west point cadets

On This Day: Henry Ossian Flipper is born

Photo: Photograph of Lt. Henry O. Flipper, circa 1877.

On this day in 1856, Henry Ossian Flipper was born. Flipper was born into slavery in Thomasville, Georgia. During Reconstruction he attended Atlanta University. As a freshman, Representative James C. Freeman appointed him to attend West Point, joining four other black cadets. There they faced tremendous difficulty and discrimination from white students. Nonetheless, in 1877 he became the first African American graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He would later earn a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, assigned to one of the four all-black “buffalo soldier” regiments, and become the first black commanding officer of regular troops in the U.S. Army. 

Photo:  Cadet Henry O. Flipper in his West Point cadet uniform.


The Colt Model 1855 “Root” pocket revolver,

Before 1855 there really was no true pocket revolver, there were pocket designs by Colt but they were essentially scaled down versions of army, navy, and dragoon revolvers.  The Colt Model 1855 revolver was the first revolver (other than pepperbox pistols) specifically designed to be concealed within a pocket.  Invented by Elisha Root, the Model 1855 was a cap and ball revolver either chambered for .28 or .31 caliber.  They key to its size was its side mounted hammer, which allowed for a much smaller frame compared to full sized army and navy revolvers, a solid frame which was rare among Colt cap and ball revolvers..  Standard barrel length was 3.5 inches but other models were produced in 4.5 inches. It used a “creeping loading lever” design which was later used with the Colt M1860 Army and Colt M1861 Navy. Early production models featured a round cylinder but later models were produced with a fluted cylinder, thus saving weight.  The first 25,000 produced also featured a roller die engraved “Cabin and Indian” scene on the cylinder. The cylinder could be easily removed by pulling back on a pin located in the center rear section of the revolver.

The Colt Model 1855 was produced between 1855 and 1870, with around 44,000 being manufactured.  While the frame was somewhat fragile, it was still a reliable pistol, however it never was able to achieve much popularity.  Some were unofficially carried and used by soldiers during the American Civil War.  The new Root system would also inspire the design and production of a revolving rifle, shotgun, and carbine, all of which were also not very popular.

Note: The picture above is of George Armstrong Custer, back when he was a West Point Cadet.