John Charles Fremont

Birth: 1813


John Charles Fremont (January 21, 1813 – July 13, 1890) was an American explorer, military officer, and the first candidate of the anti-slavery Republican Party for the office of President of the United States. During the 1840s, when he led five expeditions into the American West, that era's penny press and admiring historians accorded Fremont the sobriquet The Pathfinder.

During the Mexican–American War, Fremont, a major in the U.S. Army, took control of California from the California Republic in 1846. Fremont was convicted in court-martial for mutiny and insubordination over a conflict of who was the rightful military governor of California. After his sentence was commuted and he was reinstated by President Polk, Fremont resigned from the Army. Fremont led a private fourth expedition, which cost ten lives, seeking a rail route over the mountains around the 38th parallel in the winter of 1849. Afterwards, Fremont settled in California at Monterey while buying cheap land in the Sierra foothills.

When gold was found on his Mariposa ranch, Fremont became a wealthy man during the California Gold Rush, but he was soon bogged down with lawsuits over land claims, between the dispossession of various land owners during the Mexican–American War and the explosion of Forty-Niners immigrating during the Rush. These cases were settled by the U.S. Supreme Court allowing Fremont to keep his property. Fremont's fifth and final privately funded expedition, between 1853 and 1854, surveyed a route for a transcontinental railroad. Fremont became one of the first two U.S. senators elected from the new state of California in 1850. Fremont was the first presidential candidate of the new Republican Party, carrying most of the North. He lost the 1856 presidential election to Democrat James Buchanan when Know Nothings split the vote.

During the American Civil War, he was given command of Department of the West by President Abraham Lincoln. Although Fremont had successes during his brief tenure as Commander of the Western Armies, he ran his department autocratically, and made hasty decisions without consulting Washington D.C. or President Lincoln. After Fremont's emancipation edict that freed slaves in his district, he was relieved of his command by President Lincoln for insubordination. In 1861, Fremont was the first commanding Union general who recognized in Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant an "iron will" to fight and promoted him commander at the strategic base near Cairo, Illinois.

Defeating the Confederates at Springfield, Fremont was the only Union General in the West to have a Union victory for 1861. After a brief service tenure in the Mountain Department in 1862, Fremont resided in New York, retiring from the Army in 1864. The same year Fremont was a presidential candidate for the Radical Democracy Party, but he resigned before the election. After the Civil War, Fremont's wealth declined after investing heavily and purchasing an unsuccessful Pacific Railroad in 1866, and lost much of his wealth during the Panic of 1873. Fremont served as Governor of Arizona from 1878 to 1881 appointed by President Rutherford B. Hayes. Fremont retired from politics and died destitute in New York City in 1890.


The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842, and to Oregon and North California in the years 1843–'44. Washington: Gales and Seaton. 1845.

The The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, Oregon and California, to Which is Added A Description of the Physical Geography of California. With Recent Notices of the Gold Region from the Latest and Most Authentic Sources. Buffalo: Derby Orton & Mulligan. 1853.

The Life of Col. John Charles Fremont and His Narrative of Explorations and Adventures in Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon and California. New York and Auburn: Miller, Orton & Mulligan. 1856.

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