Kentucky Marine: Major General Logan Feland, USMC
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Kentucky Marine:
Major General Logan Feland, USMC

"Kentucky Marine to get decoration from Ex-President of Nicaragua"—so stated the Louisville Courier-Journal headline in March 1931, announcing that Hopkinsville native Major General Logan Feland would add another medal to his already impressive collection.1 The Nicaraguan award would cap a distinguished United States Marine Corps career slowly drawing to an end. The Marine from western Kentucky had won the second-highest combat valor award, become famous nationally and internationally, served alongside "Old Corps" Marine legends, and just missed becoming Marine Corps Commandant. It was a career well worth celebrating.

Born in Hopkinsville in 1869, Logan Feland was the third son of lawyer John Feland and his wife Sarah (Sallie) Kennedy.2 In his early years, he attended Ferrell's School in Hopkinsville, founded by a former Confederate major, James Overton Ferrell, who emphasized military discipline. Feland's formal military training began in 1885 when he joined the Latham Light Guards, a Hopkinsville company [End Page 3] of the State Guard. His older brother John served as first lieutenant; by 1888 Logan Feland had become company first sergeant.3

Feland also studied at St. John's Military Academy in Manlius, New York, before matriculating at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1890. There, he studied architecture and civil engineering, graduating with a BS in architecture in 1892. After college, he returned to Kentucky to practice as an architect in Owensboro, where his family had moved in 1889 when his father became a federal collector of internal revenue. In 1897, Feland left Owensboro to work in New York City as an architect at the concrete construction company of a former classmate, Ross Tucker, who later as an MIT professor described Feland as "the last man in the world you would ever have picked out to be a soldier—a tall, skinny, slouchy Kentuckian, who couldn't be serious three minutes at a time."4

When the Spanish-American War broke out in April 1898, Feland returned to Kentucky to become captain of the Owensboro-based Company F, Third Kentucky Volunteers, which he had helped establish. His company went to Cuba and although he did not see any action, Logan Feland's life changed dramatically.5 This brief military [End Page 4] experience helped him obtain a United States Marine Corps commission as a first lieutenant.

In July 1899, Logan Feland reported to the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., and quickly made a positive impression. In Feland's first fitness report, Lieutenant Colonel Francis H. Harrington marked him "excellent" for his manner of performing his duties, his attention to duty, and his general conduct and bearing, and "very good" regarding his health.6

In 1899, bolstered by its claim to be the "first to fight" in the Spanish-American War, the Marine Corps began a transformation into the sharp point of the sword of nascent U.S. imperialism. The Corps had a history of brief insertions into various unstable countries, primarily by ship-based Marines, but it remained small—slightly more than three thousand men. Postwar plans in 1899 nearly doubled its size. In 1900, the Corps also gained a new mission—to create an advanced-base force that would capture and defend territory abroad that could provide naval ports necessary to protect and sustain a burgeoning naval force championed by the former assistant secretary of the navy and future president, Theodore Roosevelt, and many others.7

The advanced-base force development would take a few years. In the meantime, the Marine Corps had an immediate task: helping to pacify the newly acquired Philippine Islands. In November 1899, [End Page 5] First Lieutenant Feland joined the Third Marine Battalion organized under Major L. W. T. Waller. Waller's battalion included several young officers who would become prominent early-twentieth-century Marine Corps figures, such as Hiram "Hiking Hiram" Bearss, Louis McCarty Little, and Frederick ("Fritz") Wise. An officer with strong Kentucky ties, James Carson Breckinridge, served as battalion adjutant. All would play major roles in most Marine Corps operations through World War I.8

Waller's battalion sailed on the USS Solace to the Philippines, where the...