Frémont, John

Frémont, John (Charles)

(1813–90) soldier, explorer; born in Savannah, Ga. He mapped the route of the Oregon Trail as a young army engineer (1842) and became widely known as "The Pathfinder" when he published an account of his subsequent explorations in the Pacific Northwest, Nevada, and California (1843–44). In California in 1846, he supported Californians in revolting against Mexico; in 1847 he commanded the small U.S. force that captured Los Angeles during the Mexican War. He left the army the following year in a dispute over command in California. The gold strikes of the late 1840s made him rich; he briefly served as a senator (Calif., 1850–51); his fame as an explorer and his antislavery convictions led the newly formed Republican Party to choose him as its first presidential candidate (1856). Re-entering the army on the outbreak of the Civil War, he commanded Union forces in Missouri for a short time but was relieved and ordered east; Jackson outgeneraled him during his brilliant Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1862; Frémont resigned from the army later in the year. He lost most of his fortune in a failed railroad venture (1870), served as territorial governor of Arizona from 1878–83, and published his memoirs in 1887.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.