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This Day in Georgia History

January 31, 1813

John C. Fremont Born

To view a historical marker on Fremont’s birthplace, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Future military officer, explorer, and politician John C. Fremont was born in Savannah. Little is known about his early life, except that his father was a French immigrant. He became an officer in the U.S. Army’s Topographical Engineers, later marrying the daughter of U.S. Sen. Thomas Hart Benton. With Benton’s influence, Fremont undertook three major expeditions of the West (1843-46). In 1847, he was appointed civil governor of California, though a dispute with military commander Stephen Kearny led Fremont to resign his Army commission. Between 1848 and 1853, Fremont undertook two more expeditions of the West, also serving one year as U.S. Senator from California. In 1856, he became the first Republican candidate for president, losing to Democrat James Buchanan. With the outbreak of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Fremont major general in command of volunteers in the Western Department. Acting unilaterally, Fremont placed Missouri under military command and issued an order freeing the slaves of all supporters of the Confederacy. Refusing Lincoln’s order to revoke the actions, Fremont was relieved of command. After the war, he served as territorial governor of Arizona (1878-1881). Fremont died in New York City on July 13, 1890.