Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

a powerful nature like his, naturally tended to de velop the heroic elements of his character.

At Charleston, Fremont enjoyed the instructions of Dr. John Robertson, who, in the preface to a translation of Zenophon's Retreat of the Ten Thousand, which he published in 1850, records with pride the remarkable proficiency of his pupil. In 1828 he entered the junior class of Charleston College. After leaving which he employed himself for some time as a teacher of mathematics. In 1833 he obtained that post on board the sloopof-war Natchez, which had been sent to Charleston to put down the nullifiers (a purpose similar to that for which he is now nominated for President), and on board of her he made a cruise of two years and a half. On his return he adopted the profession of a surveyor and railroad engineer, and was employed in that capacity under Captain Williams of the Topographical Engineers in the survey of a route from Charleston to Cincinnati. When this survey was suspended, he accompanied Captain Williams in a reconnoissance of the country then occupied by the Cherokees, after which he joined M. Nicolet, a distinguished French savan in the employ of the United States, in an exploring expedition over the north-western prairies. He was employed in this survey, in which he acted as

JOHN CHARLES FREMONT.

11

neers.

principal assistant, during the years 1838 and 1839, and while absent upon it was appointed a Second Lieutenant in the Corps of Topographical Engi

While reducing the materials of this survey, and preparing maps and a report, he resided for some time at Washington, where he formed the acquaintance of the family of Mr. Benton, resulting in his marriage, in 1841, to one of Mr. Benton's daughters.

Shortly after, in May, 1842, he started on the first of his three great exploring expeditions. This expedition, which occupied about five months, resulted in the exploration of the famous South Pass across the Rocky Mountains, and in the ascent by Fremont and four of his men of the Wind River Peak, the highest summit of the Rocky Mountain chain. The report of this exploration attracted great attention, both at home and abroad, as well for its unpretending modesty as for the importance of the information contained in it. This report was scarcely published when its author started on a second expedition designed to connect the discoveries of the first one with the surveys to be made by Commodore Wilkes of the Exploring Expedition on the Pacific coast, and thus to embrace a connected survey of the almost unknown regions on both sides of the Rocky Mountains. The party, including thirty-nine persons, started from the village of Kansas on the 29th of May, 1843, and were employed in the exploration till August of the next year. It was this exploration that first furnished any accurate information as to the Great Salt Lake, the great interior basin of Utah, and the mountain range of the Sierra Nevada, and first brought to light, as it were, the region now constituting the Territory of Utah and the State of California.

After preparing the report of this expedition in the spring of 1845, Fremont, now a captain, set out on a third expedition designed to make a more particular survey of the regions which he had previously visited. It was while engaged in this expedition, and before he had received any intimation of the commencement of the war with Mexico, that, after having himself been once ordered off by the authorities, he was induced by the entreaties of the American settlers in the valley of the Sacramento, whom the Mexicans threatened to drive out of the country, to put himself at their head. Thus led, they defeated the Mexicans. Fremont put himself into communication with the naval commanders on the coast, and soon in conjunction with Commodore Stockton, obtained complete pos. session of California, of which, on the 24th of Au

JOHN CHARLES FREMONT.

13

gust, he was appointed by Stockton, Military Commander. The fighting, however, was not yet over.

The Californians rose in insurrection ; but the arrival of General Kearney with his dragoons from New Mexico, enabled the Americans, after some hard-fought battles, to maintain themselves in possession. Pending these operations, a commission arrived for Fremont as Lieutenant-Colonel

a promotion which neither he nor his friends had solicited, but which he gladly received as a ratification on the part of the government of his intervention, on his own responsibility, in the affairs of California.

From the moment of Kearney's arrival a dispute had sprung up between him and Commodore Stockton as to the chief command. Kearney sought to throw upon Fremont the responsibility of deciding between their respective claims. This he declined, professing his readiness, if they would agree between themselves, to obey either; but declaring his intention, till that point was settled, to continue to obey the commander under whom he had first placed himself, and by whom the war had. been conducted. Kearney was greatly dissatisfied at this, but dissembled his resentment till they both reached Fort Leavenworth on their return home, when he arrested Fremont for disobedi

ence of orders and brought him to trial before a court-martial.

As this court held that Kearney was the rightful commander, they found Fremont guilty of the charges, and sentenced him to be dismissed from the service. Mr. Polk, then President, signed the sentence as being technically right, but at the same time offered Fremont a new commission of the same grade as that of which he had been deprived. This Fremont refused, and returned a simple citizen to private life. Thus, discharged from the service of the government, he undertook a fourth exploring expedition of his own, with a view to discover a passage across the Rocky Mountains southerly of the South Pass, near the head of the Arkansas, which might serve the purpose of a railroad communication with California. He started from Pueblo, on the Upper Arkansas, with thirty-three men and a hundred and thirty-three mules ; but, misled by his guides, all his mules and a third of his men perished in the snows and cold of the Sierra San Juan, and he himself arrived on foot at Santa Fé with the loss of every thing but his life. Not, however, to be baffled, he refitted the expedition, and in a hundred days, after fresh dangers, reached the banks of the Sacramento.

In the rising State of California in which he

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »