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Dauntless: The life and times of General Frederick Funston

William John Bridges, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Major General Frederick Funston (1865–1917) lived and died during a turbulent era for the United States that began with the Civil War's end and culminated with American entry into World War I. After growing up in Kansas in the 1870s and 1880s, he became an adventurer, exploring Death Valley, the Yukon, and the Arctic circle in the 1890s. He fought alongside Cuban rebels in 1896, received a Medal of Honor in the Philippine War, and in 1901 captured Filipino rebel leader Emilio Aguinaldo through an amazingly daring plan. In later years, Funston directed Army units during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, served as military governor of the 1914 Veracruz occupation, and supervised both the Punitive Expedition and an army of nearly 200,000 men after Pancho Villa's attack in 1916. ^ Of all his adventures and military accomplishments, seizing Aguinaldo was the seminal event in Funston's life, shaping both his life and all future interpretations of it. Both positive and negative contemporary accounts propagandized his actions; in the process, they created an inaccurate, dichotomous image of him. His friends and imperialist supporters described him as a selfless, patriotic, and romantic daredevil, while detractors depicted him as an undisciplined, glory-seeking, murderous mercenary. The portrayals served both sides' political ends, but they obscured the truth and disallowed a balanced vision of him. Unfortunately, references written in later years perpetuated the inaccuracies. Additionally, references to Funston uniformly dwell on his Philippine War experiences and fail to use his life experiences to comment on America's metamorphosis in the fifty-two years after the Civil War. Funston's actions and attitudes provide insight into American imperialism, views on race and ethnicity, the Army in the early 1900s, and even the media's role in hero-creation. In this dissertation, I provide a better understanding of both a fascinating American leader and the important transitional era from 1865–1917. ^

Subject Area

Biography|History, United States

Recommended Citation

Bridges, William John, "Dauntless: The life and times of General Frederick Funston" (2002). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3074069.