Pleasures and Privileges – Henry Flipper

The privileges allowed cadets during an encampment are different generally for the different classes. These privileges are commonly designated by the rank of the class, such, for instance, as “first-class privileges,” “third-class privileges,” etc. Privileges which are common receive their designation from some characteristic in their nature or purpose. Thus we have “Saturday afternoon privileges,” and “Old Guard privileges.”

The cadets are encamped and are not supposed to leave their camp save by permission. This permission is granted by existing orders, or if for any reason it be temporarily denied it can be obtained by “permit” for some specified time. Such permission or privilege obtained by “permit” for a particular class is known as “class privileges,” and can be enjoyed only by the class that submits and gets the permit.

“First-class privileges” permit all members of the first class to leave camp at any time between troop and retreat, except when on duty, and to take advantage of the usual “Saturday afternoon privileges,” which are allowed all classes and all cadets. These privileges, however, cannot be enjoyed on the Sabbath by any except the first-class officers, without special permission.

The usual form of a permit is as follows:

West Point, N. Y., November 6, 1876.
Cadet A B C has permission to walk on public lands between the hours of 8 A.M. and 4 P.M.
Lieut. Colonel First Art’y Comd’g Corps of Cadets.
Commanding Company “A.”

By “Saturday afternoon privileges” is meant the right or privilege to walk on all public lands within cadet limits on Saturday afternoon. This includes also the privilege of visiting the ruins of old Fort Putnam, which is not on limits. These privileges are allowed throughout the year.

The second class being absent on furlough during the encampment, of course have no privileges. Should any member of the class be present during the encampment, he enjoys “first-class privileges,” unless they are expressly denied him.

“Third-class privileges” do not differ from “first-class privileges,” except in that they cannot be taken advantage of on the Sabbath by any member of the class.

The fourth class as a class have no privileges.

“Old Guard privileges” are certain privileges by which all members of the “Old Guard” are exempted from all duty on the day they march off guard until one o clock, and are permitted to enjoy privileges similar to those of Saturday afternoon during the same time. They also have the privilege of bathing at that time.

The baths are designated as “first,” “second,” and “third.” The officers and non-commissioned officers have the first baths, and the privates the others.

Cadets who march off guard on Sunday are restricted in the enjoyment of their privileges to exemption from duty on the Sabbath only. They may take advantage of the other privileges on the following Monday during the usual time, but are not excused from any duty. All members of the “Old Guard,” to whatever class they may belong, are entitled to “Old Guard privileges.”

Besides these there are other privileges which are enjoyed by comparatively few. Such are “Hop managers privileges.” “Hop managers” are persons elected by their classmates from the first and third classes for the management of the hops of the summer. To enable them to discharge the duties of their office, they are permitted to leave camp, whenever necessary, by reporting their departure and return.

Under pleasures, or rather sources of pleasure, may be enumerated hops, Germans, band practice, and those incident to other privileges, such as “spooneying,” or “spooning.” The hops are the chief source of enjoyment, and take place on Mondays and Fridays, sometimes also on Wednesdays, at the discretion of the Superintendent.

Germans are usually given on Saturday afternoons, and a special permit is necessary for every one. These permits are usually granted, unless there be some duty or other cause to prevent.

Two evenings of every week are devoted to band practice, Tuesday evening for practice in camp, and Thursday evening for practice in front of the Superintendent s quarters. Of course these entertainments, if I may so term them, have the effect of bringing together the young ladies and cadets usually denied the privilege of leaving camp during the evening. It is quite reasonable to assume that they enjoy themselves. On these evenings “class privileges” permit the first and third-classmen to be absent from camp till the practice is over. Sometimes a special permit is necessary. It might be well to say here, ere I forget it, that Wednesday evening is devoted to prayer, prayer meeting being held in the Dialectic Hall. All cadets are allowed to attend by reporting their departure and return. The meeting is under the sole management of the cadets, although they are by no means the sole participants. Other privileges, more or less limited, such as the holding of class meetings for whatever purpose, must be obtained by special permit in each case.

We have not much longer here to stay,
Only a month or two,
Then we’ll bid farewell to cadet gray,
And don the army blue.
Army blue, army blue, We’ll don the army blue,
We’ll bid farewell to cadet gray and don the army blue.

To the ladies who come up in June,
We’ll bid a fond adieu,
And hoping they will be married soon,
We’ll don the army blue.
Army blue, army blue, We’ll don the army blue,
We’ll bid farewell to cadet gray and don the army blue.

Addresses to the Graduating Class of the U. S. Military Academy, West Point, N. Y., June 14th, 1877. By
Professor C. O. Thompson,
Major-General Winfield S.Hancock,
Honorable George W. Mccrary, Secretary Of War,
Major-General John M. Schofield, Superintendent U. S. Military Academy.

Address By Professor C. O. Thompson,
President of the Board of Visitors.

Young Gentlemen Of The Graduating Class: The courtesy of your admirable Superintendent forbids a possible breach in an ancient custom, and lays upon me, as the representative, for the moment, of the Board of Visitors, the pleasant duty of tendering to you their congratulations on the close of your academic career, and your auspicious future.

The people of this country have a heavy stake in the prosperity of this institution. They recognize it as the very fountain of their security in war, and the origin of some of their best methods of education. And upon education in colleges and common schools the pillars of the State assuredly rest.

To participants and to bystanders, this ceremony of graduation is as interesting and as exciting as if this were the first, instead of the seventy-fifth occurrence. Every such occasion is clothed with the splendor of perpetual youth. The secret of your future success lies in the impossibility of your entering into the experience of your predecessors. Every man s life begins with the rising sun. The world would soon become a frozen waste but for the inextinguishable ardor of youth, which believes success still to be possible where every attempt has failed.

That courage which avoids rashness by the restraints of knowledge, and dishonor by the fear of God, is the best hope of the world.

History is not life, but its reflection.

The great armies of modern times which have won immortal victories have been composed of young men who have turned into historic acts the strategy of experienced commanders.

To bystanders, for the same and other reasons, the occasion is profoundly interesting.

For educated men who are true to honor and to righteousness, the world anxiously waits; but an educated man who is false, the world has good reason to dread. The best thing that can be said of this Academy, with its long roll of heroes in war and in peace, is, that every year the conviction increases among the people of the United States, that its graduates are men who will maintain, at all hazards, the simple virtues of a robust manhood like Chaucer s young Knight, courteous, lowly, and serviceable.

I welcome you, therefore, to the hardships and perils of a soldier s life in a time of peace. The noise and the necessities of war drive men in upon themselves and keep their faculties awake and alert; but the seductive influence of peace, when a soldier must spend his time in preparation for the duties of his profession rather than in their practice, this is indeed a peril to which the horrors of warfare are subordinate. It is so much easier for men to fight other men than themselves. So much easier to help govern other men than to wholly govern themselves.

But, young gentlemen, as we have listened to your examination, shared in your festivities, and enjoyed personal acquaintance with you, we strongly hope for you every thing lovely, honorable, and of good report.

You who have chosen the sword, may be helped in some trying hour of your coming lives by recalling the lesson which is concealed in a legend of English history. It is the old lesson of the advantage of knowledge over its more showy counterfeits, and guards against one of the perils of our American society.

A man losing his way on a hillside, strayed into a chamber full of enchanted knights, each lying motionless, in complete armor, with his horse standing motionless beside him. On a rock near the entrance lay a sword and a horn, and the intruder was told that he must choose between these, if he would lead the army. He chose the horn, and blew a loud blast; whereupon the knights and their horses vanished in a whirlwind, and their visitor was blown back into common air, these words sounding after him upon the wind:

“Cursed be the coward, that ever he was born,
Who did not draw the sword before he blew the horn.”

Young gentlemen, the Board of Visitors can have no better wish for our common country than that your future will fulfill the promise of the present.

Address By Major-General W. S. Hancock.
To me has been assigned the pleasant duty of welcoming into the service as commissioned officers, the Graduates of the Military Academy of today.

Although much time has elapsed since my graduation here, and by contact with the rugged cares of life some of the sharp edges of recollection may have become. dulled, yet I have not lived long enough to have forgotten the joy of that bright period. You only experience it today as I have felt it before you.

I have had some experience of life since, and it might be worth something to you were I to relate it. But youth is self confident and impatient, and you may at present doubt the wisdom of listening to sermons which you can learn at a later day.

You each feel that you have the world in a sling, and that it would be wearisome to listen to the croakings of the past, and especially from those into whose shoes you soon expect to step. That is the rule of life. The child growing into manhood, believes that its judgment is better than the knowledge of its parents; and yet if that experience was duly considered, and its unselfish purposes believed in, many shoals would be avoided, otherwise certain to be met with in the journey of life, by the inexperienced but confident navigator.

You should not forget that there were as bright intellects, and men who possessed equal elements of greatness in past generations as in this, and that deeds have been performed in earlier times which, at best, the men of the present day can only hope to rival. Why then should we not profit by the experiences of the past; and as our lives are shot at best, instead of following the ruts of our predecessors, start on the road of life where they left off, and not continue to repeat their failures? I cannot say why, unless it proceeds from the natural buoyancy of youth, self confidence in its ability to overcome all obstacles, and to carve out futures more dazzling than any successes of the past. In this there is a problem for you to solve. Yet I may do well by acknowledging to you, today, that after an active military life of no mean duration, soldiers of my length of service feel convinced that they might have learned wisdom by listening to the experience of those who preceded them. Had they been prepared to assume that experience as a fact at starting, and made departures from it, instead of disregarding it, in the idea that there was nothing worthy of note to be learned from a study of the past, it would be safe to assume that they would have made greater advances in their day.

Were I to give you my views in extenso, applicable to the occasion, I could only repeat what has been well and vigorously said here by distinguished persons in the past, in your hearing, on occasions of the graduation of older classes than your own.

You are impatient, doubtless, as I was in your time, and if you have done as my class did before you, you have already thrown your books away, and only await the moment of the conclusion of these ceremonies to don the garb of the officer or the civilian. The shell of the cadet is too contracted to contain your impatient spirits. Nevertheless, if you will listen but for a few minutes to the relation of an old soldier, I will repeat of the lessons of experience a few of those most worthy of your consideration.

  • There is but one comrade of my class remaining in active service today, and I think I might as truly have said the same ten years ago.
  • In the next thirty years, those of you who live will see that your numbers have become sensibly reduced, if not in similar proportion.
  • Some will have studied, have kept up with the times, been ready for service at the hour of their country s call, been prepared to accomplish the purposes for which their education was given to them.
  • Some will have sought the active life of the frontiers, and been also ready to perform their part in the hour of danger.
  • A few will have seized the passing honors.
  • It may have depended much upon opportunity among those who were well equipped for the occasion, who gained the greatest distinction; but it cannot for a moment be doubted that the roll of honor in the future of this class will never again stand as it stands today.
  • It will be a struggle of life to determine who among you will keep their standing in the contest for future honors and distinctions.
  • You who have been the better students here, and possessed the greater natural qualities, have a start in the race; but industry, study, perseverance, and other qualities will continue to be important factors in the future, as they have been in the past.
  • Through continuous mental, moral, and physical development, with progress in the direction of your profession and devotion to duty, lies the road to military glory; and it may readily come to pass that “the race will not be to the swift, nor the battle to the strong,” as you regard your classmates today.
  • It must be admitted, however, that great leaders are born.

A rare combination of natural qualities causes men to develop greatness. Education and training make them greater; nevertheless, men with fewer natural qualities often succeed, with education and training, when those more richly endowed fail to reach the higher places, and you have doubtless witnessed that in your experience here.

A man in a great place in modern times is not respectable without education. That man must be a God to command modern armies successfully without it; yet war is a great school; men learn quickly by experience, and in long wars there will be found men of natural abilities who will appear at the front. It will be found, however, in the long run, that the man who has prepared himself to make the best use of his natural talents will win in the race, if he has the opportunity, while others of equal or greater natural parts may fail from lack of that mental and moral training necessary to win the respect of those they command.

Towards the close of our civil war, men came to the front rank who entered the service as privates. They were men of strong natural qualities. How far the best of them would have proceeded had the war continued, cannot be told; but it may be safely assumed that if they possessed the moral qualities and the education necessary to command the respect of the armies with which they were associated, they would have won the highest honors; and yet our war lasted but four years.

Some of them had the moral qualities, some the education; and I have known of those men who thus came forward, some who would certainly have reached the highest places in a long race, had they had the training given to you.

War gives numerous opportunities for distinction, and especially to those who in peace have demonstrated that they would be available in war; and soldiers can win distinction in both peace and war if they will but seize their opportunities.

“There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to victory.”

Great responsibilities in time of danger are not given to the ignorant, the slothful, or to those who have impaired their powers of mind or body by the indulgences of life. In times of danger favorites are discarded. When work is to be done, deeds to be performed, men of action have their opportunities and fail not to seize them. It is the interest of commanders that such men should be selected for service, when success or failure may follow, according to the wisdom of the selection, as the instrument may be sharp or dull, good or bad.

I would say to you, lead active, temperate, studious lives, develop your physical qualities as well as mental. Regard the education acquired here as but rudimentary; pursue your studies in the line of your profession and as well in such other branches of science or language as may best accord with your inclinations. It will make you greater in your profession and cause you to be independent of it. The latter is but prudent in these practical days.

Study to lead honorable, useful, and respected lives. Even if no opportunity presents for martial glory you will not fail to find your reward.

Avoid the rocks of dissipation, of gambling, of debt; lead those manly lives which will always find you in health in mind and body, free from entanglements of whatever kind, and you may be assured you will find your opportunities for great services, when otherwise you would have been overlooked or passed by. Such men are known and appreciated in every army and out of it.

Knowledge derived from books may bring great distinction outside of the field of war, as an expert in the lessons of the military profession and in others, but the lessons of hard service are salutary and necessary to give the soldier a practical understanding of the world and its ways as he will encounter them in war. I would advise you to go when young to the plains to the wilderness seek active service there, put off the days of indulgence and of ease. Those should follow years.

Take with you to the frontier your dog, your rod and gun; the pursuit of a life in the open air with such adjuncts will go far to give you health and the vigor to meet the demands to be made upon you in trying campaigns, and to enable you to establish the physical condition necessary to maintain a life of vigor such as a soldier requires. You will by these means, too, avoid many of the temptations incident to an idle life all calculated to win you from your usefulness in the future, and by no means leave your books behind you.

When I graduated, General Scott, thinking possibly to do me a service, asked me to what regiment I desired to be assigned; I replied, to the regiment stationed at the most western post in the United States. I was sent to the Indian Territory of today. We had not then acquired California or New Mexico, and our western boundary north of Texas was the one hundredth degree of longitude.

I know that that early frontier service and the opportunities for healthy and vigorous outdoor exercise were of great advantage to me in many ways, and would have been more so had I followed the advice in reference to study that I have given to you.

There are many “extreme western” posts today. It is difficult to say which is the most western in the sense of that day, when the Indian frontiers did not as now, lie in the circumference of an inner circle; but the Yellowstone will serve your purpose well. And if any of you wish to seek that service your taste will not be difficult to gratify, for the hardest lessons will be certain to be avoided by many. There will be those who in the days of youth will seek the softer places. They may have their appropriate duties there and do their parts well, but it may be considered a safe maxim that the indulgence of the present will have to be paid for in the future A man may not acquire greatness by pursuing religiously the course I have indicated as the best, but it will be safe to assume that when the roll of honor of your class is called after a length of service equal to mine, but few, if any of your number, will have done their part well in public estimation save of those who shall have pretty closely followed these safe rules of life.

Gentlemen, I bid you welcome.

Address By Hon. G. W. McCrary,
Secretary Of War.

Gentlemen Of The Graduating Class: Although not a part of the programme arranged for these exercises, I cannot refuse to say a word by way of greeting, and I would make it as hearty and earnest as possible to you, gentlemen, one and all, upon this occasion, so interesting to you as well is to the entire army, and to the people of the whole country.

There are others here who will speak to you as soldiers, to whom you will listen, and from whom you will receive all counsel and admonition as coming from men who have distinguished themselves in the command of the greatest armies the world has ever seen, and by the achievement of some of the grandest victories recorded upon the pages of history.

I would speak to you as a citizen; and as such, I desire to assure you that you are today the centre of a general interest pervading every part of our entire country. It is not the army alone that is interested in the graduating class of 1877. West Point Military Academy, more than any other institution in the land far more is a national institution one in which we have a national pride.

It is contrary to the policy of this country to keep in time of peace a large standing army We have adopted what I think is a wiser and better policy that of educating a large number of young men in the science of arms, so that they may be ready when the time of danger comes. You will go forth from this occasion with your commissions as Second Lieutenants in the army; but I see, and I know that the country sees, that if war should come, and large armies should be organized and marshaled, we have here seventy-six young gentlemen, any one of whom can command not only a company, but a brigade; and I think I may say a division, or an army corps.

The experience of the past teaches that I do not exaggerate when I say this. At all events, such is the theory upon which our government proceeds, and it is expected that every man who is educated in this institution, whether he remains in the ranks of the army or not, wherever he may be found and called upon, shall come and draw his sword in defense of his country and her flag.

It is a happy coincidence that one hundred years ago today, on the 14th of June, 1777, the Continental Congress passed the act which fixed our national emblem as the stars and stripes. It is a happy coincidence that you graduate upon the anniversary of the passage of that act the centennial birthday of the stars and stripes. I do not know that it will add any thing to your love of the flag and of your country. I doubt whether any thing would add to that; but I refer to this coincidence with great pleasure.

Gentlemen of the Graduating Class: I am not qualified to instruct you in your duties as soldiers, but these is one thing I may say to you, because it ought to be said to every graduating class, and to all young men about to enter upon the active duties of life, and that is, that the profession does not ennoble the man, but the man ennobles the profession Behind the soldier is the man.

Character, young men, is every thing; without it, your education is nothing; without it, your country will be disappointed in you. Go forth into life, then, firmly resolved to be true, not only to the flag of your country, not only to the institutions of the land, not only to the Union which our fathers established, and which the blood of our countrymen has cemented, but to be true to yourselves and the principles of honor, of rectitude, of temperance, of virtue, which have always characterized the great and successful soldier, and must always characterize such a soldier in the future.

Address By Major-General John M. Schofield,
Superintendent U. S. Military Academy.

Gentlemen Of The Graduating Class: The agreeable duty now devolves upon me of delivering to you the diplomas which the Academic Board have awarded you as Graduates of the Military Academy.

These diplomas you have fairly won by your ability, your industry, and your obedience to discipline. You receive them, not as favors from any body, but as the just and lawful reward of honest and persistent effort.

You have merited, and are about to receive, the highest honors attainable by young men in our country. You have won these honors by hard work and patient endurance, and you are thus prepared to prize them highly. Unless thus fairly won, honors, like riches, are of little value.

As you learn, with advancing years, to more fully appreciate the value in life of the habits you have acquired of self reliance, long sustained effort, obedience to discipline, and respect for lawful authority, a value greater even than that of the scientific knowledge you have gained, you will more and more highly prize the just reward which you are today found worthy to receive.

You are now prepared to enter upon an honorable career in the great arena of the world. The West Point Diploma has ever been a passport to public respect, and to the confidence of government. But such respect and confidence imply corresponding responsibilities. The honor of West Point and that of the army are now in your keeping; and your country is entitled to the best services, intellectual, moral, and physical, which it may be in your power to render.

That you may render such services, do not fail to pursue your scientific studies, that you may know the laws of nature, and make her forces subservient to the public welfare. Study carefully the history, institutions, and laws of your country, that you may be able to see and to defend what is lawful and right in every emergency. Study not only the details of your profession, but the highest principles of the art of war, You may one day be called to the highest responsibility. And, above all, be governed in all things by those great moral principles which have been the guide of great and good men in all ages and in all countries. Without such guide the greatest genius can do only evil to mankind.

One of your number, under temptation which has sometimes proved too great for even much older soldiers, committed A breach of discipline for which he was suspended. The Honorable Secretary of War has been kindly pleased to remit the penalty, so that your classmate may take his place among you according to his academic rank.

You have to regret the absence of one of your number, who has been prevented by extreme illness from pursuing the studies of the last year. But I am glad to say that Mr. Barnett has so far recovered that he will be able to return to the Academy, and take his place in the next class.

Another member of the class has been called away by the death of his father, but he had passed his examination, and will graduate with you. His diploma will be sent to him.

With the single exception, then, above mentioned, I have the satisfaction of informing you that you graduate with the ranks of your class unbroken.

We take leave of you, gentlemen, not only with hope, but with full confidence that you will acquit yourselves well in the honorable career now before you. We give you our parental blessing, with fervent wishes for your prosperity, happiness, and honor.

Loud applause greeted the close of the general s speech, and the graduates were then called up one by one and Their diplomas delivered to them. The first to step forward was Mr. William M. Black, of Lancaster, Penn., whose career at the Academy has been remarkable. He has stood at the head of his class for the whole four years, actually distancing all competitors. He is a young man of signal ability, won his appointment in a competitive examination, and has borne himself with singular modesty and good sense. During the past year he has occupied the position of Adjutant of the Corps of Cadets the highest post which can be held. General Sherman shook hands with the father of the young cadet a grand looking old gentleman, and very proud of his son, as he has a right to be and warmly congratulated him on the brilliant career which was before the young man. The next on the list was Mr. Walter F. Fisk. When Mr. Flipper, the colored cadet, stepped forward, and received the reward of four years of as hard work and unflinching courage and perseverance as any young man could be called upon to go through, the crowd of spectators gave him a round of hearty applause. He deserves it. Any one who knows how quietly and bravely this young man the first of his despised race to graduate at West Point has borne the difficulties of his position; how for four years he has had to stand apart from his classmates as one with them but not of them; and to all the severe work of academic official life has had added the yet more severe mental strain which bearing up against a cruel social ostracism puts on any man; and knowing that he has done this without getting soured, or losing courage for a day any one, I say, who knows all this would be inclined to say that the young man deserved to be well taken care of by the government he is bound to serve. Everybody here who has watched his course speaks in terms of admiration of the unflinching courage he has shown. No cadet will go away with heartier wishes for his future welfare.

When the last of the diplomas had been given, the line reformed, the band struck up a lively tune, the cadets marched to the front of the barracks, and there Cadet Black, the Adjutant, read the orders of the day, they being the standing of the students in their various classes, the list of new officers, etc. This occupied some time, and at its conclusion Colonel Neil, Commandant of Cadets, spoke a few kind words to the First Class, wished them all success in life, and then formally dismissed them.

At the close of the addresses the Superintendent of the Academy delivered the diplomas to the following cadets, members of the Graduating Class. The names are alphabetically arranged:




Flipper, Henry Ossian. The Colored Cadet at West Point: Autobiography of Lieut. Henry Ossian Flipper, first graduate of color from the U. S. Military Academy.

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