John Charles Fremont was born on the 21st of January 1813. His family lived in Charleston, South Carolina. His father, who bore the same name, had a great interest in the character and condition of the North American Indians, for he spent the last years of his life visiting many tribes. John's mother in all of her beauty and worth was Ann Beverly Whiting, a native of Gloucester County, Virginia. Her family was connected with many distinguished names, one of which was Washington, to whom she was nearly related.
John's father died in 1818, leaving a widow and three children, two sons and a daughter. His mother finally pasted away in 1847, at Aiken, South Carolina.
When John was about thirteen a lawyer in Charleston by the name of John W. Mitchell Esq. Took him in to his office with hopes of making a lawyer out of him. Fremont spent many years under the learned instructor Dr. Roberton receiving a very high-class education. He became very noted for his ability to learn in a fast manner and excelled in mathematics. Following that he attended junior class in Charleston College triumphantly. After college he was to embark upon his heroic adventures and scientific explorations.
Fremont's first experience came from the prosecution of a lawsuit, in which a certain rice-field in the neighborhood of Charleston was involved. The need was to have it carefully and accurately surveyed. The problem was the grave sickness going around in that particular area and no one would take the job. John's mathematical attainments were brought to knowledge of those parties in concern. Upon their requests Young Fremont promptly agreed to perform the service. The courage for which he engaged in the enterprise, and the scientific skills and clerical neatness in which he executed it, drawn admiration of many persons of influence. Because of his outstanding ability performed during this adventure, he soon was secured employment.
His next undertaking was that of the survey of the railroad leading from Charleston to Hamburg. Long about the first of the year, 1833, the sloop of war Natchez arrived at Charleston, to enforce the proclamation of president Jackson. Now with the help of one Mr. Poinsett, who later was appointed Secretary of War, and others, who were friendly to his family, Fremont obtained the position of teacher of mathematics and instructor to the midshipmen on board. He then sailed on her to the Brazilian station. At the termination of that cruise, the ship returned to New York. After appearing before the board of examiners, in Baltimore, Mr. Fremont was regularly commissioned as a professor of mathematics in the navy, and then assigned to the frigate Independence. After hearing of the distinguished manner in which he passed the examination, the college in Charleston instantly conferred upon him both the academic degrees, of Bachelor and Masters of Art.
It was under the Act of Congress, passed on the 30th of April, 1824, which authorized the President of the United States to employ two or more skilful civil engineers for the purpose of necessary surveys, plans, and estimates to be made for routes of such roads and canals of national importance or for the transportation of public mail. Under this act Mr. Fremont received his first appointment in the branch of public service. It was at this time that President Jackson selected him to be associated as a civil engineer with Captain Williams of the topographical corps of engineers. The first route assigned him was the mountain region of the Carolinas and Tennessee. In the winter of 1837 and 1838 still under Captain Williams command, they surveyed Cherokee County; the result of that expedition was a military map.
During the Van Buren administration of 1838 an act was passed on the 5th of July to increase the military establishment. The fourth section of this act required that the corps of topographical engineers should be organized and increased by regular promotions in the same. Through this two days later Fremont was commissioned as second lieutenant of the topographical engineers. About this time he was transferred to the theatre of his fame, the field in which would make him famous.
A thorough exploration and survey of the vast region north of the Missouri, and west of the Mississippi, was deemed by the administration to be necessary. The one appointed to conduct the service was a Mr. Nicholet, a distinguished astronomer and man of science, who resided in St. Louis. Mr. Nicholet made the request to have associated with him a younger person, to act as his assistant, with the requisite qualities of science, energy, courage, and enterprise. Again with the help and influence of Mr. Poinsett, Fremont gladly accepted the appointment. Through the years of 1838 and 1839 Fremont was in the field, and the whole country at that time was explored up to the British line. Mr. Nicholet presented the resulting map from that exploration to the government.
In the spring of 1841, Lieutenant Fremont was given command of a small party to survey the Desmoines River.
On October 19th, 1841, he was married in Washington to Jessie Benton, daughter of the Hon. Thomas H. Benton, a senator in Congress from the State of Missouri. Even though Fremont was just a second Lieutenant in a corps where promotion is very slow, and having an unreasonably small pay, the senator in all his pride and fidelity still cherished the character of his son-in-law.
SThe first expedition of Lieutenant Fremont, in command of an exploring party on a large scale, occupied the summer of 1842. He would embrace the country between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains, going along the lines of the Kansas, and the Great Platte, or Nebraska, river. After receiving full instructions from Colonel J.J. Abert, the chief of the corps of topographical engineers, Fremont left Washington on the 2nd of May. The one thing I found of interest during his first and second expeditions was the fact that he had an inflatable raft with him. Made of India rubber and inflated by the use of a bellows. The first company was made up principally of Creole and Canadian voyageurs for a total of twenty-two men. Besides these, there was a Mr. Charles Preuss, a native of Germany, who was thoroughly educated to sketch the topographical features of a country. Then Fremont hired L. Maxwell as the hunter, and Christopher Carson, known world over for his exploits as a mountaineer, but better know as Kit Carson for the guide of the expedition.
This expedition lasted till the 17th of October when he again arrived back in St. Louis. He then reported to the chief of the corps in Washington on the 23rd of October.
In the spring of 1843, Mr. Fremont started his second expedition. This time he was to connect his expeditions of the preceding year with the surveys of commander Wilkes on the coast of the pacific, as to give a connected view of the interior tract of the continent. He would again have the service of Mr. Charles Preuss, and this time as a guide he employed Thomas Fitzpatrick. Maxwell and Carson were to meet them in Taos. As hunters Fremont gained the help of two Delaware Indians, a fine looking old man and his son.
Being the first to explore in this region, Fremont was able to map and show for fact that the Rio Buenaventura, a river that was said to run from the interior on the continent to the pacific did not exist. His exploration found that the Sierra Nevada range blocked all waters from the interior and there was no river flowing to the pacific.
He concluded his exploration on the 6th of August 1844 by arriving in St. Louis once again.
January 29th of 1845, with the influence of Congress, President Tyler promoted Lieutenant Fremont to second lieutenant and Captain all at the same time. In the fall of this year he embarked on his third and final exploration for the government. This trip would start at the headwaters of the Arkansas, then known as the boundary line for the country, then to the south side of the Great Salt Lake and directly across the central basin to California. He would be the first to explore this route. It way in May of 1846, Fremont reached California to end this exploration.
While Captain Fremont was in California, he received personal communication from the government. It seemed that war could be in the coming future with Mexico over the territory of California. He was asked to keep himself in a favorable position to watch over the state of things, in case trouble should arise. In doing so Fremont turned his large Exploring troupe into the California Battalion. He managed to push General Castro of the Mexican army all the way south to Monterey, in which he then fled the country. Fremont claimed California for the United States, keeping it from falling into the hands of the British or Mexico. He had already set in action the foundation for United States control and government before the Military troupes from the east could ever get there.
The problem that arose out this was, communications were slow in getting to west coast. It seemed that Commodore Stockton of the United States Navy had orders to take control of California and would be in charge of the operation. When General Kearney arrived by land he had orders to do the same and be in charge of the whole operation. The government having to wait some times months to find out what is the status of operations and did not know Fremont had already taken California, and that Commodore Stockton had arrived first and was in charge. When Kearney arrived Stockton offered to put him in charge of the land forces. Kearney declined and the battle between these two went on.
Fremont now being a Colonel, got caught right in the middle of things. General Kearney never let it be known, that his intentions were to have Fremont brought up on charges when he returned to Washington. Fremont on the other hand acted as he saw best during the ordeal, not knowing who was in charge. The Military court dissolved on the 31st of January 1848. They had found Colonel Fremont guilty of all charges. The court also viewing his distinguished professional record up to that time recommended him to the clemency of the president of the United States. Fremont walked away from all this with no harm to his reputation or character. But feeling he had done no wrong and not happy with the out come or the fact that he should not have been charged in the first place, Lieutenant-Colonel Fremont turned in his resignation in the Army of the United States.
After this time, Fremont would embark on yet another Expedition, this time of his own finances. During this trip he would purchase his Mariposa ranch and had great suffering and hard ships. However, after the expedition he was to become a United States Senator and engage in the cattle business in California. There would be still more expeditions to come, but his fame and the mark he left on the people of the United States will be remembered forever.