John Charles Frémont or Fremont (January 21, 1813 – July 13, 1890) was an American explorer, military officer, and politician.
He was a US Senator from California, and in 1856 was the first Republican candidate for President of the United States.
During the 1840s, he led five expeditions into the American West, and became known as The Pathfinder.During the Mexican–American War, Frémont, a major in the U.S.
Army, took control of California from the California Republic in 1846.
Frémont 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, Frémont resigned from the Army.
Frémont 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, Frémont settled in California at Monterey while buying cheap land in the Sierra foothills.
When gold was found on his Mariposa ranch, Frémont 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 Frémont to keep his property.
Frémont's fifth and final privately funded expedition, between 1853 and 1854, surveyed a route for a transcontinental railroad.
Frémont became one of the first two U.S.
senators elected from the new state of California in 1850.
Frémont 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.
Democrats warned that his election would lead to civil war.At the beginning of the American Civil War in 1861, he was given command of Department of the West by President Abraham Lincoln.
Although Frémont had successes during his brief tenure there, he ran his department autocratically, and made hasty decisions without consulting President Lincoln or Army headquarters.
He issued an unauthorized emancipation edict and was relieved of his command for insubordination by Lincoln.
Frémont appointed future commander-in-chief Ulysses S.
Grant to his first command (the strategically important city of Cairo, Illinois), and wrote later that he saw in Grant an "iron will" to fight.
Frémont drove the Confederates out of southwest Missouri and reoccupied Springfield, the only Union success in the West in 1861.
After a brief service tenure in the Mountain Department in 1862, Frémont resided in New York, retiring from the Army in 1864.
Frémont was nominated for President in 1864 by the Radical Democracy Party, a breakaway faction of abolitionist Republicans, but he withdrew before the election.
After the Civil War, Frémont lost much of his wealth in the unsuccessful Pacific Railroad in 1866, and lost more in the Panic of 1873.
Frémont served as Governor of Arizona from 1878 to 1881.
After his resignation as governor, Frémont retired from politics and died destitute in New York City in 1890.
Historians portray Frémont as controversial, impetuous, and contradictory.
Some scholars regard him as a military hero of significant accomplishment, while others view him as a failure who repeatedly defeated his own best purposes.
The keys to Frémont's character and personality may lie in his being born illegitimately, his ambitious drive for success, self-justification, and passive-aggressive behavior.
Frémont's published reports and maps produced from his explorations significantly contributed to massive American emigration overland into the West starting in the 1840s.
In June 1846, Frémont's and his army expedition's return to California, spurred the formation of the California Battalion, and his military advice led to the capture of Sonoma, and the formation of the Bear Flag Republic.
During his lifetime, many people believed his 1848 court martial was unjustified.
His biographer Allan Nevins wrote that Frémont lived a dramatic life, of remarkable successes and dismal failures.