He is a man I greatly admire and I would love to have the opportunity to just sit and pick his brain for a few hours, but that won’t happen because General John Fremont has been dead since 1890.
I learned some about this man some years back.
The reason is because I lived and worked in a town that was named after him. Fremont, Nebraska is where I was wed to my first wife Jonda (RIP), where we raised our children for many years, where my Mother still lives and the location of many good friends.
Every year, in the summer, Fremont has an event called John C. Fremont days and there are many representations of this great man who did step foot on the land that is now Fremont, Nebraska.
In today’s post, I am going to share 10 cool facts about General John Fremont. These are in no particular order…
#1: The First Republican
John Fremont was the first Republican candidate ever for President of the United States. That was in 1856. The Republican slogan that year was: “Free Soil, Free Men, and Frémont”.
Fremont was defeated by James Buchanan who ran on the Democratic ticket.
Fremont was born in Charleston, South Carolina. He showed great competence in math and natural sciences and was accepted into Charleston College. But Fremont was expelled because he did not attend classes regularly.
#3: The Great Pathfinder
So much of the history books talk about Lewis and Clark, and while these 2 men did chart a lot of territory, Americans owe so much of our ability to expand Westward to John Fremont.
Before the Civil War, Fremont made a name for himself leading several expeditions into the west in order to explore the regions and survey them for further expansion. He was able to do so because the U.S. Secretary of War, Joel Poinsett commissioned Fremont as a 2nd Lieutenant with the topographical engineers for the U.S. Army.
In doing so, he created maps of the best ways to travel West and the Mormon’s used his maps and charts to make their way to Utah.
Upon returning to Washington to file the reports and maps of the expeditions, Fremont met the daughter of a Senator Thomas Hart Benton. Jessie Benton was still quite young but she and Fremont fell in love.
The Senator did not approve so the 2 eloped. Once married, Senator Benton changed his opinion of Fremont which also gave him a further advantage in his future goals.
#5: President Polk, Fremont And Kit Carson
It was during the Mexican American War that President Polk sent Fremont with Kit Carson as a guide to California.
But once there, the Governor of California which was then controlled by Mexico, kicked Fremont out. Fremont traveled to Oregon to await orders.
#6: Who Is Governor?
President Polk ordered Fremont and troops back to California to lead the Bear Flag Revolt. They conquered and took control but General Stephen Kearney arrived and claimed Governorship of California and he and Fremont got into a heated argument.
Kearney had Fremont arrested and taken back to Washington and tried for serious charges. He was ordered dismissed from the Army but President Polk remitted the dismissal. But Fremont was angry and resigned.
#7: President Lincoln, Fremont And The Civil War
When the Civil War started, Fremont was in Europe. President Lincoln wanted to make Fremont the Ambassador to France but William Henry Seward objected. Instead, Lincoln first made Fremont a Major General in the Union Army and then gave him the title of Commander of the Department of the West.
#8: Emancipated Missouri Blacks
As Commander of the Department of the West, Fremont began a strong push to bring Missouri into the Union. But there were mixed emotions in this State with a large Confederate following.
Without an okay from President Lincoln and Washington, Fremont emancipated black slaves in Missouri. This worried President Lincoln who assumed such a drastic measure would push Missouri to leave the Union and join the South.
He took Fremont out of the position, brought him back East and took away the emancipation Fremont had given.
#9: Governor Of The Arizona Territory And Entrepreneurial Risks
After the War, Fremont became Governor of the Territory of Arizona from 1878 to 1881. He also invested in and took risks in railroads, mines and land. But his speculation was terrible which leads us to the last fact.
On July 13th, 1890, John C. Fremont died in New York City. He was virtually broke.
He and his wife had 5 children:
- Elizabeth Benton “Lily” Frémont (1842-1919)
- Benton Frémont (1848-1849)
- John Charles Frémont Jr. (1851-1911)
- Anne Beverly Fremont (1853-1853)
- and Francis Preston Fremont (1855-1931)
We can honestly say that even though John Fremont died destitute, he changed the United States in some amazing ways.
All across the United States, there are many towns, cities, schools, parks, etc… named after him.
Even though he made some mistakes, John Fremont kept striving forward.
I must say that I am proud to say that I lived, worked, was wed and raised children in a town where he stepped his feet. Thank you General John Fremont for your work on making the United States what it is.
All questions and comments can be left below.