"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 Howard.
"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 communication.