John Charles Fremont
1813 - 1890
John Charles Fremont, a legendary explorer and Union Civil War general, died July 13, 1890. He was 77.
Fremont was born in Savannah, Georgia on January 21, 1813. He would become an explorer of the American west, a vanquisher of Mexico in California, a political force in the new state of California, a presidential candidate and a controversial Union Civil War general.
As a young officer in the United States Army, Fremont was commissioned to map parts of the western United States from Missouri to California. He was accompanied by 30 soldiers and legendary explorer Kit Carson. They eventually made their way into Nevada through treacherous snowy mountain passes to Sutterís Fort in California. By the time they made it to California, the men were almost reduced to skeletons by the rigors of the journey and the lack of food.
In 1846, Fremontís command in California was ordered by Washington to protect U.S. interests in the territory. Eventually his troops, in cooperation with settlers, liberated California from Mexican control. Fremont was was even elected governor.
Meanwhile, Fremont came into conflict with other U.S. commanders in California. As result of alleged insubordination, Fremont was ordered arrested, however President James Polk intervened and Fremont subsequently got another commission to again explore parts of the western United States.
Again making his way to California in a harrowing journey, he settled there. When California became a state in 1850, Fremont was elected as one of the stateís first U.S. Senators.
In 1856, he ran against James Buchanan as the Republican candidate for President, the youngest man to ever run for the nationís highest office. Southern states were threatening secession if Fremont were elected. Buchanan won the election.
When the Civil War began, President Lincoln commissioned Fremont a major general, in charge of the Department of the West, headquartered in St. Louis. In a series of controversial actions, Fremont confiscated secessionistsí property in Missouri, a border state, and ordered their slaves freed.
Many Republicans praised his actions, but Lincoln was afraid the emancipation effort was premature and would weaken his chances at keeping Border States from bolting to the Confederacy. He removed Fremont from command, but gave him a new command in March 1862 as head of the Mountain Department in western Virginia.
His military abilities were put to the test by Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, who defeated Fremont in several engagements in the Shenandoah Valley.
Fremont resigned his commission when he was placed in a subordinate position under General John Pope.
Fremont mounted another presidential bid in 1864 to unseat Lincoln, but withdrew his name and gave his support to Lincoln.
After the war, Fremont worked for a time in the railroad industry, but an 1873 fraud conviction forced him to seek another career.
Regaining his standing as an effective politician, Fremont served as territorial governor of Arizona.
He died in New York City on July 13, 1890.