On September 15, 1881, a general court-martial was convened at Fort Davis, Texas, to try Second Lietenant H. O. Flipper. an officer in the 10th Cavalry of the U.S. Army, Lieutenant Flipper was charged with embezzlement and conduct unbefitting an officer.
Flipper was the first former slave and the only black man to successfully complete the rigorous course of study required for officer's training at prestigious West Point. Because of his unique background, Flipper's career had been followed closely by several newspapers, and he had even written an autobiography about his life at the Point ad his service in the Army. He had always conducted himself with honor as an officer and a gentleman.
Captain Merrit Barber, a respected Army attorney with the 16th U.S. Infantry, has volunteered to defend Lieutenant Flipper on all the charges brought against him. He sees in the government's case against Flipper all the signs of a conspiracy -- a conspiracy on the part of a small group of officers whos purpose is to remove from their midst the only black officer in the U.S. Army.
Excerpt from Lonely Trumpet:
General Court-Martial United States Army,
Special Orders, No. 108 Department of Texas
San Antonio, Texas
September 3, 1881
I. A general court-martial will convene at Fort Davis, Texas, on Thursday, the 15th day of September, 1881, at 10 o'clock a.m., or as soon thereafter as practicable, for the trial of Second Lieutenant H.O. Flipper, 10th cavalry.
Detailed for the court:
Colonel G. Pennypacker, 16th infantry; Lieutenant Colonel J.F. Wade, 10th cavalry; Major G.W. Schofield, 10th cavalry; Surgeon W.E. Waters, Medical Department; Captain Fergus Walker, 1st infantry; Captain William Fletcher, 20th infantry; Captain W.N. Tisdale, 1st infantry; Captain R.G. Heiner, 1st infantry; Captain E.S. Ewing, 16th infantry; Captain L.O. Parker, 1st infantry; First Lieutenant W.V. Richards, Regimental Quartermaster, 16th infantry;
Captain J.W. Clous, 24th infantry, is appointed judge-advocate of the court.
No other officers than those named can be assembled without manifest injury to the service.
By the command of Brigadier General Christopher C. Augur.
Captain, 9th infantry, A.D.C.
September 17-19, 1881
The cottonwoods looked about a month away from turning yellow. Staring out the window past the parade grounds, enlisted men's barracks and the commissary and quartermaster buildings, he strained to see the grove just beyond the old Overland Trail. There were still no signs of autumn. He wondered if he would be around to watch the leaves turn bright yellow and feel the first hint of winter coming down Sleeping Lion Mountain. That would be a while. His duplex had already turned stifling in the early morning heat, and he wanted to open the window, but Colonel Shafter had ordered all windows in these quarters nailed shut. And an armed guard stood posted in front of his door.
As the 10th cavalry's trumpeter blared out "First Sergeants' Call" nearby, the metallic notes strangely haunting, he saw Second Lieutenant Wade Hampton, in full dress uniform, walking down the path, past the new officers' duplexes being constructed of adobe and stone next to his own quarters. He'd be here in a minute. No need in making Hampton wait, so he stepped away from the window and buckled his belt tightly across his dress blouse, making sure no dust or lint marred his appearance, an almost impossible task out here in wind-blown West Texas. Next he picked up his brand new dress helmet, with its plume of golden yak hair sprouting from the spiked top, admiring the gold cord, lines and flounders, and a gold eagle plate with the regimental number raised above the stars and stripe shield that topped the crossed sabers.
When he placed the helmet on top of his head, Wade Hampton knocked on the door. "Lieutenant Flipper," he called out in a polite Southern accent.
Wade was being formal this morning.
Copyright 2002 by Johnny D. Boggs