Fremont, John C.
Future military officer, explorer, and politician John C. Fremont was born in Savannah on January 31, 1813. 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 (where he earned the moniker the Pathfinder); he also served 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under military command and issued an order freeing the slaves of all supporters of the Confederacy - an order later rescinded by President Abraham Lincoln. Fremont vehemently disagreed with this decision and temporartaily resigned from military service. But he later received another opportunity in the eastern theater of the war - where he became one of the generals defeated in Stonewall Jackson’s famous Valley Campaign. After this campaign, Fremont’s command was to be subsumed under that of John Pope, but Fremont resigned his command. After the war, he served as territorial governor of Arizona (1878-1881). Fremont died in New York City on July 13, 1890.