Maj. General Frederick N. Funston

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Major-General Frederick Funston

Also Known As: "Fred Funston"
Birthplace: New Carlisle, Clark, OH, USA
Death: Died in San Antonio, Bexar, Texas, United States
Place of Burial: San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Edward H. Funston, U.S. Congress and Ann Eliza Mitchell
Husband of Eda Funston
Father of Arthur McArthur Funston; Frederick Funston, Jr.; Barbara Eda Funston and Eleanor Elizabeth Funston
Brother of James Burton Funston; Pogue Warwick Funston; Aldo Funston; girl Funston; boy Funston and 2 others

Managed by: Marvin Caulk, (C)
Last Updated:

About Maj. General Frederick N. Funston

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the

Medal of Honor

to Colonel (Infantry) Frederick Funston, Sr., United States Army, for most distinguished gallantry on 27 April 1899, while serving with 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry, in action at Calumpit, Luzon, Philippine Islands. Colonel Funston crossed the river on a raft and by his skill and daring enabled the general commanding to carry the enemy's entrenched position on the north bank of the river and to drive him with great loss from the important strategic position of Calumpit.

General Orders: Date of Issue: February 14, 1900

Action Date: April 27, 1899

Service: Army

Rank: Colonel

Division: 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry

Frederick N. Funston (September 11, 1865 – February 19, 1917) also known as Fred Funston, was a General in the United States Army, best known for his role in the Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American War. He received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Philippine-American War.

Early life and career

Funston was born in New Carlisle, Ohio before his family moved to Allen County, Kansas in 1881. His father, Edward H. Funston, was elected to the United States House of Representatives.

A slight individual who stood just 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m) tall and weighed only 120 pounds (54 kg), Funston failed an admissions test to the United States Military Academy in 1884, then attended the University of Kansas from 1885 to 1888, but did not graduate. While there, he joined the Phi Delta Theta fraternity and became friends with future Pulitzer Prize winner William Allen White. He worked as a trainman for the Santa Fe Railroad before becoming a reporter in Kansas City in 1890.

After one year as a journalist, Funston moved into more scientific exploration, focusing primarily on botany. First serving as part of an exploring and surveying expedition in Death Valley, California in 1891, he then traveled to Alaska to spend the next two years in work for the United States Department of Agriculture.


He eventually joined the Cuban Revolutionary Army that was fighting for independence from Spain in 1896 after having been inspired to join following a rousing speech given by Gen. Daniel E. Sickles at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

After a bout of malaria, Funston's weight dropped to an alarming 95 pounds and he was given a leave of absence by the Cubans. When Funston returned to the United States, he was commissioned as a colonel of the 20th Kansas Infantry in the United States Army on May 13, 1898, in the early days of the Spanish-American War. That same year, he landed in the Philippines as part of the U.S. forces that would become engaged in the Philippine-American War.


Funston was in command in various engagements with Filipino nationalists. In April 1899, he took a Filipino position at Calumpit by swimming the Bagbag River, then crossing the Pampanga River under heavy fire. For his bravery, Funston was soon promoted to the rank of Brigadier General of Volunteers and awarded the Medal of Honor on February 14, 1900.

Funston played a key role in planning and capturing Filipino President Emilio Aguinaldo on March 23, 1901 at Palanan. The capture of Aguinaldo made Funston a national hero, although his reputation was somewhat tarnished when details of the capture became known. Funston's party, escorted by a company of Macabebe mercenaries, had gained access to Aguinaldo's camp by posing as prisoners of Macabe scouts. In recognition of his capture of Aguinaldo, Funston was appointed a Brigadier General in the Regular Army at the age of 35. Funston's capture of Aguinaldo saved his military career as he had been previously denied a commission in the Regular Army, and was scheduled to be mustered out of the volunteer service.

In 1902, Funston toured the United States to increase public support of the Philippine-American War and became the focus of controversy by stating,

"I personally strung up thirty-five Filipinos without trial, so what was all the fuss over Waller's 'dispatching' a few 'treacherous savages'? If there had been more Smiths and Wallers, the war would have been over long ago. Impromptu domestic hanging might also hasten the end of the war. For starters, all Americans who had recently petitioned Congress to sue for peace in the Philippines should be dragged out of their homes and lynched."

Mark Twain, a strong opponent of U.S. imperialism, published a sarcasm-filled denunciation of Funston's mission and methods under the title "A Defence of General Funston" in the North American Review. "Poet Ernest Crosby ... also wrote a satirical, anti-imperialist novel, "Captain Jinks, Hero", that parodied the career of General Frederick Funston ...",

Funston was considered a useful advocate for American expansionism, but when he publicly made insulting remarks about anti-imperialist Republican Senator George Frisbie Hoar of Massachusetts, mocking his "overheated conscience" in Denver, just before a planned trip to Boston, President Theodore Roosevelt denied his furlough request, and ordered him silenced and officially reprimanded.

[Sideco house (Emilio Aguinaldo' seat of First Philippine Republic)

The house had been the seat of General Emilio Aguinaldo's First Philippine Republic when he established it as his headquarters in San Isidro during the last part of his odyssey from the American forces.

On the 29th of March 1899, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo arrived in San Isidro, Nueva Ecija and proclaimed the town capital of the First Philippine Republic. He stayed in this house which served as the de facto Philippine capitol. When the Americans occupied San Isidro, the Sideco house served as the headquarters of Gen. Frederick Funston who would later capture General Aguinaldo in Palanan, Isabela. General Aguinaldo's capture is said to have been planned in this house. It is now occupied by a Christian organization.

In 1906, Funston was in command of the Presidio of San Francisco when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake hit. Without Funston took command of the city, although martial law was never officially declared. In the immediate aftermath of unthinkable disaster, Funston assumed the role of protecting the population of San Francisco from anarchy. His most immediate concerns were defending the city from fire and provisioning its citizens with water while lacking a functional water system, as the water mains had all ruptured. He therefore directed the targeted demolition of buildings using explosives including black powder, artilliery charges, and dynamite, in order to create fire breaks to stop the fires consuming the city. Often the explosions set the ruins on fire or helped spread it. Dynamite proved most effective, and this desperate, last-ditch strategy finally worked at the wide avenue of Van Ness, where a successful fire break was created after the residences of many city elite were demolished to enhance its width.

Funston felt he needed to prevent anarchy. Immediately after the earthquake, he ordered that looting be punished summarily with execution. It soon became necessary that these orders be carried out, as the shady denizens of the "Barbary Coast" emerged to pilfer what they could, even to defile the dead[editorializing]:

"At the corner of Market and Third Streets on Wednesday I saw a man attempt to cut the fingers from the hand of a dead woman in order to secure the rings which adorned the stiffened fingers."


"One man made the trooper believe that one of the dead bodies lying on a pile of rocks was his mother, and he was permitted to go up to the body. Apparently overcome by grief, he threw himself across the corpse. In another instant the soldiers discovered that he was chewing the diamond earrings from the ears of the dead woman ... The diamonds were found in the man's mouth afterward."

"The soldiers do all they can, and while the unspeakable crime of robbing the dead is undoubtedly being practiced, it would be many times more prevalent were it not for the constant vigilance on all sides, as well as the summary justice."

- from survivors' accounts immediately following the 1906 Earthquake.

Funston's actions were later assessed with a mixture of criticism and praise, but most criticism of his methods has occurred after the fact. Those who experienced and survived the tragedy first-hand were nearly universal[who?] in hailing him as a hero who did what was necessary in the face of utter chaos.

That same year, Funston successfully negotiated peace in Cuba.

From December 1907 through March 1908, he was in charge of troops at the Goldfield mining center in Esmeralda County, Nevada, where the army put down a labor strike by the Industrial Workers of the World.

Then, after two years as Commandant of the Army Service School in Fort Leavenworth, he served three years as Commander of the Department of Luzon in the Philippines, then was briefly shifted to the same role in the Hawaiian Department (3 April 1913 to 22 January 1914).

Funston was active in the conflict with Mexico in 1914 to 1916. He occupied the city of Veracruz, and later took part in the hunt for Pancho Villa, becoming a Major General in November 1914.

World War I and death

Shortly before the U.S. entry into World War I, President Woodrow Wilson favored Funston to head any American Expeditionary Force (AEF). His intense focus on work would lead to health problems, first with a case of indigestion in January 1917, followed by a fatal heart attack at the age of 51 years in San Antonio, Texas.

In the moments leading up to his death, Funston was relaxing in the lobby of a San Antonio, Texas hotel, listening to an orchestra play The Blue Danube Waltz. After commenting, "How beautiful it all is," he collapsed from a massive painful heart attack (myocardial infarction) and died.

Douglas MacArthur, then a major, had the unpleasant duty of breaking the news to President Wilson and Secretary of War Newton D. Baker. As MacArthur explained in his memoirs, "had the voice of doom spoken, the result could not have been different. The silence seemed like that of death itself. You could hear your own breathing."

Funston lay in state at both the Alamo and the City Hall Rotunda in San Francisco. The latter honor gave him the distinction of being the first person to be recognized with this tribute, with his subsequent burial taking place in San Francisco National Cemetery. After his death, his position of AEF commander went to General John Pershing. The Lake Merced military reservation (part of San Francisco's coastal defenses) was renamed Fort Funston in his honor, while the training camp built in 1917 next to Fort Riley in Kansas (which became the second-largest World War I camp) was named Camp Funston. San Francisco's Funston Avenue is named for him as is Funston Avenue in his hometown of New Carlisle, Ohio as well as Funston Avenue near Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX. Funston Road at Fort Shafter, Hawaii is named after him. Funston's daughter, son and grandson, both of whom served in the United States Air Force, were later interred with him.

Medal of Honor citation

Rank and organization Colonel, 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry.

Place and date At Rio Grande de la Pampanga, Luzon, Philippine Islands, April 27, 1899.

Entered service at Iola, Kansas.

Birth New Carlisle, Ohio.

Date of issue February 14, 1900.

Citation Crossed the river on a raft and by his skill and daring enabled the general commanding to carry the enemy's entrenched position on the north bank of the river and to drive him with great loss from the important strategic position of Calumpit.

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Maj. General Frederick N. Funston's Timeline

November 9, 1865
New Carlisle, Clark, OH, USA
December 18, 1901
Age 36
September 23, 1903
Age 37
July 27, 1908
Age 42
April 14, 1914
Age 48
February 19, 1917
Age 51
San Antonio, Bexar, Texas, United States
San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA