John Frémont
by R.D. Monroe, Ph.D.


John C. Frémont (1813-1890) was born in Georgia, the son of a French émigré who had spirited off the wife of another man. Frémont's mother settled in Charleston after the death of her husband, and young Charles was educated there. Frémont became an explorer after a local politician had him appointed on a sea voyage to South America. The young man subsequently was commissioned in the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers. Frémont led exploring expeditions to Oregon and California, and he published accounts of the journeys that were popular with the public. He became a national hero, and he was nominated for the presidency by the new Republican party in 1856. He was defeated, though his stand against the expansion of slavery added to his reputation. With the advent of the Civil War, Frémont was commissioned a major general but he criticized President Abraham Lincoln for not being aggressive enough on emancipation. Frémont's career went into an eclipse from which his reputation never truly emerged, though he held other important business and political positions.