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Bill Thayer

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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1880

Vol. III

(Born Mo.)

John Y. F. Blake

(Ap'd Ark.)


John Young Fillmore Blake.​a

Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, Sep. 1, 1876, to June 12, 1880, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Second Lieut., 6th Cavalry, June 12, 1880.

Served: on frontier duty at Ft. Lowell, Ara., Sep. 29, 1880, to July 14, 1881, — Ft. Bowie, Ara., and in the field (in command of Indian Scouts, Sep. to Nov., 1882), to June 12, 1884, — Ft. Bayard, N. M., to Feb. 16, 1885 (on leave of absence, to Aug. 15, 1885), — Ft. Leavenworth, Kan.,  p339 to Nov. 4, 1887, — and Ft. Wingate, N. M., to Feb. 9, 1889; and on leave of absence, to Aug. 19, 1889.

Resigned, Aug. 19, 1889.

Civil History. — Unknown, nothing authentic having been received.

Vol. IV
[Supplement, Vol. IV: 1890‑1900]

Civil History. — Unknown.

Vol. V
[Supplement, Vol. V: 1900‑1910]

Civil History. — Exploring the interior of South Africa (Rhodesia and the Transvaal); sent on mission to England by President Kruger; served, without compensation, as Commander of the Irish Brigade in the recent Boer war with England.

Died Jan. 24, 1907, in New York, N. Y.: Aged 51.

See Annual Association of Graduates U. S. M. A., 1908, for an obituary notice.

Buried, West Point Cemetery, West Point, NY.​b

Thayer's Notes:

a Col. Blake's full name is from multiple sources online, including the National Library of Ireland.

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b The biographical sketch on that page is interesting, if in error in one particular: he was never a colonel in the United States Army, although it would be his rank in the Irish Brigade in the Boer War. He wrote an account of his involvement in that war, titled A West Pointer With the Boers (Personal Narrative of Colonel J. Y. F. Blake, Commander of the Irish Brigade) (Boston, 1903); it is online at Archive.Org. In that book, his Introduction is his only account of his past before the South African war; since it's what he himself chose to say about his U. S. Army career, it seemed worthwhile to me to reproduce it here in full:

p. iii Friends have advised me to say a little something about myself, by way of a beginning, and to please them, I will commence with the statement that I was born in the State of Missouri, in 1856, and waked up on a horse and cattle ranch on the plains of Denton County, Texas. At least, here it was that I first saw light, as far as I can remember. As I grew up I learned to ride the Texas pony, and became fairly well acquainted with the character and habits of horses and cattle, by having, year after year, to look after them, and see that none strayed away. Happy were those days of loneliness and ignorance spent on those far‑stretching plains, where roamed hundreds of thousand of horses, cattle and buffalo!

In 1871, my father started me to school at the Arkansas State University, at Fayetteville. In 1876, while still at the University, I received the cadet appointment to the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, through the kindness of Hon. Thomas M. Gunter, M. C., an old friend of my father. I entered the Academy in September, of the same year, and graduated in June, 1880. I was assigned as 2nd Lieutenant of the 6th U. S. p. ivCavalry stationed in Arizona. I passed through the Apache wars, serving first under General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Willcox,º then under General Crook, and lastly under Gen. Nelson A. Miles.

General Crook put me in command of the Apache Indian scouts, and with them I roamed about the mountains till 1885, when my troop was ordered to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. I passed through the Infantry and Cavalry school, and, on being promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant in 1887, was ordered to Fort Wingate, New Mexico. Now General Miles put me in command of the Navajo Indian scouts.

The Indians remained quiet and peaceful on their reservations. Post life became monotonous, and I resigned in 1889.

I went to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to try my hand in business, but soon found that the "tricks of the trade" were too deep for me, so to speak I made up my mind to go to South Africa, where the gold mining prospects were attracting adventurous men from every part of the world.

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