"Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet."
MY four years were drawing to a close. They had been years of patient endurance and hard and persistent work, interspersed with bright oases of happiness and gladness and joy, as well as weary barren wastes of loneliness, isolation, unhappiness, and melancholy. I believe I have discharged--I know I have tried to do so--every duty faithfully and conscientiously. It had been a sort of bittersweet experience, this experimental life of mine at West Point. It was almost over, and whatever of pure sweetness, whatever of happiness, or whatever reward fortune had in store for me, was soon to become known.
"Speaking of the Military Academy, we understand that the only colored cadet now at West Point will not only graduate at the coming June commencement, but that his character, acquirements, and standing on the merit roll are such as will insure his graduation among the highest of his class."--Harper's Weekly, April 28th, 1877.
All recitations of the graduating class were discontinued on the last scholar day of May. On June 1st examination began. The class was first examined in mineralogy and geology. In this particular subject I "maxed it," made a thorough recitation. I was required to discuss the subject of "Mesozoic Time." After I had been examined in this subject Bishop Quintard, of Tennessee, a member of the Board of Visitors, sent for me, and personally congratulated me on my recitation of that day, as well as for my conduct during the whole four years. My hopes never were higher; I knew I would graduate. I felt it, and I made one last effort for rank. I wanted to graduate as high up as possible. I was not without success, as will subsequently appear. The New York Herald was pleased to speak as follows of my recitation in mineralogy and geology:
"To-day the examination of the first class in mineralogy and geology was completed, and the first section was partially examined in engineering. In the former studies the class acquitted themselves in a highly creditable manner, and several members have shown themselves possessed of abilities far above the average. The class has in its ranks a son of General B. F. Butler, Hon. John Bigelow's son, and sons of two ex-Confederate officers. Flipper, the colored cadet, was examined to-day, and produced a highly favorable impression upon the board not less by his ready and intelligent recitation than by his modest, unassuming, and gentlemanly manner. There is no doubt that he will pass, and he is said to have already ordered a cavalry uniform, showing that he has a predilection for that branch of the service."
The class was next examined in law. In this, also, I exceeded my most sanguine expectations, again "maxing it" on a thorough recitation. My subject was "Domicile." Senator Maxey, of the Board of Visitors, questioned me closely. The Bishop of Tennessee left his seat in the board, came outside when the section was dismissed, and shook my hand in hearty congratulation. These were the proudest moments of my life. Even some of my own classmates congratulated me on this recitation. All that loneliness, dreariness, and melancholy of the four years gone was forgotten. I lived only in the time being and was happy. I was succeeding, and was meeting with that success which humble effort never fails to attain.
The New York Tribune joins in with its good words as follows:
LIEUTENANT FLIPPER, THE COLORED GRADUATE OF WEST POINT.