S. I. Waxman {Style, Sept. 27} did an excellent job of providing some personal insight into the life of Brig. Gen. Fred Gorden, the first black commandant at West Point. However, a mistake was made in identifying the first black cadet to be appointed to West Point. The article stated, "The first black cadet at West Point was born a slave in 1856 in Thomasville, Georgia. His name was Henry Ossian Flipper, and he completed the rigorous four-year program in 1877." Research clearly shows, however, that the first black cadet appointed to the military academy was James Webster Smith of South Carolina.

Mr. Smith's excellent academic work as a young student came to the attention of the Northern philanthropist, David Clark. It was Mr. Clark who supported Mr. Smith in high school and later at Howard University. In 1870, Rep. Solomon L. Hoge of South Carolina nominated Mr. Smith for a cadetship at West Point.

He was not the only black cadet appointed to the military academy in 1870. Three other blacks were also appointed. However, two were refused admission on medical grounds, and the third, Michael Howard, failed to pass the entrance examination.

In sharp contrast to the feelings of the black cadets interviewed in the article who think of West Point as a very well integrated environment, in 1870 it was a living hell of relentless persecution for Mr. Smith. The story of his appointment to West Point is one of personal courage that should not be overlooked or forgotten. The harassment of Mr. Smith was severe enough that he at one point had to lodge with the commandant of cadets, Emory Upton. Mr. Smith never graduated; the first black cadet to graduate from West Point was Henry Flipper.

THOYD MELTON McLean