FREMONT, JOHN C.
Fremont, a man of many talents and interests, had a number of colorful and controversial careers. An explorer of considerable repute, he is frequently referred to as "The Pathfinder," a nickname he acquired as a result of his exploration of western America, primarily the area between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. When war with Mexico came (1846), Fremont was in California, and was instrumental in aiding the U.S. effort to wrest control of that territory from Mexico. Appointed civilian governor of California in 1847, Fremont got caught in a nasty political feud, was court martialed and found guilty. While President Polk later overturned the verdict, Fremont, who was riding a crest of national popularity at the time, resigned from the army in a huff. Fremont later served as one of California's first two U.S. Senators (1850-51) and, in 1856, as the Republican Party's first presidential candidate. At the beginning of the Civil War, Fremont was given command of the Union Army's Western Department, but his ill-advised proclamation confiscating the property of rebelling Missourians and emancipating their slaves soon caused his transfer to the mountain department of western Virginia from which he eventually resigned. After the war, Fremont became interested in western railroads but, after a series of disastrous ventures, lost both his fortune and reputation. Still with friends in high places, however, he served as territorial governor of Arizona (1878-83), and was reinstated in the army as major-general with pay (1890).