed first at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, later served at Forts Elliott, Quitman, and Davis, Texas. He served as a signal officer and quartermaster, fought Apaches, installed telegraph lines, and supervised the building of roads. At Fort Sill, the young lieutenant directed the construction of a drainage system that helped prevent the spread of malaria. Still known as “Flipper’s Ditch,” the ditch is commemorated by a bronze marker at Fort Sill and the fort is listed as a National Historic Landmark.

    In 1881, while serving at Fort Davis, Flipper’s commanding officer accused him of embezzling $3,791.77 from commissary funds. A court-martial found him not guilty of embezzlement but convicted him of conduct unbecoming an officer and ordered him dismissed from the Army.

    After his dishonorable discharge, Flipper fought to clear his name as he pursued a career as an engineer and an expert on Spanish and Mexican land law. In 1898, a bill reinstating him into the Army and restoring his rank was introduced in Congress on his behalf. To bolster his case, he sent Congressman John A. T. Hull, chairman of the House Committee on Military Affairs, the letter displayed below along with a brief supporting the bill’s passage. Flipper’s letter to Hull is an eloquent statement asking Congress for “that justice which every American citizen has the right to ask.” The bill and several later ones were tabled, and Flipper died in 1940 without vindication, but in 1976, the Army granted him an honorable discharge, and in 1999, President Bill Clinton issued him a full pardon.

    The National Archives and Records Administration is pleased to present these documents from the career of a man who served his country with honor and fought injustice tenaciously.

    Like

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