"Flipper, the colored cadet, who graduates pretty well up in his class, said to me to-day that he is determined to get into either the Ninth or Tenth colored cavalry regiment if possible. He seems to be very happy in view of the honorable close of his academic career, and entertains little doubt that he can procure the appointment he wishes. When asked whether he was not aware that there was a law providing that even colored troops must be officered by white men, he replied that he had heard something of that years ago, but did not think it was true. 'If there is such a law,' he said emphatically, but with good humor, 'it is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.' He added that several weeks ago he wrote to a prominent gentleman in Alabama to inquire what the existing law on the subject was, and had not yet received an answer. I questioned him about his experience in the Academy, And he said that he had suffered but little on account of his race. The first year was very hard, as the class all made their dislike manifest in a variety of ways. 'That,' he said, 'was in a great measure caused by the bad conduct of Smith, the colored cadet who preceded me. When the class found out that I was not like him, they treated me well. The professors act toward me in every respect as toward the others, and the cadets, I think, do not dislike me. But they don't associate with me. I don't care for that. If they don't want to speak to me I don't want them to, I'm sure.' Save in the recitation- room Flipper never heard the sound of his own voice for months and months at a time; but he was kept so hard at work all the time that he did not mind it. If he should join a regiment, however, he would be more alone even than he has been here, for the association with other officers in the line of duty would not be so close as it has been with the cadets. He would be isolated-- ostracized--and he would feel it more keenly, because he would have more leisure for social intercourse, and his mind would not be so occupied as it has been here with studies.
"Senator Blaine, in the course of a conversation last night, thought the career of Flipper would be to go South and become a leader of his race. He could in that way become famous, and could accomplish much good for the country." . . . .
When I entered the Academy I saw in a paper something about colored officers being put in white regiments, etc. It purported to be a conversation with the then Secretary of War, who said there was such a law, and that it would be enforced. The then Secretary of War has since told me he was sure there was such a law, until to satisfy himself he searched the Revised Statutes, when he found he was mistaken.
I have mentioned elsewhere the untruthfulness of the statement that I never heard my own voice except in The recitation-room. Every one must know that could not be true. The statement is hardly worth a passing remark.
"If he should join a regiment, however," etc. Ah! well, I have joined my regiment long ago. Let me say, before I go further, I am putting this manuscript in shape for the press, and doing it in my quarters at Fort Sill, I. T. These remarks are inserted apropos of this article. From the moment I reached Sill I haven't experienced any thing but happiness. I am not isolated. I am not ostracized by a single officer. I do not "feel it more keenly," because what the Herald said is not true. The Herald, like other papers, forgets that the army is officered by men who are presumably officers and gentlemen. Those who are will treat me as become gentlemen, as they do, and those who are not I will thank if they will "ostracize" me, for if they don't I will certainly "ostracize" them.
"But to get into a cavalry regiment is the highest ambition of most cadets, and failing in that it is almost a toss-up between the infantry and the artillery. Flipper, the South Carolina colored cadet, wants to get into the cavalry, and as there is a black regiment of that character he will, it is thought, be assigned to that. There is in existence a law specifying that even black regiments shall be officered by white men, and it is thought there will be some trouble in assigning Flipper. As any such law is in opposition to the constitutional amendments, of course it will be easily rescinded. From the disposition shown by most of the enlisted men with whom I have conversed at odd times upon this subject, I fancy that if Flipper were appointed to the command of white soldiers they would be restive, and would, if out upon a scout, take the first opportunity to shoot him; and this feeling exists even among men here who have learned to respect him for what he is."
Now that is laughable, isn't it? What he says about the soldiers at West Point is all "bosh." Nobody will believe it. I don't. I wish the Herald reporter who wrote the above would visit Fort Sill and ask some of the white soldiers there what they think of me. I am afraid the Herald didn't get its "gift of prophecy" I from the right place. Such blunders are wholly inexcusable. The Herald reporter deserves an "extra" (vide Cant Terms, etc.) for that. I wish he could get one at any rate. Perhaps, however, the following will excuse him. It is true.
"He is spoken of by all the officers as a hard student and a gentleman. To a very great extent he has conquered the prejudices of his fellows, and although they still decline to associate with him it is evident that they respect him. Said one of his class this morning: 'Flipper has certainly shown pluck and gentlemanly qualities, and I shall certainly shake his "flipper" when we say "Good-by." We have no feeling against him at all, but we could not associate with him. You see we are so crowded together here that we are just like one family, possessing every thing in common and borrowing every thing, even to a pair of white trousers, and we could not hold such intimate fellowship with him. It may be prejudice, but we could not do it; so we simply let him alone, and he has lived to himself, except when we drill with him. Feel bad about it? Well, I suppose he did at first, but he has got used to it now. The boys were rather afraid that when he should come to hold the position as officer of the guard that he would swagger over them, but he showed good sense and taste, merely assuming the rank formally and leaving his junior to carry out the duty.'"