The first complete American biography of geopolitical strategist General Homer Lea of the Chinese army is an important contribution to the history of geopolitics and American contribution to the liberation of China in 1912.

Lawrence M. Kaplan’s Homer Lea: American Soldier of Fortune (The University Press of Kentucky, 2010, 314 pages) is a detailed account, which could have told more about the geostrategic thinking of General Lea.

The family background ought to have been more detailed, as there are some interesting connections to the great American upheaval in 1861 to 1865.

Dr. Pleasant John Graves Lea (1807 – 1862), the Missouri ancestor of General Homer Lea, had 8 children Thomas, b. 1839, Joseph, b. 1841, d. 1904, Franklin, b. 1844 Alfred, b. 1845, Elvira, b. 1847, Mary, b. 1849, Carrie, b. 1852 and John, b. 1854 (for more family information see the 1860 Missouri Census).

Dr. Lea was physician in the town that would have his name, only that it by mistake was named Lee’s Summit instead of Lea’s Summit. He has been described as one of the closest friends of Confederate guerrilla leader William Quantrill. Several of his sons served in the Confederate army of General Sterling Price. The father had moved to Jackson County, Missouri, from Cleveland, Tennessee, in 1852 and built what is said to have been the finest house on the outskirts of Strother (an early name for Lee’s Summit). Union guerrillas called Jayhawkers were in 1862 raiding into Jackson County.

One day Dr. Lea was informed that his son Joseph was injured and treated in a home on the other side of town. On his way there he was stopped by Union guerrillas. They broke both his arms in an attempt to get information on the Confederate guerrillas. Dr. Lea kept silent. As a result he was tied to a tree and bayoneted to death. Later his home was burned to the ground after the Jayhawkers had stolen the furniture (information on the death of Dr. Lea is from an article on internet,, by Paul R. Petersen in 2009. The photos below of Dr. Lea, Joseph C. Lea and Frank Lea [in that order] are from this net article).

Joseph C. Lea took part in Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence, Kansas, and is said to have then been wounded. In the fall of 1863 he was elected first lieutenant. He remained in Jackson County during the winter of 1862/1863. In an attack at Wilson’s Point Lea and his unit captured around 100 Federal wagons, hundreds of horses and mules, one piece of artillery and took 100 Union prisoners (on Lea’s wartime experience see Rose Mary Lankford, The Encyclopedia of Quantrill’s Guerrillas, 1999).

Later in the war he was based at Floyd in Carroll Parish, Louisiana, and operated also in Tensas Parish.

In June 1864 Lea was recalled to Shreveport and ordered to assume command east of Quachita River. His command was involved in a skirmish at Horse Shoe on the Mississippi River on September 10, 1864. During the same month his unit fought deserters at Lum Place on Will Bayou in Madison Parish. Lea’s unit operated in Louisiana, Mississippi and Kentucky until the end of the war.

Joseph Lea arrived in Roswell, Lincoln County, New Mexico, in the late 1870s, when it only had a small number of buildings. When he died in 1904 as its mayor it had several thousand inhabitants. Lea came to be known as “Father of Roswell” developing the Lea Cattle Co. into the largest ranch in New Mexico by 1890. As a rancher he helped develop irrigation canals in and around the town. One of his other projects was the Goss Military Institute, which later became the New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI). To bring the railway to Roswell was important to Lea and he contributed decisively to create Chaves and Eddy Counties in the state (for more on Lea see the biography Joseph C. Lea: From Confederate Guerrilla to New Mexico Patriarch by Elvis E. Fleming, Yucca Tree Press, Las Cruces, 2002).

Joseph C. Lea’s brother, Alfred Erskine Lea, had in August 1862 (at age 14) been put on a wagon train of his father’s friend Dr. Parmer of Independence, Missouri, bound for Denver, Colorado. The reason for sending him away was the dangerous situation in the Missouri-Kansas border area during the war.

Later Alfred established a business in Denver but in 1885 with his brother Frank H. went to Roswell to aid Joseph with his ranch. He met Hersa Coberly from Indiana. They married and had three children (daughters Elvira and Mary) and the son Homer born in 1876. Homer was later to be an important figure of the Chinese revolution of 1912 of Dr. Sun Yat-sen and rose to become general of the Chinese army.

After suffering a drop as a baby Homer Lea became a hunchback (with a height of 1.50 meters with a weight under 100 lb). He attended Los Angeles High School (the family moved from Denver to Los Angeles). Lea wanted to make a military career and was appointed to West Point. Later he was admitted to Stanford University, where he became interested in politics, China and Chinese culture.

In 1899 Homer Lea travelled to the Far East and took part in attempts in China to restore the Guangxu Emperor to power. Appointed lieutenant general he commanded a volunteer force. The attempt failed and Lea fled to Hongkong and later Japan, where he met Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the future liberator of China.
Sun found that Lea could be used for building support in the United States. He was sent home to raise funds for the Chinese republican movement. Returning to China in 1904 he commanded the 2nd Army Division but the campaign was a failure. Lea again returned to the United States.

This time Homer Lea helped train the Chinese Imperial Reform Army, using American officers as instructors. The army was later used in China to topple the imperial regime and Sun Yat-sen became China’s first president in 1912. Lea served as his adviser, chief of staff and was made full general but for health reasons returned to America.

The American Chinese army general published two books on geopolitics. In The Valor of Ignorance (1909) he warned of a Japanese empire in the Pacific and that the United States could be attacked. Thus he early on warned of Pearl Harbor. In The Day of the Saxon (1912) Lea predicted the rise of a German Reich based on national supremacy and ethnic purity. His first book sold very well in Japan and the second could be said to have predicted the German Nazi regime in the 1930s. Lea had strong support for his views from American generals Douglas MacArthur and Adna Chaffee. A third book, The Swarming of the Slav, was planned, in which would be predicted a Russian move to the west to dominate Europe, but Lea passed away in November 1912 before the manuscript could be completed.

The University Press of Kentucky and the author are to be lauded for this extraordinary contribution to the history American-Chinese relations and the book belongs to libraries worldwide.



  1. Dan Stafford Says:

    Readers may want to visit our website and reach out to Dr. Lawrence Kaplan, author of Homer Lea: American Soldier of Fortune. A great book, and it would fill in some of the blanks in your summary here. You can reach him and order his book, if you like, through his website at or


    • gautic01 Says:

      Thank you for your mail. My review published on was originally published by the Center for Research on Geopolitics and it is based on a review copy from the publishing company.


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