About Our Namesake
About John Charles Frémont
John Charles Frémont (January 21, 1813 – July 13, 1890), born John Charles Frémon, 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 of opposition to slavery.
John C. Frémont
Expeditions to the West
Frémont assisted and led multiple surveying expeditions through the western territory of the United States. 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. From 1841 to 1846 he and his guide Kit Carson led exploration 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 Caucasian to view Lake Tahoe. He is also credited with determining that the Great Basin had no outlet to the sea. He also mapped volcanoes such as Mount St. Helens.
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. Expecting to be ambushed in Gaviota Pass by the entire Mexican army, he led his unit over the Santa Ynez Mountains at San Marcos Pass during the rainy night of December 27, 1846, and captured the Presidio, and the town, from behind. The rumor of the ambush turned out to be false: the army had been at Los Angeles with General Andrés Pico. General Pico, recognizing that the war was lost, later surrendered to him rather than incur casualties.
1856 Republican Party Campaign Poster
Frémont served as a major general in the American Civil War and declared martial law in Missouri. This declaration led to a conflict with Abraham Lincoln and led to Frémont's removal from command in the West on November 2, 1861. He was reappointed to a different post in West Virginia, but lost several battles and resigned his post.
Frémont was born in Savannah, Georgia, the illegitimate son of Anne Beverley Whiting, a prominent Virginia society woman, and Charles Frémon, a penniless French-Canadian immigrant school-teacher. Frémont helped to overcome his socially handicapped origins by marrying Jessie Benton, the favorite daughter of Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, powerful chairman of Senate Committee on Military Affairs and slaveowner.
Frémont's Expedition Flag
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 believed that he was the legitimate governor, arrested Frémont and brought him to Washington, DC, where he was convicted of mutiny. President James Polk quickly pardoned him in light of his service in the war. He served from 1850 to 1851 as one of the first pair of Senators from California. In 1856 the new Republican Party nominated him as their first presidential candidate, but he lost to James Buchanan. Frémont lost California in the Electoral College.
Major General Frémont
In 1866, Frémont reorganized the assets of the Pacific Railroad as the Southwest Pacific Railroad, which a year later was repossessed by the U.S. state of Missouri. Frémont was appointed Governor of the Arizona Territory from 1878 to 1881.
He died of peritonitis in a hotel in New York City and is buried in Rockland Cemetery, Sparkill, New York.
Frémont collected a number of plants on his expeditions, including the first recorded discovery of the Single-leaf Pinyon by a Caucasian. The standard botanical author abbreviation Frém. is applied to plants he described.
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