John C. Frémont

John C. Frémont

Infobox Governor
name = John Charles Frémont

order =
office = 3rd Military Governor of California
term_start = 1847
term_end = 1847
predecessor = Robert F. Stockton
successor = Stephen W. Kearny
order2 = United States Senator from California
term_start2 = September 9, 1850
term_end2 = March 3, 1851
predecessor2 =
successor2 = John B. Weller
order3 = 5th Territorial Governor of Arizona
term_start3 = 1878
term_end3 = 1881
predecessor3 = John Philo Hoyt
successor3 = Frederick Augustus Tritle
party_election4 = Republican
date of birth = birth date|1813|1|21|mf=y
place of birth = Savannah, Georgia, U.S.
date of death = death date and age|1890|7|13|1813|1|21
place of death = New York City, New York, U.S.
spouse = Jessie Benton Frémont
profession = Politician
party = Democrat, Republican
religion = Episcopalian

John Charles Frémont (January 21, 1813ndash July 13, 1890), was an American military officer, explorer, the first candidate of the Republican Party for the office of President of the United States, and the first presidential candidate of a major party to run on a platform in opposition to slavery. During the 1840s, that era's penny press accorded Frémont the sobriquet "The Pathfinder", which remains in use, sometimes as "The Great Pathfinder". [Adams, Dennis. [ "The Man for Whom Fort Fremont was Named"] . Beaufort County (SC) Library. "URL retrieved on February 1, 2007."] [ [ John Charles Fremont] . Sierra Nevada Virtual Museum. Biographies. "URL retrieved on February 19, 2007".]


Frémont was born in Savannah, Georgia. His ancestry is disputed. According to a 1902 genealogy of the Frémont family, he was the son of Anne Beverley Whiting, a prominent Virginia society woman, who after his birth married Louis-René Frémont, a penniless French refugee, in Norfolk on May 14, 1807. [Roy, Pierre-Georges. "La famille Frémont", Lévis, 1902. p. 84.] Louis-René Frémont was the son of Jean-Louis Frémont, a Québec City merchant, who was the immigrant son of Charles-Louis Frémont from Saint Germain en Laye near Paris. H.W. Brands, however, in his biography of Andrew Jackson, [Brands, H.W. Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times, Doubleday, 2005. p. 190.] states that Frémont was the son of Anne and Charles Fremon, and that Frémont added the accented "e" and the "t" to his name later in life. Many confirm he was in fact illegitimate, a social handicap he overcame by marrying Jessie Benton, the favorite daughter of the very influential senator from Missouri, Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1858).

Benton, Democratic Party leader for over 30 years in the Senate, championed the expansionist movement, a political cause that became known as "Manifest Destiny." The expansionists believed that the North American continent, from one end to the other, should belong to the citizens of the United States, and that getting those lands was the country’s destiny. This movement became a crusade for politicians like Benton and in his new son-in-law. Benton pushed appropriations through Congress for surveys of the Oregon Trail (1842), the Oregon Territory (1844), the Great Basin, and Sierra Mountains to California (1845). Through his power and influence, Benton got Frémont the leadership of these expeditions.

Frémont's great-grandfather, Henry Whiting, was a half-brother of Catherine Whiting who married John Washington, uncle of George Washington. [Robert H. Wynn, [ "John Charles Fremont, Explorer!"] , 'Bob and Brenda Exploring' Newsletter, March 2006, Issue No. 16. "URL retrieved on January 7, 2007".] [ [ "The Diaries of George Washington"] , Vol. 2, 1976. The George Washington Papers, The Library of Congress. "URL retrieved on January 7, 2007".] [ [ Geneological convolution] , RootsWeb. "URL retrieved on January 7, 2007".]


After attending the College of Charleston from 1829 to 1831, [ Notable Names Database - John C. Fremont] Frémont was appointed a teacher of Mathematics aboard the sloop USS Natchez. In July 1838 he was appointed a Second Lieutenant in the Corps of Topographical Engineers and assisted and led multiple surveying expeditions through the western territory of the United States and beyond. In 1838 and 1839 he assisted Joseph Nicollet in exploring the lands between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and in 1841, with training from Nicollet, he mapped portions of the Des Moines River.

Frémont first met American frontiersman Kit Carson on a Missouri River steamboat in St. Louis, Missouri during the summer of 1842. Frémont was preparing to lead his first expedition and was looking for a guide to take him to South Pass. Carson offered his services, as he had spent much time in the area. The five-month journey, made with 25 men, was a success, and Frémont's report was published by the U.S. Congress. The Frémont report "touched off a wave of wagon caravans filled with hopeful emigrants" heading west.

From 1842 to 1846, Frémont and his guide Carson led expedition parties on the Oregon Trail and into the Sierra Nevada. During his expeditions in the Sierra Nevada, it is generally acknowledged that Frémont became the first European American to view Lake Tahoe. He is also credited with determining the Great Basin as endorheic, that is, having no outlet to the sea. He also mapped volcanoes such as Mount St. Helens.

Third expedition

On June 1 1845 John Frémont and 55 men left St. Louis, with Carson as guide, on the third expedition. The stated goal was to "map the source of the Arkansas River," on the east side of the Rocky Mountains. But upon reaching the Arkansas, Frémont suddenly made a hasty trail straight to California, without explanation. Arriving in the Sacramento Valley in early winter 1846, he promptly sought to stir up patriotic enthusiasm among the American settlers there. He promised that if war with Mexico started, his military force would "be there to protect them." Frémont nearly provoked a battle with General José Castro near Monterey, camped at the summit of what is now named Fremont Peak, which would have likely resulted in the annihilation of Frémont's group, due to the superior numbers of the Mexican troops. Frémont then fled Mexican-controlled California, and went north to Oregon, making camp at Klamath Lake.

Following a May 9 1846, Modoc Indian attack on his expedition party, Frémont chose to attack a Klamath Indian fishing village named Dokdokwas, at the junction of the Williamson River and Klamath Lake, which took place May 10 1846. The action completely destroyed the village, and involved the massacre of women and children. After the burning of the village, Carson was nearly killed by a Klamath warrior later that day: his gun misfired, and the warrior drew to fire a poison arrow; but Frémont, seeing Carson's predicament, trampled the warrior with his horse. Carson stated he felt that he owed Frémont his life due to this incident.

On June 28 1846, Frémont intercepted three Mexican men crossing the San Francisco Bay near San Quentin. Frémont ordered Carson to execute the three men in revenge for the deaths of two Americans. Carson questioned the orders. At first he asked Frémont if he should take the men prisoner. Frémont's plan was otherwise: "I have no use for prisoners, do your duty." When Carson hesitated Frémont yelled, "Mr. Carson, your duty," to which Carson then complied by executing Jose R. Berreyesa and his nephews, Ramon and Fransciso De Haro, the nineteen-year-old twin sons of Francisco de Haro, the first Alcalde of San Francisco, near present-day San Rafael. [ "San Francisco History: The Beginnings of San Francisco, Appendix D"] . San Francisco Genealogy. "URL retrieved on January 24, 2007."] The execution of these popular Californianos hindered Frémont's political career and prevented him from being the first American governor of California, a post he coveted. Writing about the executions a half-century later, the historian Robert A. Thompsen noted, "Californians cannot speak of it down to this day without intense feeling." [Thompsen Robert A. (1905) History of Calfiornia, Vol. 5. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 174-75.]

Mexican-American War

In 1846, Frémont was also Lieutenant Colonel of the U.S. Mounted Rifles (a predecessor of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment). In late 1846 Frémont, acting under orders from Commodore Robert F. Stockton, led a military expedition of 300 men to capture Santa Barbara, California, during the Mexican-American War. Frémont led his unit over the Santa Ynez Mountains at San Marcos Pass, in a rainstorm on the night of December 24, 1846. In spite of losing many of his horses, mules, and cannon, which slid down the muddy slopes during the rainy night, his men regrouped in the foothills the next morning, and captured the Presidio without bloodshed, thereby capturing the town. A few days later he led his men southeast towards Los Angeles, accepting the surrender of Mexican General Pío Pico on the Cahuenga Plain on January 13, 1847. [Tompkins, Walker A. "Santa Barbara, Past and Present". Tecolote Books, Santa Barbara, CA, 1975, pp. 33-35.]

On January 16 1847, Commodore Stockton appointed Frémont military governor of California following the Treaty of Cahuenga, which ended the Mexican-American War in California. However, U.S. Army general Stephen Watts Kearny, who outranked Frémont and had orders from the President and Secretary of War to serve as governor,Fact|date=April 2008 demanded that Frémont relent, which he stubbornly refused. Kearny gave Frémont several opportunities to retract his position. When they arrived at Fort Leavenworth in August 1847, Kearny arrested Frémont and brought him to Washington, D.C., where he was convicted of mutiny. President James Polk quickly pardoned him in light of his service in the war.

U.S. Senator

Frémont served from 1850 to 1851 as one of the first pair of Senators from California. In 1856, the new Republican Party nominated him as its first presidential candidate. He lost to James Buchanan, though he did surpass the American Party candidate, Millard Fillmore. Frémont was unable to carry the state of California.

Civil War

Frémont later served as a major general in the American Civil War and served a controversial term as commander of the Army's Department of the West from May to November 1861. Frémont replaced William S. Harney, who had negotiated the Harney-Price Truce, which permitted Missouri to remain neutral in the conflict as long as it did not send men or supplies to either side.

Frémont ordered his General Nathaniel Lyon to formally bring Missouri into the Union cause. Lyon had been named the temporary commander of the Department of the West to succeed Harney before Frémont ultimately replaced Lyon. Lyon, in a series of battles, evicted Governor Claiborne Jackson and installed a pro-Union government. After Lyon was killed in the Battle of Wilson's Creek in August, Frémont imposed martial law in the state, confiscating secessionists' private property of and emancipating the state's slaves.

Abraham Lincoln, fearing the order would tip Missouri (and other slave states in Union control) to the southern cause, asked Frémont to revise the order. Frémont refused and sent his wife to plead the case. Lincoln responded by revoking the proclamation and relieving Frémont of command on November 2, 1861. In March 1862, he was placed in command of the Mountain Department of Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Early in June 1862, Frémont pursued the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson for eight days, finally engaging him at Battle of Cross Keys on June 8, but permitted him to escape with his army.

When the Army of Virginia was created June 26, to include Gen. Frémont's corps, with John Pope in command, Frémont declined to serve on the ground that he was senior to Pope, and for personal reasons. He then went to New York where he remained throughout the war, expecting a command, but none was given to him. [ [ U.S. Civil War Generals - Union Generals -(Frémont)] ] [ [ John Charles Fremont ] ]

Radical Republicans

Frémont was nominated for the Presidency on May 31, 1864 by the Radical Republicans, a group of hard-line Republican abolitionists upset with Lincoln's position on the issues of slavery and post-war reconciliation with the southern states. This 1864 frisson in the Republican Party divided the party into two factions: the anti-Lincoln Radical Republicans, who nominated Frémont, and the pro-Lincoln Republicans. Frémont abandoned his political campaign in September, 1864, after he brokered a political deal in which Lincoln removed U.S. Postmaster General Montgomery Blair from office.

Later life

The state of Missouri took possession of the Pacific Railroad in February 1866 when the company defaulted in its interest payment, and in June 1866, the state, at private sale, sold the road to Frémont. Frémont reorganized the assets of the Pacific Railroad as the Southwest Pacific Railroad in August 1866. However, in less than a year (June 1867), the railroad was repossessed by the state of Missouri after Frémont was unable to pay the second installment on his purchase. [cite web |year=1960 |url= |title=100 Years of Service |accessdate=2006-04-20]

From 1878 to 1881, Frémont was governor of the Arizona Territory. His family fell destitute and had to live off the publication earnings of wife, Jessie. Frémont died in 1890 a forgotten man, of peritonitis in a hotel in New York City and is buried in Rockland Cemetery, Sparkill, New York. [cite web
title=John Charles Fremont
publisher=Find A Grave


Frémont collected a number of plants on his expeditions, including the first recorded discovery of the Single-leaf Pinyon by a European American. The standard botanical author abbreviation Frém. is applied to plants he described. The California Flannelbush, "Fremontodendron californicum", is named for him.

Many places are named for Frémont. Four U.S. states named counties in his honor: Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, and Wyoming. Several states also named cities after him, such as California, Michigan, Nebraska, and New Hampshire. Likewise, Fremont Peak in the Wind River Mountains and Fremont Peak in Monterey County, California are also named for the explorer. The Fremont River, a tributary of the Colorado River in southern Utah, was named after Frémont, and in turn, the prehistoric Fremont culture was named after the river—the first archaeological sites of this culture were discovered near its course.

The "largest and most expensive 'trophy'" in college football is a replica of a cannon "that accompanied Captain John C. Frémont on his expedition through Oregon, Nevada and California in 1843-44." The annual rivalry game between the University of Nevada and UNLV is over the [ Fremont Cannon] . [cite web |url= |title=Nevada Wolf Pack History |accessdate=2007-09-19 |publisher=College Football History ]

A barbershop chorus in Fremont, Nebraska is named "The Fremont Pathfinders" in homage to the explorer, [ [ The History of the Fremont Pathfinders] . Barbershop Chorus. "URL retrieved on February 19, 2007".] as is the Fremont Pathfinders Artillery Battery, [ [ History of the Pathfinders] . Fremont Pathfinders Artillery Battery. "URL retrieved on February 19, 2007".] an American Civil War reenactment group from the same community.

Fremont Street in Las Vegas, Nevada is named in his honor, as are streets in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Kiel, Wisconsin, Manhattan, Kansas, Portland, Oregon, the California cities of Fremont, Monterey, Seaside, Stockton and San Francisco, and the Grant City section of Staten Island, New York. Portland also has several other locations named after Frémont, such as Fremont Bridge. Other places named for him include John C. Fremont Senior High School in Los Angeles and Oakland, California and the John C. Fremont Branch Library, located on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, California, John C. Fremont Elementary School in Glendale, California, and a John C. Fremont Junior High School in Mesa, Arizona, and one in Oxnard, California. Fremont High School in Sunnyvale, California is named for the explorer and its annual yearbook is called "The Pathfinder". In addition, the Fremont Hospital in Marysville, CA. and the John C. Fremont Hospital, in Mariposa, California—where Frémont and his wife lived and prospered during the Gold Rush—is named for him.

The 1983 historical novel "Dream West", written by western writer David Nevin, is a sweeping, dramatic look at the life, loves and times of Frémont; it may be the best book written about the explorer.

In James Michener's novel "Space", much of the action occurs in the fictional state of "Frémont", and several of the novel's main characters are natives of this state. The novel's endpapers include a map of the United States that shows the precise borders of Michener's fictional Fremont, but necessarily omits the borders of the neighboring states. By inspection of the map in the front of the novel, the fictional Fremont's location corresponds to Kansas.

The U.S. Army's (now inactive) 8th Infantry Division (Mechanized) is called the Pathfinder Division, after John Frémont. The gold arrow on the 8th ID crest is called the "Arrow of General Frémont."


Further reading

* [ Report of the Exploring Expedition of the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842.] By John Charles Frémont, John Torrey, James Hall. Published 1845.
* [ The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, Oregon and California.] By John Charles Frémont. Published 1853.
* [ The Life of Col. John Charles Fremont.] By John Charles Frémont, Samuel Mosheim Smucker. Published 1856.
*Harvey, Miles, "The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime", Random House, 2000, ISBN 0375501517, ISBN 0767908260.
*Brandon, William, "The Men and the Mountain" (1955) ISBN 0-8371-5873-7. An account of Frémont's failed fourth expedition.
*David H. Miller and Mark J. Stegmaier, "James F. Milligan: His Journal of Fremont's Fifth Expedition, 1853-1854; His Adventurous Life on Land and Sea", Arthur H. Clark Co., 1988. 300 pp.
*NY Times, Harper's Weekly political cartoon, "That's What's the Trouble with John C."; Fremont's 1864 challenge to Lincoln's re-nomination. []
*Chaffin, Tom, "Pathfinder: John Charles Frémont and the Course of American Empire," New York: Hill and Wang, 2002 ISBN 0809075571 ISBN 978-0809075577
*Nevins, Allan, "Fremont: Pathmarker of the West, Volume 1: Fremont the Explorer; Volume 2: Fremont in the Civil War" (1939, rev ed. 1955)
*Roberts, David (2001), "A newer world: Kit Carson, John C. Fremont and the claiming of the American west", New York: Touchstone ISBN 0-684-83482-0
*Tompkins, Walker A. "Santa Barbara, Past and Present". Tecolote Books, Santa Barbara, CA, 1975.

External links

* [ Mr. Lincoln and Freedom: John C. Frémont]
* [ The Generals of the American Civil War - Pictures of John Charles Frémont]
* [ "Memoirs of my life : including in the narrative five journeys of western explorations during the years 1842, 1843-4, 1845-6-7, 1848-9, 1853-4" by John c. Fremont]
* [ "Address of welcome to General John C. Fremont, governor of Arizona territory, upon the occasion of his reception by his associates of the Association Pioneers of the Territorial Days of California, at their headquarters, Sturtevant House, New York, on ... August 1st, 1878"]
*worldcat id|id=lccn-n50-25411
*gutenberg author |id=Brevet_Col._J.C._Fremont

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