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Frederick Funston

Studio portrait of Brigadier-General Frederick Funston

Army general.  Born: November 9, 1865, New Carlisle, Ohio.  Died: February 19, 1917 San Antonio, Texas.

In 1901 scarcely an American lived who was unfamiliar with the name of Frederick Funston, the hero of the Philippine insurrection. Through a daring ruse this Kansan had captured the rebel leader and broken the back of the uprising.

Funston's adult life was one of almost unbelievable adventure. In the early 1890s he participated in scientific expeditions in the Dakota Badlands, Death Valley, and in Alaska along the Klondike and Yukon Rivers. In 1896 he joined forces of Cubans who were fighting for independence from Spain. He was immediately made a captain of artillery. Two years later, when he was sent home because of malaria, he was a lieutenant colonel.

Hardly had Funston returned home before the Spanish American War broke out and Kansas was called upon for troops. Funston was appointed colonel of the 20th Kansas Infantry, which was soon sent to the Philippine Islands. On February 4, 1899, the insurrection broke out. Because of his leadership, Funston was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and promoted to the rank of Brigadier General Volunteers.

Informal portrait of Frederick Funston with a bedroll, metal cup, and rifle, 1890sAlthough the 20th Kansas served only a year, Funston returned to the Philippines in late December, 1899. He personally led the small cadre of American soldiers and Macabebe scouts in the capture of the famed Filipino insurrectionist, Emilio Aguinaldo. Criticized by some for unethically posing as a spy to bring about the capture, Funston was nevertheless awarded a commission as a Brigadier General, Regular Army, June, 1901.  At the time, Funston was 35 years old and the youngest general in the army.

In 1906 he did much to keep law and order in San Francisco and to provide relief to sufferers of the great earthquake. In 1914 he was in command of American troops on the Texas border during the difficulties with Pancho Villa. Future general, John J. Pershing, was one of his subordinates. On November 17, 1914, Funston was made a Major General.

A heart attack took the life of the 51-year-old general on February 19, 1917. His college friend, William Allen White, called him "one of the most colorful figures in the American army from the day of Washington on down." Newton Baker, who was serving as the Secretary of War at the time of Funston’s death, said later that had Funston lived, he undoubtedly would have commanded the American Expeditionary Force in Europe, which became engaged in World War I only months after his death.

Funston’s boyhood home in Carlyle was donated by his family to the State of Kansas in 1955, and operated as a museum until the late 1970s. In 1994 the state transferred the house and its contents to the Allen County Historical Society. It was relocated to Iola, restored, and opened to the public to visit.

Entry: Funston, Frederick

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: December 2004

Date Modified: April 2021

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.