RSS

Henry O. Flipper

Henry Ossian Flipper was born March 21, 1856 to Festus Flipper (1832 – 1918) and Isabella Buckhalter Flipper (1837 – 1887) in Thomasville, Georga, both of mixed race. Accordingly, he was born a slave. In the 1870 census, Festus was shown to be a cobbler or shoemaker. Henry entered Atlanta University, a historically Black college, in 1873. While still a freshman there, he received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, said to be the the fifth such appointment of a person of African American descent. Though his time at West Point was difficult due to prejudice, he graduated in 1877 as a 2nd Lieutenant. Accordingly, Flipper was the first African American graduate of West Point and the first African American commissioned officer in the United States Army.

The following year, Flipper was assigned to the 10th Cavalry Battalion at Fort Sill, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). In 1880, his 10th Cavalry headed west to its posting at Fort Davis along with the 24th Infantry, both of which units were part of the four (two infantry and two cavalry) battalions of the so-called Buffalo Soldiers. These units were formed after the Civil War comprised primarily of African American troops and Anglo officers, with few exceptions. While with the 10th Cavalry, Flipper saw duty at several Texas forts including Elliott, Concho and Quitman in addition to Fort Davis. He was responsible for several successful engineering accomplishments and served in military capacities in other action with the 10th Cavalry.

At Fort Davis, Flipper served as quartermaster. Shortly after Colonel William Shafter arrived and began serving as commander of Fort Davis, a shortage was discovered in commissary funds in the amount of $3,791.71 and Flipper was accused of being responsible for it. In a controversial decision, Shafter brought Flipper up on charges including embezzlement and conduct unbecoming an officer. To a layman, the former charge is possibly more understandable than the latter.

Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, prosecutors must prove two elements under Article 133 to convict a service member of conduct unbecoming an officer or gentleman, that the individual accused either did commit or omitted to perform certain acts, and that, under the circumstances, these acts or omissions constituted conduct unbecoming an officer or gentleman. In 1881 a court-martial was held the result of which was the acquittal of Flipper on the count of the accused embezzlement, but a conviction on the count of conduct unbecoming of an officer. Flipper was dishonorably discharged from the Army in the summer of 1882.

Flipper remained in Texas for a number of years after his discharge from the Army. He initially worked as a surveyor in various capacities for a Texas company. In the late 1880s, he relocated to Arizona where he ran a civil and mining engineering firm. Flipper went on to use his engineering and language gifts while working for the United States Justice Department and in private business, generally living in the southwest. He continued to fight to restore and clear his Army record but was unsuccessful in doing so during his lifetime.

Flipper died in 1940 of a heart attack at the age of 84, without having success in clearing his military record. No record can be found that he was married and had a family, but other family members appear to have supported a review of his case and in 1976, the Army Board for the Correction of Military Records. The Board concluded that Flipper was excessively punished and awarded him a posthumous honorable discharge. President Bill Clinton granted him a full pardon in 1999.

Image credit – findagrave.com

Flipper was initially buried in Atlanta, but in 1984, his remains were reinterred in the family plot in Thomasville, Georgia where he was born.

© 2021, all rights reserved.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 25, 2021 in biography, black history

 

Tags: , , ,

Mary Jane Harris Briscoe

Mary Jane Harris Briscoe (1819 – 1903) was the daughter of John Richardson Harris (1790 – 1829) and Jane Birdsall Harris (1791 – 1869). She was the sister of three other children, DeWitt Clinton Harris, Lewis Birdsall Harris and John Birdsall Harris. Her father John R. Harris is credited for being the founder of Harrisburg (now Houston), Texas.

According to Mary L. Sheer’s excellently edited book, “Women and the Texas Revolution,” her parents were neighbors of Moses Austin back in St. Genevieve, Missouri. Austin engaged Harris to come to Texas. Harris came to the area around 1826 and laid out the town of Harrisburg at the place where Buffalo and Bray’s bayous intersect. His wife and children were moved to New York while he moved to Texas. In his new town of Harrisburg, he erected a sawmill. When Mary Jane was not quite twelve years old, John Harris contracted yellow fever in 1829 while on a trip to New Orleans to purchase equipment for his business. Mary Jane had not seen him since she was an infant. John’s widow Jane came to Texas in 1833 with DeWitt, the oldest son, and was joined a few years later by her younger children, including Mary Jane. Jane Birdsall Harris remained in Texas until her death in 1869. Her obituary notes say that she operated an inn and served as hostess of the new republic. She also was a shareholder in the Harrisburg Town Company and had an interest in one of the early railroads in the area, the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway.

Mary Jane Harris had just turned eighteen years old when she married Andrew Briscoe. Briscoe was the son of Parmenas Briscoe (1784-1851) and Margaret Montgomery Briscoe (1794 – 1845). Parmenas Briscoe was also the great great grandfather of Governor Dolph Briscoe. The elder Briscoes had earlier lived in the southeast. They had about thirteen children, many of whom died in a typhoid epidemic in Louisiana. Parmenas is said to have perished at sea when his ship went down during a storm in the Pacific Ocean in 1851. Margaret had died about six years prior to Parmenas.

Andrew Briscoe had been in business operating a store in Anahuac, Texas when the Texas Revolution began. He was a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Briscoe joined the Texas Army and had served as Captain of Company A in the Battle of San Jacinto. According to his obituary notes, Briscoe was appointed Chief Justice of Harrisburg by Sam Houston. After a two year term, Briscoe returned to business and is known to have engaged at various times in the cattle business, a couple of railroad projects and other ventures. Briscoe died in New Orleans in 1849, after having been sick for some time. His cause of death is unknown, but could have perhaps been related to one of the more common illnesses of the day, such as typhoid fever, malaria or yellow fever. Andrew is buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. Mary Jane and the couple’s four children went to live in Mississippi with her father in law, Parmenas Briscoe, until his death in 1851, after which they returned to Houston.

Image credit: San Jacinto Museum of History Association

With the initial aid of Texas relatives, Mary Jane Harris Briscoe went on to support and raise her family by developing and operating real estate that Andrew had acquired. She is also said to have expressed a great affection for Texas and its history. Mary Jane was invited to become an honorary member of the Texas Veteran’s Association in 1884 and became a co-founder of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas in 1891. One of its first acts was to acquire the San Jacinto battlefield. She was also a charter member of the Texas State Historical Association. Mary Jane was active in civic organizations including the founding of a home for needy women in Houston, Sheltering Arms, which continues today as an agency of United Way. Mary Jane died in 1903 and is buried in Houston’s Glenwood Cemetery along with many of her family members.

© 2021, all rights reserved.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 18, 2021 in biography, republic of texas, texas women

 

Tags: , , , ,

2nd Lt. Merlin Shepherd Neff

2nd Lt. Merlin Shepherd Neff was killed on April 2, 1945 when his B-25 Mitchell bomber was brought down by anti-aircraft fire near the current town of Taichung City, Taiwan (then known as Taichu, Formosa) during an attack on Japanese railroad rolling stock. Two aircraft from the mission went town close to the same time. One crashed on land while the one piloted by 2nd Lt. Neff crashed into the water just off the coast. There were no survivors of either aircraft. They were both assigned to the 5th Air Force, V Bomber Command, 308th Bombardment Wing, 38th Bombardment Command, 822nd Bombardment Squadron, nicknamed the Black Panthers.

Read the rest of this entry »
 
3 Comments

Posted by on November 11, 2021 in biography, world war 2

 

Tags: , , ,

Did the Real Josey Wales Die in Texas?

Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) lists the origin of the 1976 film “The Outlaw Josey Wales” to be a screenplay by Phillip Kaufman and Sonia Chernus which was in turn based on a fictional book believed to have been written by Asa Earl Carter under the pen name Forrest Carter. Carter’s book was first published in 1973 as “The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales,” republished two years later as “Gone to Texas” and published once more under the name “Josey Wales.” In the film the time period of which is set during the Civil War years, the character Wales’ family is killed and his home is burned by Union irregular troops. Seeking revenge, Wales aligns himself with a Confederate irregular group (Quantrill’s Raiders). After the Confederate surrender and the end of the war, the character Wales continues to seek revenge on those individuals who were responsible. The story continues with Wales eventually finding peace and a relationship with a female rancher, presumably escaping his violent past and living out his days.

Read the rest of this entry »
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 4, 2021 in civil war, unsolved mystery

 

Tags: , , ,

Vicente Filisola

Vicente Filisola is best known as being second in command to Gen. José López de Santa Anna in the latter days of the Texas Revolution. Filisola (1789-1850) was born in Ravello, Italy. Early in his life, Filisola’s family had moved from Italy to Spain, and he joined the Spanish army while still a young man in 1804. Filisola served in Europe for a time, but around 1811 is believed to have begun serving in Mexico, or New Spain as it was also known.

Read the rest of this entry »
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 28, 2021 in biography, texas revolution

 

Tags: , ,