Frmont, John Charles (18131890), a United States explorer, Army officer, railway organizer, and politician. Explorations he headed during the 1840's in the American West, notably in California, brought him the nickname of the Pathfinder. Frmont was the newly formed Republican party's first candidate for President and was a controversial Union general in the Civil War.

John FremontJohn Fremont served as a Union general during the American Civil War.
Explorer

Frmont, an illegitimate child, was born in Savannah, Georgia. He grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, where he attended Charleston College, 182931. After teaching mathematics on a Navy ship, Frmont joined the Army's Corps of Topographical Engineers as a lieutenant. He was assistant to the explorer J. N. Nicollet in surveying the upper Missouri River region.

Shortly after his return from the expedition, Frmont met Senator Thomas Hart Benton, a strong advocate of western expansion, who became his mentor. In 1841 Frmont married Benton's daughter Jessie (18241902). She proved remarkably helpful to his career. Her father got government support for three major exploring expeditions, and she assisted in preparing the official reports. They were widely read and many times reprinted both as narratives of travel and adventure and as practical guide books. These books made Frmont's guide, Kit Carson, a popular hero.

In 1842 Frmont conducted scientific explorations along the Oregon Trail. In 184344 he explored the Great Basin, including the Great Salt Lake, between the Colorado Rockies and the Sierra mountains. His 184546 expedition turned from exploring California to assisting in its military conquest. Frmont was named civil governor by the naval commander, Commodore Robert F. Stockton. Frmont sided with Stockton in a dispute with the army commander, Brigadier General Stephen W. Kearny, over who had supreme authority in California. When Kearny's command was confirmed, he had Frmont arrested and charged with disobeying orders. A court martial called for his dismissal, but President Polk ordered him returned to duty. Frmont, however, resigned his commission and settled in California.

Politician and Financier

Frmont was elected one of California's first two United States senators in 1850. Gold and quartz mining near Mariposa, California, made Frmont wealthy and he organized several western railway companies. Widely popular and a strong foe of slavery, Frmont was chosen as the Presidential candidate of the newly formed Republican party in 1856. He lost the election to Democrat James Buchanan.

Civil War and After

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Frmont was commissioned a major general of volunteers and given command of the Department of the West, with headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. He was removed by President Lincoln after he ordered, without authorization, the freeing of slaves in Missouri, a border state that had not seceded but where tensions were high. In 1862 he was given a command of less importance in western Virginia, but proved ineffective in opposing the Confederacy's Shenandoah campaign. He resigned his commission soon after.

The Radical Republicans nominated Frmont for President in 1864, but he withdrew. After the Civil War, Frmont lost his wealth through an unsuccessful railway venture. President Hayes saved him from poverty by naming him governor of Arizona Territory, a post he held during 187883. Mrs. Frmont also helped with finances by writing articles for various publications. Just before Frmont died, President Harrison restored him to the army as a retired major general with pay.