John Blake (soldier)

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John Young Filmore Blake or also known as John Y.F. Blake and J.Y.F. Blake was an Irish-American soldier and military writer. He was born October 6, 1856, in Bolivar, Missouri, United States, and died January 24, 1907, in New York City.[1] He was an avowed advocate of resistance to British imperialism worldwide and fought as a foreign volunteer for the Boer republics during the Second Boer War.

Early life[edit]

After his birth, Blake's family soon moved to Denton County, Texas. There he grew up cattle ranching and learned to ride horses.[2] His father sent him to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 1871.[2] Soon after graduating, he received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1876.[2] Upon graduating from West Point in June 1880, Blake began his military career, assigned as a 2nd Lieutenant to the 6th U.S. Cavalry stationed in Arizona. He served under General Willcox, General Crook, and General Miles during the Apache wars. He was known as a fearless and magnetic leader, at one point rustling an Apache pony herd.[3] Resigning from the military in 1889, Blake moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan to become a businessman, as his wife and family wanted him to settle down. After about 5 years he soon found out that "'the tricks of the trade', were too deep for me"[3] and giving into his desire for adventure, headed to South Africa as a gold prospector.

Boer War[edit]

While in South Africa he became deeply involved in the Second Boer War, leading the Chicago Irish-American Corps, known as Blake's Irish Brigade against the British. .[4][5] He returned to the United States after the war to a hero's welcome and the lecture circuit. He subsequently published a memoir of his African experience, A West Pointer With The Boers. Blake's memoir is conceived as a highly critical expose of the motives and actions of Great Britain, particularly in its support of Cecil Rhodes. He also lingers on the British maltreatment of black Africans and Afrikaners alike, and the honor and decency of Boer partisans in defending their liberty and families.


John's mother Sinclair T. Chitty married his father Thomas Kincaid Blake Jr. at the age of 15.

In 1885 John married Katherine Euphrasia Aldrich in Grand Rapids while still in the service. Together they lived in the officers' quarters at Fort Leavenworth, where John's first son Aldrich Blake was born on November 6, 1885. In 1888 Katherine, being pregnant with John's second son, persuaded him to resign from the military and return to Grand Rapids. He agreed, and on September 19, 1889 Ledyard Blake was born.


Blake was found dead in his home in Harlem, New York City of gas asphyxiation on January 24, 1907. He had previously been tending a sick friend for 3 days. Some sources said the death was accidental, while others called it suicide.[1][6][7] He is buried at West Point, New York.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b [1] "Annual Reunion," United States Military Academy, Association of Graduates, pages 71-74. Retrieved April 21, 2010
  2. ^ a b c Blake 1903, p. III.
  3. ^ a b Blake 1903, p. IV.
  4. ^ [2] McCracken, Donal P. "Forgotten protest: Ireland and the Anglo-Boer War. Ulster Historical Foundation, 2003. ISBN 978-1-903688-18-2. Pages 124-125. Retrieved April 21, 2010
  5. ^ [3] Hyslop, Jonathan, "The notorious syndicalist: J.T. Bain, a Scottish rebel in colonial South Africa," pages 140,143. Jacana Media, 2005. ISBN 978-1-919931-72-2. Retrieved April 21, 2010
  6. ^ [4] The Journal of the American-Irish Historical Society, Volume 7, "Review of the year." Page 104. Retrieved April 21, 2010
  7. ^ [5] De Souza, Francis Hugh "A question of treason," Kiaat Creations, 2004,page 269. ISBN 978-0-620-32030-6. Retrieved April 21, 2010.

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