Henry Ossian Flipper was born a slave on March 21, 1856 at Thomasville, Georgia. His parents were Festus and Isabella Flipper. He had five brothers, all younger than him. He first attended school at the American Missionary Association.
Released from Tenth Calvary
In 1873, he was a freshman at Atlanta University and was appointed to the United States Military Academy. Flipper was the fifth black person to be accepted and the first to graduate at West Point. He accepted a commission as a second lieutenant. In January of 1878, he was assigned to Company A of the Tenth United States Cavalry.
As an officer in the Tenth Cavalry, Flipper served at many forts including Fort Elliott and Fort Sill. He constructed a road from Gainesville to Fort Sill, installed a telegraph line from Fort Elliott to Fort Supply, and assisted in the return of Quanah Parker's band from Palo Duro Canyon. He fought two battles at Eagle Springs, Texas during the Victorio campaign of 1880. For his service, he was made assistant quartermaster which placed him in charge of the fort's supplies and physical plant.
Colonel William Rufus Shafter became commanding officer in 1881 and immediately released Flipper from quartermaster. The following year, he discovered post funds missing from his quarters. Flipper tried to conceal the money until he can replace it but Shafter found out anyway. He filed charges at Flipper. At court, the judge found Flipper guilty. He was dismissed from the service on June 30, 1882.
Flipper then went to El Paso to work as an assistant engineer. He stayed in El Paso until 1883. In 1887, he opened a civil and mining engineering office in Nogales, Arizona. He offered to serve in the Spanish-American War in 1898 but they declined his offer. He then served in the court of private land claims until 1901. Flipper spent 11 years in northern Mexico as an engineer and legal assistant to mining companies. In 1919, Senator Fall called Flipper to Washington D.C. as a translator and interpreter.
Flipper moved to Venezuela and worked there until 1930. He retired in 1931. Henry O. Flipper died of a heart attack on May 3, 1940. The Department of the Army granted him an honorable discharge, dated June 30, 1882. Two years later, his remains were moved from Atlanta to Thomasville, Georgia, where he grew up.