In 1861, a young Mark Twain joined a volunteer Confederate militia group in Missouri called the Marion Rangers, but it was disbanded after only several weeks. His brief martial enthusiasm dissipated, he headed west to the Nevada Territory with his brother Orion. After some fruitless attempts to find gold in the ground, he discovered gold in his writing hand. He did not come back east until the Civil War was safely over. John Mason Brown, the protagonist of Meredith Brown's essay, also went west in 1861 because of his love of adventure, his interest in Native Americans, and his desire to find gold. In this latter venture, he was no more successful than Mark Twain.
Brown had gone west soon after Fort Sumter before the Civil War had really begun. However, in October 1862, he received some "very alarming news from Kentucky" regarding the Confederate invasion. Unlike Twain, Brown quickly returned home where he rose rapidly in Union military ranks before becoming the commander of the Forty-fifth Mounted Kentucky Infantry. His considerable Civil War successes culminated in driving the troops of John Hunt Morgan out of Kentucky in 1864. Brown, it is true, did not write Huckleberry Finn, but, then, neither did Mark Twain get the best of John Hunt Morgan. Brown went on to enjoy a distinguished postwar career in law and Republican Party politics in a state which, his son recalled, "was overwhelmingly committed to a contrary political belief."
Although Logan Feland, the subject of our second essay, did not match Brown in western adventure, his military career was sustained [End Page 1] and distinguished. Born in Hopkinsville in 1869, he joined a company of the State Guard in 1885. He then studied at St. John Military Academy in 1890 and graduated from MIT in 1892 with a degree in architecture and civil engineering. He went to work as an architect in New York City. At this time, he was described by one of his MIT professors as "a tall, skinny, slouchy Kentuckian" who was "the last man in the world you would ever have picked out as a soldier."
The Spanish-American War launched his military career. His brief but exemplary service in Cuba helped him obtain a United States Marine Corps commission as a first lieutenant. The Marine Corps at this time was evolving into the "sharp point of the sword of nascent U.S. imperialism." This is reflected in Feland's service in the Philippines where he helped defeat the insurgents who preferred independence to American control. We tend to look askance at such ventures today, but they were controversial even at the time. Mark Twain (here he is again) protested U.S. policy in the Philippines by observing that the American flag should be altered so that the white stripes would be painted black and "the stars replaced by the skull and crossbones."
Nonetheless, most of the rest of Feland's career—punctuated by valorous service in France during World War I—was played out in an imperialist context in Central America, especially Nicaragua, usually under difficult, frustrating circumstances. He was much-decorated and steadily promoted, becoming a major general in 1929. David Bettez has given us a vivid portrait of one of the more distinguished, if perhaps less well known, Kentucky soldiers, a career officer who made his own unique contribution to the military heritage of the state. [End Page 2]