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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum

Army Nixes Black Chaplains 1894 Discharge

By STEPHEN MANNING, Associated Press Writer
Fri Jul 1, 6:10 PM ET

LANDOVER, Md. - The Army on Friday formally overturned the 1894 dishonorable discharge of its first black chaplain, presenting his great-grandchildren with a tightly folded American flag during a ceremony.

Henry Vinton Plummer, who died in 1905, struggled for years to overturn the dishonorable discharge and court martial he received for allegedly drinking with enlisted men and swearing in front of a woman. He wrote a torrent of letters seeking to be reinstated. He even offered to serve in the Spanish American War to make amends.

Last year, Plummer's descendants took up the cause, petitioning the Army to reopen the case. They claimed the discharge and court martial were made on little evidence by an all-white judicial panel that convicted him because of his race.

In February, the Army Board for Correction of Military Records upheld the court martial, saying modern legal standards could not be applied to a century-old case and would set a bad precedent. But the board did reverse the dishonorable discharge, allowing Plummer to have a military memorial service at National Harmony Memorial Park in Landover.

"It seems like it's been so many years of our family trying to vindicate him," said his great-granddaughter, Olga Plummer-Talley, who shook with emotion after a soldier handed her the flag. "It finally has happened."

Plummer was born a slave in 1844 on a plantation but escaped at 18. He eventually joined the Union Navy during the Civil War and was awarded an honorable discharge in 1865. He went on to become an ordained Baptist minister.

He later was commissioned in 1884 as an officer in the Army's 9th Cavalry, a black unit also known as the Buffalo Soldiers, before his dishonorable discharge.

Plummer's descendants are considering asking Congress and President Bush to issue a proclamation or resolution honoring Plummer. Some descendants, though, think there is still more to be done. Peggy Triplett said his court martial should also be reversed.

"It hasn't gone far enough," she said. "Until that is reversed, we won't be satisfied

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18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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