Portrait of John C. Frémont

In 1856, the newly-formed Republican Party nominated John C. Frémont as its first U.S. presidential candidate. [Wikimedia Commons]

John Charles Frémont - Facts

January 21, 1813 - July 13, 1890

Key facts about John C. Frémont, a famous American explorer, U.S. Senator from California, and controversial political general who served in both theaters of the American Civil War.

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Full Name:

  • John Charles Frémont

Birth Date:

  • January 21, 1813

Birth Location:

  • Savannah, Georgia

Parents:

  • Charles Fremon and Anne Beverly Whiting

Education:

  • Charleston College (DNG)

Occupation:

  • Military officer
  • Explorer
  • Politician

Career Summary:

  • Lieutenant Colonel (USA)
  • Major General (USVA)
  • U.S. Senator
  • Territorial Governor of Arizona

Spouse:

  • Jessie Ann Benson (1841)

Nickname(s):

  • Pathfinder

Place of Death:

  • New York City, New York

Date of Death:

  • July 13, 1890

Place of Burial:

  • Rockland Cemetery, Sparkill, New York

Significance:

  • John C. Frémont was the first of three illegitimate children of Charles Fremon and Anne Beverly Whiting.
  • John C. Frémont attended Charleston College where excelled in mathematics, but failed to earn a diploma after being expelled in 1831 for poor attendance just months before graduation.
  • John C. Frémont served as a mathematics instructor aboard the U.S. sloop-of-war “Natchez” for a two-year cruise beginning in 1833.
  • In July 1838 John C. Frémont was commissioned as a second lieutenant with the Corps of Topographical Engineers.
  • Between 1838 and 1840, John C. Frémont began using the French spelling of his family name, adding the accent mark and “t” on the end.
  • On October 19, 1841, John C. Frémont married Jessie Ann Benson, the fifteen-year-old daughter of Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benson. Their union lasted 49 years and produced nine children.
  • Between 1842 and 1853, John C. Frémont led five exploratory expeditions into the American, earning him the nickname “Pathfinder.”
  • During his third expedition, John C. Frémont became embroiled in the Bear Flag Revolt by American settlers against Mexican authorities in California.
  • During the Mexican-American War (April 25, 1846 – February 2, 1848), John C. Frémont raised and led a battalion of volunteers that played a major role in the overthrow of Mexican rule in California.
  • John C. Frémont was promoted to lieutenant colonel on May 27, 1846.
  • John C. Frémont was appointed as a major of California volunteers on July 23, 1846 and commanded a battalion that played a major role in the overthrow of Mexican rule in California.
  • In 1847, Brigadier General Stephen W. Kearny, accused John C. Frémont of mutiny and other less serious offenses, and had him brought before a court-martial in Washington, DC.
  • On February 17, 1848 a court-martial found John C. Frémont not guilty of treason, but guilty of insubordination. Two days later, President James K. Polk overturned the court’s decision that Frémont be dismissed from the service.
  • John C. Frémont, resigned from the U.S. Army on March 15, 1848.
  • John C. Frémont became a rich man during the California Gold Rush when ore was discovered on a large tract of land he owned in California.
  • On September 9, 1850, California voters elected John C. Frémont as one of the new state’s first two U.S. Senators. Frémont served briefly in the 31st Congress from September 10, 1850, until his term expired on March 3, 1851
  • In 1856, the newly-formed Republican Party nominated John C. Frémont as its first U.S. presidential candidate.
  • Although John C. Frémont lost the 1856 presidential election to Democratic candidate James Buchanan, his strong showing demonstrated the viability of the Republican Party, paving the way for Abraham Lincoln’s election four years later.
  • Soon after the Civil War began, President Lincoln offered John C. Frémont a commission as a major general in the Union Army on May 14, 1861.
  • On July 3, 1861, the U.S. War Department issued General Orders No. 40, assigning Frémont to command the newly created Western Department, which comprised the State of Illinois, the Territory of New Mexico, and most of the land between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains.
  • On August 30, 1861, without prior authorization from President Abraham Lincoln, John C. Frémont issued a proclamation declaring martial law in Missouri, and freeing slaves of people taking up arms against the United States.
  • On September 11, 1861, President Lincoln ordered to John C. Frémont to modify his emancipation proclamation to conform to the Confiscation Act of 1861.
  • On October 24, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln directed General Winfield Scott to issue orders relieving John C. Frémont of command of the Western Department (General Orders No. 18, Headquarters of the Army).
  • On March 11, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued an executive order (President’s Special War Order No. 3) placing John C. Frémont in command of the newly created Mountain Department.
  • John C. Frémont commanded the Mountain Department from March 29, 1862 to June 26, 1862.
  • On June 26, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued a presidential proclamation that merged the forces commanded by major generals John C. Frémont, Nathaniel Banks, and Irvin McDowell, as well as those under Brigadier General Samuel D. Sturgis, to form the Army of Virginia.
  • In 1862, after refusing to serve under Major General John Pope, John C. Frémont traveled to New York to await another command that never came.
  • On May 31, 1864, a radical faction of the Republican Party demonstrated their dissatisfaction with President Lincoln’s leadership by meeting in Cleveland, Ohio and nominating John C. Frémont as their presidential candidate on May 31, 1864.
  • On June 4, 1864, John C. Frémont resigned from the army to pursue his election.
  • John C. Frémont served as territorial governor of Arizona from June 12, 1878 to October 11, 1881.
  • On April 28, 1890, Congress enacted a bill appointing John C. Frémont as a retired major general in the United States Army, thus making him eligible for a pension.
  • John C. Frémont suffered an attack of peritonitis and died at his home in New York on July 13, 1890.
  • On July 13, 1890, President Benjamin Harrison issued an executive order for the national flag to be flown at half-mast in John C. Frémont’s honor.
  • John C. Frémont’s remains were temporarily interred at Trinity Church Cemetery in Manhattan, New York in 1890. A year later they were move to their present location at Rockland Cemetery, Sparkill, New York.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title John Charles Frémont - Facts
  • Coverage January 21, 1813 - July 13, 1890
  • Author
  • Keywords John Charles Frémont
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 27, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021
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