The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

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Military Miscellany

Dr John Tower Blake -
from Gettysburg to Middelburg

From: "Robin Smith"
By e-mail on 6 June 2011

Below is my correspondence with my American friend, Professor Carol Reardon. Could someone help us understand how and why Dr Blake came to South Africa to die in Middelburg at the ripe old age of 87?

In Middelburg Military cemetery, 130 kms east of Johannesburg in Mpumulanga, is the grave of Dr John Tower Blake, born in Providence Rhode Island and wounded at the battle of Gettysburg. He died in Middelburg in 1927. Does anyone know anything about him?

Professor Carol Reardon
Absolutely, Robin! John T. Blake served as the 1st Sergeant of Battery B, 1st Rhode Island Artillery, commanded at Gettysburg by 1LT T. Frederick Brown. Blake was severely wounded in the wrist--I don't know which one--on July 2, 1863, probably in the repulse of Brig. Gen. Ambrose Wright's Georgians. He enlisted in Providence on 13 August 1861 and was appointed a sergeant. He was promoted to 1st Sergeant on 5 February 1863. He apparently healed quickly because he was commissioned a second lieutenant on 28 October 1863 and reassigned to Battery A, 1st Rhode Island Artillery. He went on leave from February 15 through 14 March 1864, and apparently served through Grant's Overland campaign and the opening phases of the Petersburg campaign until he was mustered out of service on 19 August 1864. I have no idea how he got to South Africa, though. Do you know????

No idea how or why he ended up in South Africa, and Middelburg. Middelburg was the largest town in the area but today has been overtaken by Witbank, about 20kms away, where the collieries have spawned huge chemical industries. I will try and find out more - it is clearly an interesting story


Middelburg Military Cemetery

Robin Smith
083 250 9481
033 239 5725
PO Box 707 Hilton 3245 KZN

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