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John C. Fremont
Died March 7, 1911, Boston, Massachusetts
Multiple sailing dates: SS California, September 19, 1854
John C. Fremont has a colorful California history and until recently he has been eulogized for his leadership role in early California.
More recently, in addition to extolling his virtues, historians and novelists are likely to also bring up his mistreatment of American Indians, Mexicans, and women in particular.
Between 1842 and 1854 John C. Fremont, renowned as the nineteenth century's greatest explorer, and Kit Carson, the legendary scout and Indian fighter, boldly ventured into untamed territory to fulfill America's "manifest destiny."
Drawing on little-known primary sources, as well as his own travels through the lands Fremont and Carson explored, David Roberts re-creates their expeditions, second in significance only to those of Lewis and Clark. A Newer World is a harrowing narrative of hardship and adventure AND a poignant reminder of the cultural tragedy that westward expansion inflicted on the Native American.
He came to California as a U.S. Army officer, and proceeded to instigate revolt. Settlers were brought into the United States Army as the California Battalion under Fremont. Americans, emboldened by his presence, illegally imprisoned Californio officials, seized government and private property, and occupied Sonoma and its surroundings.
As one of the early settlers in California, Fremont helped develop attention to the West by publishing his report of 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 ... from the Latest and Most Authentic Sources in the Year 1842 and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-44, commissioned by the United States government. His book was used by thousands who followed him West.
For all of his experiences in politics and the military, it was the earlier decades of Fremont's life that were the most exciting.
Shortly after graduating from college, he joined a mapping expedition and surveyed the hills of South Carolina and Tennessee for the government. Eager to continue exploring, Fremont went on five more expeditions to America west of the Appalachians during the years from 1839 to 1846. He traveled up the Missouri river, crossed the Rocky Mountains, and reached the West Coast on several journeys, often with his friend Kit Carson, the legendary mountain man.
In Memoirs of My Life and Times, Fremont recounts those years in the wilderness, encountering the fabulous landscapes and native people of America's interior before the westward expansion of the U. S. His journeys across the unmapped prairies, mountains, and deserts offer a wonderful glimpse of North America's natural grandeur in its original state.
Fremont established a camp north of Sutter's Fort on May 29, 1846, and it was Fremont's land where gold was discovered.
August 30, 1856, Los Angeles Star, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
The friends of this gentleman must be in a mighty strait to manufacture popularity for him among the Native Californians, when they have recourse to that circular which appeared in the last number of their organ here. If, as they state, Fremont had rode alone into the camp of the Californians to treat with Don Andres Pico, we cannot perceive what particular credit he deserves for that act. They know nothing of Don Andres who suppose that a single individual hazarded anything in approaching the camp of that gallant gentleman, even in time of war. But the contrary, of this foolish boast is the case.
The fact is, that the conduct of Fremont on that occasion was most disgraceful to him as a commanding officer. Advancing upon the city of Los Angeles with 400 men under his command, he encountered Don Andres in the hills of Cahuenga with, as he supposed, a large force of Californians, although in reality there were not fifty men with Don Andres, but so skillfully did he manage, that Fremont did not get a chance to ascertain his force. On perceiving the Californians and supposing that a large force was encamped among the hills, Fremont halted his command and advanced a short distance in front, but not beyond the fire of his own men.
On the other hand, Don Andres advanced alone, and when near the spot where Fremont stationed himself, took off his sword and threw it on the ground, determined, like a brave and chivalrous soldier, not to be outdone in courtesy. In this position, the interview took place between the rival commanders, and a truce was agreed to which resulted in what is known as "the treaty of San Fernando." What cause for the glorification of Fremont there is in this transaction, we are at a loss to find out. Perhaps his friends may be able to perceive some; but the Californians have ever made it a subject of merriment how Don Andres, with a handful of men, outwitted Fremont at the head of 400.
Such is the story which the Black Republicans of San Francisco have perverted to suit their own purposes and attempted to circulate among the Californians the very men who were present at the time, witnesses of Fremont's incapacity and precipitancy. There is not a truer Democrat or a stronger opponent of Fremont's dis-Unionism in the State, than Don Andres Pico, the officer who formerly so successfully outgeneraled him, and who is now in the ranks, determined to defeat him and his whole disaffected band.
John Charles Fremont served as a senator California when it was first admitted into the Union. His race for the presidency in 1856 brought prestige to the fledgling Republican Party, yet despite his popularity, his uncompromising determination to abolish slavery cost him the election.
May 3, 1862, Los Angeles Star, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
Gen. Fremont's Friends Rejoicing over his Appointment to a Command
The friends of Fremont are blowing terribly about his recent appointment to the command of a Department. They appear to disregard the importance of the Department itself as a matter of no practical moment, but their argument is that it effectually disposes of all the charges against Fremont, and proves that the President believes that the Pathfinder has passed through the investigating ordeals unscathed. They are already in this city hunting up the relics of the old Body Guard and endeavoring to gather recruits for a new Body Guard, to serve under General Fremont; and public meetings are talked of, especially among the Germans, to testify their joy that Fremont is once more in the field.
These are the Fremont worshippers, who think of their favorite only as the friend of the Germans, and the author of the famous Emancipation proclamation. On the other hand, those who formerly believed in Fremont and lost their confidence in him after his miserable failure of an administration here, profess to say that President Lincoln, in the kindness of his heart, has consented to create the mountain district of Western Virginia and North Carolina for the express purpose of getting rid of the constant pestering and boring of Fremont's friends. They predict a revival of the old California gang swindling, and a reiteration of all Fremont's trouble in less than sixty days hence.
The troops now in Fremont's Department do not number more than 12.000, ail told. They are holding several points in Western Virginia, on the Kanawha, and are scattered in extreme Eastern Kentucky and along the Ohio river from Wheeling to the Kentucky line. If Fremont wishes to succeed it will be better to cast off every Californian from active service on his staff, or about his person officially. Just so sure as the Californians have his private ear, to the exclusion of outsiders, he is a gone General again.
October 4, 1862, Los Angeles Star, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
This gentleman has been for some time in coventry. He has become tired of it. Most men do get tired of banishment. There has been a shuffle of the cards — a great movement among the Generals. But there was no change on the chess board, no shuffle of the cards, no reconstruction of commands, or apportionment of Generals, which in any way affected Gen. Fremont. The mountain did not come to Mahomet — Mahomet must come to the mountain. And where so appropriate a starting point as the Mecca of Abolitionism — the " hub of the universe," Boston.
Fremont has become tired of obscurity. He wants a command. It can be obtained, not so much by success in the field, as by "ciphering" in the east — and to attain that position what should be so successful as a debut in the "cradle of liberty." Accordingly, we find J Major General John C. Fremont addressing a "vast and enthusiastic assemblage" in that classic temple. He speaks of his duties as a soldier, his duties as a citizen, "though an ambassador, still a gentleman" — a compliment to the profession of arms — though mum, as a soldier, whilst he might say a good deal, his allegiance compels him to bear the burdens laid upon him. Yet, as a citizen, he may be permitted to allude to matters of national importance, and point out where our political leaders are mistaken, and our Generals in the field are ineffective, —nor inefficient. And so, General Fremont goes on to denounce those Generals who seem to be actuated with any regard to the idea of reconstructing the Union and proclaims his own astute and far-seeing policy of inaugurating the emancipation of the slaves in Missouri, and declares this to be the true policy for conducting the war, and the only way in which the South can be made to feel the horrors of rebellion.
The applause of the assemblage was immense. — The success of the speech was complete. Governor Andrew was present, and congratulated the people. Here was the man equal to the great occasion — who could detect the nation's disease, and was not afraid to apply the remedy; who sympathized with our brave citizens in arms and was competent to lead them. Mrs. Fremont was present. At the close of the proceedings she was loudly cheered; she was liberally boqueted; three cheers were given for Mrs. Fremont; then three more for Mrs. Fremont; then six more for "our Jessie;" and the effect, we are told, "was stunning." The effect was stunning — in Washington! Mark what follows.
September 25, 1878, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California
General Fremont's Departure
General Fremont and family took their departure for Arizona, yesterday afternoon, via the Southern Pacific Railroad. They will proceed directly to their point of destination, without any delay, with the exception that the party will stop one day at Los Angeles and a few hours at Fort Yuma. The welcome given General Fremont and his family in this city, amid the courtesy shown them during their stay, is a proof of the high estimation in which the great Pathfinder is held by the people of the Pacific Coast. Yesterday afternoon, at the Palace Hotel, a very pleasant meeting took place between General Fremont and family and Captain Albert Thompson, who was a member of the General's famous Guard, which lead calibrated charge at Springfield, Missouri, October 1801. We congratulate Arizona on its new Governor, feeling assured that during his administration Its best Interests will be most zealously guarded.
Jessie Benton Fremont, one of California's first notable pioneer figures, was witty, intelligent, gracious, and beautiful. Along with her husband, John C. Fremont, Jessie was passionate about abolition and together their efforts assured California's admission to the Union as a free state.
She authored all her husband's exploratory journals of the West and was intimately involved in his political endeavors as well. Jessie was presented at court in both England and France, lived in pioneer tents during the Gold Rush, had audiences with Lincoln, and acted as army nurse during the Civil War.
She was the daughter of powerful Missouri politician Thomas Hart Benton and was a savvy political operator who played confidante and advisor to the inner circle of the highest political powers in the country. He was a key figure in western exploration and California's first senator, and became the first presidential candidate for the Republican Party -- and the first candidate to challenge slavery. Both shaped their times and were far ahead of it. In part due to a deep-seated family quarrel between Jessie's father and the couple, John and Jessie were eclipsed and opposed by some of the most mythic characters of their era, not least Abraham Lincoln. In Passion and Principle, John and Jessie and places them where they belong -- at the center of our country's history.
July 21, 1884, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
The Capture of Sonoma.
W. M. Boggs Corrects Some Errors Which Have Appeared In Print.
EDITOR OF THE ALTA: In your issue of the 18th instant, I notice an article headed, "American Flag in California." The article is taken from the Boston Daily Advertiser of January 8, 1870, and among other things states that Colonel Fremont was encamped at Sonoma about the time of its capture, which is a mistake, and as I participated in the taking of California after the hauling down of the Bear Fag, I became acquainted with many of the principal actors in that short but decisive campaign.
H. Porterfield, one of the Bear party, now a resident of Napa county, in a conversation with me to-day, stated that Fremont was not at Sonoma when the place was captured, but was somewhere in the Upper Sacramento Valley, on his return from his trip toward Oregon, having left California with his party, but he was overtaken by Major Archibald Gillespie, who carried letters from the U. S. Government to Fremont to return to California and await orders.
He did not arrive at Sonoma for several days after the place was captured by the Bear party, under their leader, old Bob Merrit. Porterfield's account of the making of the Bear flag and hoisting the same, and the first organization of the Bear party in the Upper Napa Valley, agrees with the account of all those men who were present and participated, among whom was Captain Merrit, Captain Ford, Ben and Sam Kelsey, Dr. Semple, who afterward founded Benicia; Uncle Billy Baldridge, now residing near Oakville, Napa County; Wm. Haignaul, Esq., now a resident of Napa City; the two Elliotts, now deceased, and Ben Dewell, Bill Scott and Bill Todd and Captain Swift, all of whom were active participants, including Captain John Grigsby. These men served under Fremont afterwards in his famous march to the southern part of the State. Franklin Sears, now an old resident of Sonoma, was also with the party at Sonoma, and Uncle Jack York, of St. Helena. These men assembled in Upper Napa Valley, at the place since known as Kellogg's Mill, and organized by electing old Bob Merrit captain, and advanced on Sonoma at the break of day, surprising the garrison and capturing a number of prominent Californians, among whom were General M. G. Vallejo, his brother, Captain Don Salvador Vallejo, Colonel Victor Prudhon (a Frenchman that held a Colonel's commission in the Mexican army), Jacob P. Lease, brother-in-law to General Vallejo, and several other noted Californians.
After taking possession of Sonoma by the Bear party, Wm. B. Ide was selected to command the garrison and govern the Bear party; the prisoners were sent with an escort to Sutter's Fort, in charge of Captain John Grigsby, who arrived there safe with his prisoners. He placed them in Fremont's charge, who had in the meantime arrived on his return trip from the Upper Sacramento. These facts I have from Gillespie himself and also from Fremont and from Captain Grigsby and others who were with the party, and members of the Bear party with whom I have the most intimate acquaintance and with whom I served during the close of the Mexican war. There are a number of the old Bear party men living around Napa, and they do not like to have the capture of Sonoma accredited to Colonel Fremont, although the Colonel came there afterward and advised them to adopt a flag, which resulted in the making of the Bear flag by Bill Todd, assisted by old Peter Storm, an old Norwegian, whom we interred in the Napa Cemetery Borne years ago. With these few exceptions Mr. Dunbar's story of the conquest of California is correct. There were about 28 or 30 men at the outset in Upper Napa, where the party first I organized to advance on Sonoma under the leadership of Merritt.
Respectfully, W. M. Bogg
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