The Black Officers

John Hanks Alexander

John Hanks Alexander was the second to graduate from West Point with the Class of 1887. Born on January 6, 1864 in Helena Arkansas to slave parents. He attended Oberlin College in Ohio then was appointed to the Military Academy in May of 1883. Four years later, he graduated thirty-second in a class of sixty-four. Second Lieutenant Alexander left the banks of the Hudson River to report for duty with the Ninth Cavalry at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. He transferred to Fort Washakie, Wyoming Territory and shortly thereafter to Fort Duchesne, Utah Territory. Alexander settled into garrison routine, no doubt engaging in overseeing a number of functions including fighting fires which broke out with some frequency at the fort. Building and maintaining a post sawmill and a telegraph line to Price, Utah, likewise required attention. He wrote regularly to his family and friends. In addition, he had to put in his time at court martial proceedings and in at least in one instance served as the judge advocate to prosecute a case against John Denny, who was a Ninth Cavalry Medal of Honor recipient. During the same period Alexander proved himself an able officer, remaining with the Ninth Cavalry which he served, "with efficiency and credit until February 1894." At that time the War Department detailed him as professor of military science and tactics at Wilberforce University. Scarcely a month later, he died, "from the rupture of one of the large arteries near the heart."
"Lieutenant Alexander died suddenly in 1894. In announcing his death in a regimental order his colonel spoke of him in terms of high praise, and did not use the customary stereotyped phrases of regret. His fellow white officers all had good words for him."
THE NEGRO IN THE REGULAR ARMY by Oswald Garrison Villard

General Order No. 294 of August 15, 1918, Camp Alexander, Newport News, VA was named in his honor.

Cleveland Gazette Announcement: March 31, 1894

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