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R /A O JS T
University of California Berkeley
THOMAS W. STREETER BEQUEST
MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE,
JOHN CHARLES FREMONT.
INCLUDING IN THE NARRATIVE FIVE JOURNEYS OF WESTERN EXPLORATION,
DURING THE YEAKS
1842, 1843-4, 1845-6-7, 1848-9, 1853-4.
TOGETHER WITH A SKETCH OP THE LIFE OP
IN CONNECTION WITH WESTERN EXPANSION.
JESSIE BENTON FREMONT.
A RETROSPECT OF FIFTY YEARS,
COVERING THE MOST EVENTFUL PERIODS OF MODERN AMERICAN HISTORY.
SUPERBLY ILLUSTRATED BY ORIGINAL PORTRAITS, DESCRIPTIVE PLATES,
AND, FROM THE MISSOURI KlVER TO THE PACIFIC, BY A SERIES
OF SKETCHES AND DAGUERREOTYPES MADE
DURING THE JOURNEYS.
THE ILLUSTRATIONS ARE MASTERPIECES OF
BARLEY, HAMILTON, SCHUSSELE, DALLAS, KEEN, WALLLN AND OTHERS.
ENGRAVED UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF
J. M. BUTLER,
WITS' MAPS AND COLORED PLATES.
CHICAGO AND NEW YORK :
BELFORD, CLARKE & COMPANY.
BELFORD, CLARKE & CO.
SCOPE OF THE WORK.
THE narrative contained in these volumes is personal. It is intended
to draw together the more important and interesting parts in the journals
of various expeditions made by me in the course of Western exploration,
and to give my knowledge of political and military events in which I have
myself had part. The principal subjects of which the book will consist,
and which, with me, make its raison d'etre, are three : the geographical
explorations, made in the interest of Western expansion ; the presidential
campaign of 1856, made in the interest of an undivided country; and the
civil war, made in the same interest. Connecting these, and naturally
growing out of them, will be given enough of the threads of ordinary life
to justify the claim of the work to its title of memoirs : purporting to be
the history of one life, but being in reality that of three, because in sub-
stance the course of my own life was chiefly determined by its contact
with the other two the events recorded having in this way been created,
or directly inspired and influenced, by three different minds, each having
the same objects for a principal aim.
The published histories of the various explorations have now passed
out of date, and are new to the present generation, to which the region
between the Mississippi and the Pacific. Ocean presents a different face
from that to which these accounts relate.
In the present narrative the descriptions of the regions travelled over
will be simply of what would then have met a traveller's eye. The prevail-
ing impression on his mind would have been one of constant surprise that
so large a portion of the earth's surface should have so long remained
unoccupied and unused. Millions of people now occupy the ground where
then he encountered only wild animals and wild men. But nothing of this
present condition will be given here.
The slight knowledge which a traveller could glean in journeys that
were impelled forward by hunger, and thirst, and imminency of dangers,
has in this day been perfected and made thoroughly available. The scant
IV SCOPE OF THE WORK.
scientific information which was gathered in these travels, and which, as
indications or suggestions, had its value at the time, will therefore not
have any place in the present narrative. The striking features and
general character of the regions traversed, the incidents which made their
local coloring, and the hardships belonging to remote and solitary jour-
neys, will be retained, so far as can well be done within the limit of the
pages which are intended to embrace narratives covering broad regions of
country and half a century of American time. But the emigrants who
have since then traversed and changed the face of these regions will
doubtless find enough to remind them, and have pleasure in being
reminded, of the scenes with which they were once so familiar, and of
hardships which they themselves were compelled to face.
Out of these expeditions came the seizure of California in 1846. The
third exploring party was merged in a battalion which did its part in
wresting that rich territory from Mexico, and the conquest of California
will consequently have a prominent place in the narrative of these expe-
Concerning the presidential campaign of 1856, in which I was
engaged, statements have been made which I wish to correct ; and in that
of 1864 there were governing facts which have not been made public.
These I propose to set out.
Some events ol the civil war in which I was directly concerned have
been incorrectly stated, and I am not willing to leave the resulting erro-
neous impressions to crystallize and harden into the semblance of facts.
These subjects, as I have said, make the chief reason for this work.
The general record is being made up. This is being done from
different points of view ; and, as this view is sometimes distorted by
imperfect or prejudiced knowledge, I naturally wish to use the fitting
occasion which offers to make my own record. It is not the written but
the published fact which stands, and it stands to hold its ground as fact
when it can meet every challenge by the testimony of documentary and
JOHN C. FREMONT.
Washington. D. C., May, 1886.
SCOPE OF WORK John Charles Fremont.
SYNOPSIS OF CONTENTS Jessie Benton Fremont.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.. " "
ACCOUNT OF THE PLATES.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF SENA-
ATOR BENTON, IN CONNECTION WITH WEST-
ERN EXPANSION " "
MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE John Charles Frdmont.
School and college days. Idling days. De-
sultory work. Engaged in local surveys.
Cruise to the South Atlantic on U. S. S.
Pass examination. Appointed Professor of
Mathematics in the Navy. Ordered to the
Resign appointment. Assistant Engineer
under Captain Williams, U. S. Topographical
Engineers ; on survey for projected Railway
from Charleston to Cincinnati. Work in moun-
tains of North and South Carolina.
Threatened hostilities with Cherokee Indians.
Military reconnaissance of Cherokee Territory
in Mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee,
and Georgia, under Captain Williams.
Appointed by President Van Buren Second
Lieutenant of Topographical Engineers. Or-
dered to first expedition under Nicollet. Re-
gion northwest of Mississippi River.
Winter occupied making up astronomical cal-
Second expedition of Nicollet to explore
prairie-region east and north of Missouri River
to British line.
Engaged in Washingtion on maps and astro-
nomical calculations. Senator Benton's interest
in our work.
Connected by marriage with Senator Benton.
His views on the necessity of immediate occu-
! pation of Oregon by a large emigration. Con-
venient road to be marked out for this. Expe-
dition to SOUTH PASS and Rocky Mountains
planned with Senator Benton. First expe-
dition to the Rocky Mountains. Preparations
in New York and in Saint Louis. Personnel of
party. Creole and Canadian voyageurs. Charles
Preuss, topographer and assistant. L. Maxwell
engaged as hunter. Meet Carson. Secure him
as guide. Kansas village. Chouteau's trading
house. Final preparation and start for the moun-
tains. Incidents of journey. Enormous herds
of buffalo. Indians. Meet with Bridger. His
late fight with the Sioux. Fort Laramie. Warned
by Indian chiefs against going farther. Indians
MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT.
hostile. War parties scattered over the country.
Continue journey. SOUTH PASS reached. Wind
River chain of Rocky Mountains. Alpine region.
Beautiful lakes and valleys. Running water
everywhere. Head-waters of four great rivers.
Grass fresh and green. Many flowers. Ascent
of the loftiest Peak of the Wind River chain.
American flag planted. Barometer broken.
Mended and height of Peak obtained, 13,570 feet
above the Gulf of Mexico. The Pioneer Bee.
Object of expedition so far successful. Home-
ward journey. Independence Rock. Symbol of
Christian civilization, the Cross cut into the rock.
Divide party and attempt to descend the Platte
River in india-rubber boat. Running the canons.
Boat wrecked in one of the cataracts. A swim
for life, but no one lost. Climb out of canon.
Rejoin land party. Journey continued. Laramie
reached. Salutes from the Fort and hearty wel-
come back. Make bull-boat. Another attempt
to descend the Platte. Failed again. Water ex-
tremely low. Nowhere continuous four inches
found. Great river deserves its Indian name
"Nebraska" or Shallow River. Grand Island
recommended as best point for military station
on lower Platte. October i, reached mouth of
the Platte. Again within the pale of civilization
at the hospitable mansion of Mr. Sarpy of the
American Fur Company. Boat ordered by cou-
riers on the stocks and nearly completed. On the
4th embarked on the Missouri in boat manned
with ten oars, relieved every hour. Morning of
loth halted to make astronomical observations at
mouth of Kansas, just four months since starting
from trading post of Mr. Cyprian Chouteau ten
miles above. River sketched and observations
made on way down. Made Saint Louis iyth and
Washington 291)1 of October.
1843-44 (Second Expedition).
Engaged through winter in preparing report
and planning second expedition. Efforts of West-
ern Senators to favor emigration to the lower
Columbia. Bill to establish military posts, and
protect emigration. Debate in Senate. "30,000
rifles in the hands of American settlers in Ore-
gon our best negotiators with England." Close
vote passing bill against opposition of the Admin-
istration. Smothered in House Committee. First
expedition connected with and auxiliary to this
plan of emigration in conformity with purpose of
Western Senators. Second expedition planned
to explore region west of Rocky Mountains and
to connect on the lower Columbia with Captain
Wilkes' South Sea expedition. Reached village of
Kansas on Missouri frontier May 17, 1843. Party
made up of Creole and Canadian voyageurs as
before including some of the best men of the
first expedition. Charles Preuss again topog-
rapher, and for guide Fitzpatrick " the broken-
hand." Carson joins near the mountains. Jacob
Dodson, a free young colored man from Wash-
ington, volunteered for the expedition. Maxwell,
one of the hunters in 1842, joined here. Two
Delaware Indians, a fine-looking father and son,
chosen as hunters by Major Cummins, the excel-
lent Agent for the Indians of this quarter. Equip-
ment of party, Hall's carbines and a brass 12-
pound howitzer under charge of Louis Zindel, a
non-commissioned officer of Prussian artillery.
Camp equipage and provisions transported, in
twelve carts two mules each. Light covered
wagon on good springs carries instruments.
Started May agth. First camp four miles beyond
frontier on verge of the great prairies. Joined by
Mr. William Gilpin, of Missouri. Journey contin-
ued. Meet hunting party of Kansas and Delaware
Indians. Camp surprised by charge of Osage
Indians. Pike's Peak. Boiling Spring River.
Carson joins here. Saint Vrain's Fort upper
South Platte. Alexander Godey engaged here.
Crossing mountains by new route. Camp charged
by war party of Arapahoes. The Great Salt Lake :
the Inland Sea. Visit to one of its islands in
canvas boat, first boat on its waters. No guard
kept. Isolated cliffs whitened with salt by the
waves. Lake saturated with salt rests on beds of
rock salt. No fish can live in it. Lake shores of
great fertility. Clear fresh water streams flowing
from mountains into lake. TIMPANOGOS, Indian
name for UTAH Lake, is fresh water, full of fish,
on which Indians live. " This great lake a natu-
ral resting and recruiting station for travellers
now and in all time to come. Bottom lands ex-
tensive ; water excellent ; timber sufficient ; soil
good and well suited to such an elevated region.
A military post and civilized settlement would be
of great value here ; cattle and horses would do
well where grass and salt abound." This on re-
turn recommended to Government for military
station. Not adopted by Government but later by
Brigham Young. His statement. Lewis Fork of
the Columbia or Snake River and Fort Hall a
post of the Hudson Bay Company. Rich valley
twenty miles long. An American military post
here would be of extraordinary value to the emi-
gration, and was so recommended. Subterranean
river. Fishing falls of Lewis Fork. Great sal-
mon fisheries here. Cataract barrier to ascent
of salmon. Chief food of Indians. Indians un-
usually good-humored because well fed, very
different from ordinary Indians. Clothing scant,
twenty skins bush squirrel to make covering to
the knee. Indians paddling about in boats of
rushes. Salmon jumping out of water. Lively
camp on river bank. Every little rapid down
the river Indians crying " Hag-gai, Hag-gai,"
Fish for sale. Reed's River ; so called from
massacre of Reed's garrison of Hudson Bay fur
trading post. Fort Boise, Hudson Bay Com-
pany. Forests of European larch 200 feet high.
All elevated parts covered with dense forests.
Look in vain for L'Arbre Seule, " Lone Tree," a j
well-known landmark. Find it a fine tall pine
felled by some inconsiderate emigrant axe. |
A beacon on the road for many years. Grande
Ronde. A level mountain valley about twenty ;
miles diameter. Rich soil abundantly watered,
good grass, surrounded by high well-timbered
mountain. Crossing Blue Mountains. Head-
waters Umatilla River. Emerge from forest.
Mount Hood snowy mass standing high above
surrounding country one hundred and eighty
miles distant. Meet Indians driving horses to
pasture. Hills and mountains rich in grass.
Bottoms barren and sterile. Missionary estab-
lishment of Dr. Whitman. Mission mills recently j
burned. Potatoes fine and abundant. Emi- 1
grants, men, women, and children luxuriating
on potatoes. Mouth of the Wahlah-Wahlah.
Junction of the great forks which make the Co-
lumbia River. Columbia 1200 yards wide. Em-
igrants under Mr. Applegate building Mack- j
inaw boats to descend the Columbia. Nez-Perce ;
post ; a trading establishment of the Hudson ;
Bay Company. Union of these two large streams ;
in the geographical centre of the Oregon val-
ley make important feature in map of country.
Open up two great lines of communication with
interior of continent. British fur companies use
both. American emigration beginning to use one.
Mount Hood showing again, now 150 miles
distant. Mount Saint Helens another snowy
peak of Cascade range. Falls of the Colum-
bia. Every year falls submerged by back-up
of waters from below. Indian chief points out
in the distance Methodist missionary station.
Leave party at Dalles of Columbia. Whole
river passes through trough 58 yards wide.
Unfortunate event in this chasm to Apple-
gate's party. One of his boats carried under
water and lost in midst of Dalles. Two of his
children and one man drowned. Westward
land journey terminated here. Connected with
Wilkes exploring expedition. Large canoe pro-
cured from Indians through Mr. Perkins. Canoe
voyage, four men with me pleasant descent of
the river. Halt for supper. Delicious salted
salmon, potatoes, bread, coffee and sugar. Gale
of wind at night. Bright moon, wind fair.
Waves breaking into foam alongside. Night
voyage between the dark mountains wild and
interesting. At midnight put to shore on rocky
beach, dark-looking pine forest behind. Build
large fires among the rocks, in large masses round
about ; arrange blankets in sheltered places
passed delightful night. Cascades of the Colum-
bia. Main branch of Sacramento, Tlamath and
Columbia Rivers break in great cascades through
the Mountains to which Mount Hood and Mount
Saint Helens belong, giving to them the name of
CASCADE RANGE. Cape Horn. High wall of
rock comes boldly down into deep water. In
gales water is dashed against it with violence.
A serious obstacle to canoe travelling. Mr.
Perkins once detained here two weeks and forced
back to Vancouver. Arrival at Vancouver. Dr.
McLoughlin, chief executive of Hudson Bay
Company west of the Rocky Mountains. Hos-
pitable reception and outfit for return. Leave
fort on the loth Nov. Our flotilla consists of
Mackinaw barge and three canoes. Mr. Burnett
goes with us to bring his family to Vancouver
from the Dalles. Submerged forest distinctly
visible through clear water. Arrive at Dalles.
Mr. Gilpin takes leave of us. At request of Mr.
Perkins a young Chinook Indian joins us to visit
Washington. Little wagon for instruments pre-
sented to family at Mission greatly to Preuss'
regret. Preuss no horseman (Polly the mule).
Line of return. Leading points on line of return
indicated by maps or rumor. Character or exis-
tence of these to be ascertained. Tlamath Lake.
Mary's or Turtle Lake. Buenaventura River said
to flow direct from Turtle Lake across the Basin
through the Sierra Nevada to San Francisco Bay.
Journey up Fall River valley. Fine view of
Mount Hood a rose-colored mass of snow.
Fluviatile infusoria ; the most remarkable de-
posit on record. Grand Forest ; pines 12 feet in
diameter. Indians say salmon in small streams.
Upper Tlamath Lake. Camp thronged with
Tlamath Indians. Escape attack. Line of
journey turned eastward searching for Buena-
ventura River. Dense forest. Snow three feet
deep. Air dark with falling snow. Descent into
Great Basin. Fruitless search for the Buenaven-
tura. Pyramid Lake. Decide to cross Sierra
Nevada into California. Mid-winter, deep snow.
Indians on snow-shoes. Old Indian warns us.
MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT.
" Rock upon rock." " Snow upon snow." Chin-
ook's lament, " I came away from my people to
see the whites. If I had seen the whites 1 could
die, hut here ! " and he wept. A thirty days' |
contest with snow and hunger. Descent to Sut-
ter's Fort. Hearty and friendly reception by
Captain Sutler. THE GREAT CALIFORNIA VAL- j
LEY. Floral and pastoral valley 500 miles long.
Watered by Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers
and many tributary streams. Open groves of
oak. Fields of blue and orange flowers. Cli-
mate delightful. Cattle lying under the shade of
the oaks in March. One of the garden spots of
the world. West flank of Sierra Nevada border-
ing valley is from 40 to 70 miles wide ; timbered
and grassy, copiously watered with numerous and
bold streams. Upper half heavily wooded with
pines, cypress, and cedars, 100 to 200 feet high ;
lower half wooded with oak. Acorns and grass
make it a great country for stock. Whole coun-
try tributary to the Bay of San Francisco. The
only water communication from the coast to the
interior. Head of the Bay 40 miles from the sea
where it connects with rich valleys of San Joaquin
and Sacramento. The accessory advantages be-
longing to the Bay ; fertile and picturesque de-
pendent country ; mildness and salubrity of cli-
mate ; connection with the great interior valley ;
its vast resources for ship timber, grain and cat-
tle, together with its geographical position on the
line of communication with Asia, make it one of
the great harbors of the world. Party recruits at
Suiter's Fort. Fal salmon and fat beef. Get
band of fine mules. Homeward journey up San
Joaquin Valley. Enter desert by pass at Cajon
de las Uvas. Mexican party massacred by In-
dians. Escape of Mexican and little boy to our
camp. Indians surprised. Splendid courage of
Carson and Godey. Hard march for water.
Many Indians. Sandy soil covered with their
tracks. Follow us stealthily like wolves. Horse
or mule left behind to rest taken off in a moment .
Indians come into camp. Old chief insulting
Carson resentful. "Don't say that, old man,
don't you say that your life's in danger."
Tabeau surprised by the Indians and killed.
Vegas de Santa Clara. Joined by the famous
mountaineer Walker. Connecl al Utah Lake
with the oulward line of journey. Dealh of
Badeau. Killed by drawing his gun by ihe muz-
zle from the saddle. Reach Rocky Mountains.
Country now entered considered among most
dangerous war-grounds in the mountains. In-
fested by war parties of ihe Sioux and other
Indians. Fight belween Cheyennes and Ara-
pahoes in South Park. Make crossings of the
Rocky Mountains at three different passes. Leave
mountains, cross prairie plains, and make final
camp July 31, 1844, at village of Kansas on the
banks of the Missouri, after an absence of four-
teen months. August 6th arrive at Saint Louis
and disband party.
At Washington. Occupied in drawing up re-
port, making maps and calculations, astronom-
ical observations. The Deacon and Senator
Benlon. Planning ihird expedilion. Directed
chiefly to examining California mountains and
coast-line. Eventualities considered in forming
it. War with Mexico threalened on accounl of
Texas. Possible war wilh England from compli-
cations of Oregon boundary. Third Expedi-
tion. Leave Missouri fronlier wilh party of sixty
picked men. Best men of the old parties included
among them. Twelve Delaware Indians chosen
for me by Ihe Delaware Nalion. Traverse Ihe
prairies. Cross Rocky Mounlains al heads of
Arkansas. Reach southern end of Great Salt
Lake in September. The Desert. Silver found.
Continuing westward, divide party lo re-unite
in Upper San Joaquin Valley. Main party in
charge of Kern to enter ihe valley al ihe Point
of the mountain. The well-known mounlain-
eer Caplain Walker assigned them as guide.
The other party of ten men Iravel direclly wesl
under myself. Parlies separale. I cross Sierra
Nevada in early December al heads of Salmon-
Iroul and Bear Rivers. Curly-haired skull.
Ridges limbered wilh pine and cedar of extra-
ordinary size. Suller's Forl. Visil lo Monlerey.
Permission oblained from Mexican Command-
ing General lo recruil parly in California. Re-
lurn lo Suiter's Fort. Go with cattle and pro-
visions to meel main parly. Fool-hills of ihe
Sierra. Fight with Horse-lhief Indians on
Aqua Fria Creek of ihe Mariposas. Heavy fall
of snow. Callle lost in Ihe mountains. Parties
miss each other. Find main party on lower
San Joaquin. Astronomical observalions. Er-
ror in coasl-line correcled by ihem. Exist -
ing charts had placed coast-line of California
fifteen to forty miles loo far lo Ihe easlward.
Leave valleys and cross lo ihe coast. Camp es-
tablished at Fisher's rancho, near pueblo of San
Jose in San Jose valley. Make preparations here
to continue exploration. Camp upper part of
coast mountain between San Jose and Santa
Cruz. Great height and bulk of redwood trees
i a cypress. Among many measured, nine and ten
feet in diameter were frequent two hundred feet
a frequent height. Descended to coast near the
north-western point of Monterey Bay. Colossal
height and massive bulk of trees give grandeur
to the forest. Measured one at camp 275 feet in
height and 1 5 feet in diameter three feet above
base. Salinas Plains. Ordered out of the coun-
try by Commanding General Castro. Build fort
and hoist the American flag on Gabelan Peak.
Californians preparing to attack. Remain in fort
waiting for them three days. Retreat into San
Joaquin Valley. Castro's compromise message.
Travel up the Sacramento Valley. Shastl Peak.
Tlamath Lake. Camp on northern end of the lake.
Overtaken by courier from Lieutenant Gillespie,
U. S. Marine Corps. Return with party to his
relief. Gillespie sent as messenger from Secre-
tary of State Buchanan. Brings also letters from
Senator Benton. Required by these messages
to return into California. Night attack by Tla-
math Indians. Three of our men killed. Basil
Lajeunesse. Rejoin main camp. Indians am-
bushed. Destroy Indian village, boats, and fish.
Skirmish in the forest. Scalp stuck on arrow in
the trail. Start on return into California. Pitt
River. Attacked by Indians. Sacramento River.
Hunting camp at the Buttes. Indians gathering
to destroy white settlements. Dispersed Indians
and drove them from Sacramento River. Return
to camp near Sutler's Fort. Gathering of Amer-
icans to the camp. Hostilities begun against
Mexican authorities. Send Gillespie to Captain
Montgomery, sloop of war " Portsmouth." Aid
furnished by Montgomery. Gillespie reaches
Sutler's Fort 1 2th June. Midshipman Beale with
boats from the "Portsmouth." Raising of the
Bear Flag by settlers. Declaration of the Inde-
pendence of California. Battalion organized July
5th. Command offered to me. Montgomery
applies to Commodore Sloat for permission to
give me aid with ammunition and supplies.
Sloat declines. Upon urgent remonstrance of
Purser Rodman M. Price representing the other
officers, and the views of President Polk as
personally known to him, Commodore Sloat
reverses his decision. Directs Captain Mont-
gomery to support me. The next day hoists the
American Flag, takes possession by proclama-
tion, July 7, 1846. NARRATIVE of (he CONQUEST
of CALIFORNIA, with official orders, letters, and
documents. Hostilities closed by the capitulation
to me and treaty of Conenga. I am appointed
Military Governor by Commodore Stockton and
Brigadier-General Kearny ; each claiming to be
Commander-in-chief. Decline to decide between
] my superior officers. Receive from Washing-
' ton appointment Lieutenant-Colonel Mounted
: Rifles. Prepare to join regiment under General
Taylor. Forbidden by General Kearny to join
I my regiment in Mexico. Ordered by Kearny to
j accompany him on his return to the States. Put
I in arrest by him on reaching Fort Leavenworth
! and ordered to Washington. Court-martial at
Washington. Charges of mutiny and disobe-
dience of orders. Found guilty by court. Ma-
jority of officers comprising court recommend to
the President "lenient consideration on account
of previous distinguished services." Among these
was a brother of General Taylor. [General Tay-
lor, when President, offered me, as a mark of his
disapproval of this finding, the appointment of
Commissioner to determine boundary line be-
tween California and Mexico.] President Polk
approves sentence as to disobedience of orders.
Remits sentence. Orders me to resume my
sword and join my regiment in Mexico under
General Taylor. I refuse to condone injustice
done me and resign from the army. Resignation
not accepted for a month. Mr. Buchanan urges
withdrawal of resignation. Also Adjutant-Gen-
eral Roger Jones. I insist, and retire from the
Make brief report and map of third expedition
under resolution of the Senate. Give to entrance
of San Francisco harbor the name of Chrysopylas
GOLDEN GATE and place it on the map. On
the same principle that the harbor of Byzantium
(Constantinople afterwards) was called Chryso-
ceras GOLDEN HORN. Correspondence with
Captain Wilkes, U. S. N., concerning change of
coast-line of California. The city of Charleston,
through Hon. Mr. Rhett, presented to me a sword
of honor for services in Oregon and California.
Am also offered Presidency of railroad on which
I had made surveys in '36. Decide to return to
California and develop the Mariposas grant. Mrs.
Fremont to join me as soon as the first steamer
for California, the Oregon, should be completed.
Fourth Expedition. Made at private cost.
Object a mid-winter journey to determine snow-
obstacles and examine southern passes in Rocky
Mountains. Outfit generously aided by Saint
Louis merchants. Tilley, Campbell. Gathered
some of my old companions. Godey, Taplin,
Proue and some Delawares, also young Boggs,
son of Governor of Missouri ; Preuss and Kern
MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT.
topographers. Captain Cathcart, an officer of
the English army, accompanies me. Break up
camp on frontier after six weeks' stay for prepa-
rations. Mrs. Fremont, who had been with me
up to this point, turns homewards. The wolf.
Winter opens early. Snow and sleet meet us on
the prairies. Follow line of Kansas River. Best
approach to the mountains. Fine farming coun-
try for 400 miles. Arkansas River. Mid-No-
vember. Big-Timber of the Arkansas. Great
gathering of the Indians, 600 lodges Apaches,
Comanches, Kioways, and Arapahoes. Major
Fitzpatrick, "the Broken-hand." His valuable
services as Indian Agent. Indians report early
snows deep in the mountains. Bent's Fort.
Mountains show themselves covered with snow.
Arkansas pueblo. Pack the mules with corn.
Engage "Bill Williams" for guide. Cross Sierra
Mojada. Deep snow in passes. San Louis Val-
ley. Mistake of guide. San Juan Mountains
12,000 feet above the sea. Incessant, overwhelm-
ing snow-storms. Disaster. Lose eleven men,
all the animals and camp equipage. Great suf-
fering of survivors. Extricate ourselves from
mountains. Reach Taos, nearest available set-
tlement 180 miles distant. Aid given by mili-
tary post. Myself rest and recruit at Carson's \
Recruit and refit party. Descend Del Norte
latter part of February. Orchards in bloom, j
Hospitalities of officers of the army at differ-
ent posts. Leave the Del Norte. New Mexi-
can plains. Snow again. Turn to the Mimbres
Mountains. Apaches gather round camp at
night. Hostile. Interview with chief. The two
camps breakfast together on Mimbres River.
Make chief presents and part on good terms.
Travel through Arizona to San Pedro in north
Sonora. Country terrorized by Apaches. Re-
turn north through Tucson and San Pedro Val-
ley to Gila River. Gila Indians as farmers.
Meet large body of Sonorians, men, women,
and children, 1,200 in number, going to Califor-
nia for gold. They confirm reports of great gold
discoveries. Afraid of Indians and invite me
to join their caravan. The great Colorado. Es-
tablished position mouth of Gila. Make skin-
boat. Ferry to California side all the Sonorian
women and children and my party. Leave skin-
boat for the men. Arrange with party of Sono-
rians to go upon the Mariposas for gold. Ride
rapidly by way of Los Angeles and Monterey to
San Francisco to meet Mrs. Fremont, who was
to come by way of Panama. Take Mrs. Fremont
to Monterey by steamer. Join Sonorians and go
to the Mariposas. Find gold in the clay of Agua
Fria Creek. Godey on Mariposas Creek makes
first discovery of gold in the rock in California.
Leave Sonorians to work. Return to Monterey.
Spend some few weeks at San Jose. Beale with
us. Establish ourselves at Monterey. Carriage
planned for travelling in California landed at
Monterey from U. S. S. Fredonia. Through
kindly forethought of Mr. Wm. Aspinwall packed
with brooms, willow-baskets and small household
gear which made welcome presents to Mrs. Gen-
eral Riley, Mrs. General Canby and other ladies
who had been kind to Mrs. Fremont. Sonorians
finish their work on Mariposas. Their extraor-
dinary honesty in division of gold. Appointed
by President Taylor Commissioner to run the
boundary line with Mexico. CONSTITUTIONAL
CONVENTION. Strength of influence in favor of
making it a slave State. Against all opposition
made a free State. Beale, Lippincott, Stevenson.
Caleb Lyons. Sheep in barouche parchment.
Knight's "contempted gold."
Elected Senator from California. On first
ballot. We embark January ist from Monterey
for Washington. Pleasant stop at Mazatlan on
way down the coast. Courtesy of English man-
of-war. Detained a month in Panama by dan-
gerous illness of Mrs. Fremont. I get Panama
Summer of 1850.
Home again with Senator Benton. Letter
to the Philadelphia Pacific Railroad Conven-
tion. Received a gold medal from the Royal
Geographical Society, the " Founders Medal
for distinguished services rendered to geograph-
ical science " transmitted through our Minis-
ter at London, Mr. Abbott Lawrence, and Mr.
Clayton, Secretary of State. Debates on ad-
mission of California. Opposition. Mr. Web-
ster's '* narrow strip." State admitted. Senator
Gvvir. draws long term. I the short one. In-
troduce various bills protecting California in-
terests. Received the great gold medal " for
progress in the sciences" from the King of Prus-
sia with a letter from Humboldt transmitted
through the Prussian Minister to Washington,
Baron von Gerolt. Return to California. Re-
main. Disabled by effects of Panama fever.
At work developing Mariposas.
In London on Mariposas mining business. In-
teresting acquaintance and intercourse with em-
inent persons. Presented at court. Meet the
Duke of Wellington. Am included by him among
guests for his birthday dinner with the Baroness
Burdette-Coutts. Sir Roderick Murchison and
Royal Geographical Society. Visit Woolwich
and the vessels for the Polar expedition just
starting to search for Sir John Franklin. Friendly
attentions of Mr. Abbott Lawrence, our Minister
to England. Am arrested for California war-
debt by an English firm. Bail given by Mr.
George Peabody. Speech of Senator Gwin in
U. S. Senate on learning this. Immediate ac-
tion of Congress to pay the debt.
A year of rest in Paris. Important political
events. France a Republic. Empire declared.
Feeling of republican leaders. Poussin, ex-
Minister to Washington.' Interesting personages
of old French society. The new phase. Meet
Captain Cathcart at ball at the Tuileries.
Return to Washington. Arrange for fifth and
last expedition. Another attempt to determine
practicability for railroads through mountain re-
gions in winter. This like that of '48 at private
cost. Not connected with those made by Gov-
ernment at this time. Organize party as usual
on Missouri frontier. Instruments selected in
Paris. Daguerreotype and photographic appa-
ratus in New York. Carvalho artist. Party of
thirty. Godey again, and Delawares. Egloff-
estein as topographer. Preuss' fate. Make start
in late fall. Taken seriously ill. Direct party to
proceed to Solomon's Fork of the Kansas, within
the buffalo range, and wait for me. Return to
Saint Louis for medical care. Mrs. Frfimont
joins me at Saint Louis and accompanies me as
far as the frontier. Leave frontier to rejoin party.
" I find a wet saddle no longer makes a good pil-
low." Up the Kansas. Hospitable reception at the
Catholic Mission of Saint Mary's. Supply of fresh
provisions. Find party at rendezvous. Among
the buffalo. Cheyenne Indian village on the
Arkansas. Return of the Cheyenne war-party.
Scalp dance. Bent's Fort. Route up the Huer-
fano River. Cross the Sierra Mojada. San
Luis Valley, many deer. Cross the Sierra Blanca
range at the Cochetope Pass. Defiles of West
Rocky Mountains. Grand River Valley. Star-
vation again. Plenty of snow and no game.
The OBELISKS. Cache our baggage. Men and
animals weak. I give out on mountain-side
first time in all my journeying. Weakness tem-
porary. Death of Fuller. Reach Mormon set-
tlement of Parawan. Friendly treatment and
kindness of Mormon families. Leave Parawan
to cross southern part of Great Basin. The
Bishop offers company of men as escort. Take
only two volunteer guides for our first three days.
One of them the Bishop's son. Enter California
by pass at " Point of the Mountain." Give to
river leading into the valley (San Joaquin) the
name of Kern. Belt and Stone. Offer me hos-
pitalities and money. Invited to his ranch by
Judge Belt to recruit party. Fine litter of black
pigs. " Where are the pigs ? '' " Look inside
your Delawares for them." Reach San Fran-
cisco. Disband party and return to Washington
by way of Panama.
Summer of '54.
Congress pays for cattle I had supplied to
Indians in '50. Mr. Orr of South Carolina
Chairman Committee, his unusual attention to
duty. President Pierce. Mr. Crittenden of
Kentucky. Their friendly conduct. Return to
San Francisco in August by way of Panama.
At work on the Mariposas. Title to Mari-
posas confirmed February, '55, after eight years'
litigation with State and General Government.
Resume of litigation. Paid heavy fees and mort-
gage. Called to Washington by illness of Mrs.
Fremont. Summer at Nantucket. Both Demo-
cratic and Republican leaders offer nomination
for the Presidency. Democratic leaders require
maintaining the Fugitive Slave Law. Decision
made at Nantucket.
Nominated at Philadelphia June 18, 1856, by
first Republican Convention. Also later in June
by National American Convention then in ses-
sion in New York. Large support from Demo-
crats. New York State especially. Presidential
campaign. Clashing opinions of leaders. De-
cide for myself. Vote of Pennsylvania. Judge
Chiefly on the Mariposas. Build short rail-
way connecting mines and Merced River. De-
scent 1, 400 feet in four miles. Road built in
fourteen days. Open roads, develop mines.
MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT.
bring estate into fine paying order. Visit from
Horace Greeley. Purchase Black Point, or
Point San Jose, in San Francisco, for Mrs. Fre-
mont. Letter from Francis P. Blair, Sr.,
urging my influence with my friends in favor of
Lincoln. Write accordingly. Cross of the
Virginia. Want of arms and money chief diffi-
Splendid loyalty and
Noble unanimity of
culties. No lack of men.
enthusiasm of the West.
the Germans. Descent of the Mississippi main
object. Army to be raised and organized. When
ready, to notify President. Command then to
Order of Merit conferred on me by the King of j be extended over Kentucky and left bank Mis-
Prussia to fill vacancy made in the Order by the
death of Macaulay. Transmitted through Baron
von Gerolt, Prussian Minister to Washington.
Government takes possession of Alcatraz Island.
Leave family at residence on Black Point and
start January ist for England on Mariposas
business. Attack on Sumter. Offer services
to the Government. Congress passes an Act
creating four Major-Generals in the Regular
Army. Under this Act were appointed McClel-
lan, Fremont, Halleck, and Wool, to rank ac-
cordingly. Make arrangements in England and
France for purchase of arms for the Govern-
ment. Leave Mariposas interests in charge of
counsel. Return and report to President Lin-
coln. Council of war preceding battle of Bull
Run, the President presiding. General Scott,
General McDowell, myself and other officers.
Department of the West created. Am assigned
to command it. Limits of Department. " With
Illinois, all the States and Territories west of
the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains,
including New Mexico." Take leave of the
President. No instructions given me. Presi-
dent says he gives me "carte blanche," Post-
master-General Blair advises me "to cut the
wires." Meet Governor Yates of Illinois. Sets
out unprepared state of the West. Return to
New York with Major Hagner to aid me in
gathering arms from various arsenals. Succeed
in gathering enough for 23,000 men. Telegraph
to General Scott for instructions and permission
to take the field at once. Replies granting per-
mission, but has no instructions to give. Start
for the West. Rumor of defeat at Bull Run
met at Philadelphia. Confirmed at Altoona.
Reach Saint Louis July 25th. Assume command.
The Department as I found it. Missouri a
rebel State. Local government in confusion.
Saint Louis a rebel city. Enlistment of three
months men expiring. Troops in service unpaid.
Badly equipped and badly supplied. Confed-
erate Army of nearly 50,000 men already on
southern frontier. Bird's Point, Cape Girardeau,
Ironton, Rolla, and Saint Louis endangered.
Arms collected by me in New York diverted to
AUG. i. I go personally to Cairo, with flotilla
AUG. 10. Defeat and death of General Lyon.
Occupied in procuring arms for troops. Mis-
souri put in condition of defence. Girardeau,
Ironton, Rolla, Jefferson City, and Saint Louis
fortified. Forts at Saint Louis planned to com-
mand the city itself as well as its approaches.
AUG. 25. Expedition under Colonel Wagner
ordered with one regiment to destroy fortifica-
tions begun at Belmont.
AUG. 25. Commander Rogers notified of this
expedition. Directed to accompany with two
AUG. 28. General Grant assigned command
of South-east Missouri.
Receives his instructions.
Goes to Girardeau.
AUG. 28. General Grant directed to act in
concert with Colonel Wagner and Commander
Rogers to take possession of points threatened
by rebels on Kentucky shore.
AUG. 31. Captain Neustader ordered to ex-
amine and select site for battery to command
Paducah and mouth of the Tennessee.
AUG. 31 Freedom of slaves proclaimed. Mar-
tial law proclaimed. Proclamation of Freedom
countermanded by President Lincoln. Martial
law maintained until close of war.
SEPT. 4. Send heavy guns and artillery officer
to General Grant at Cairo. Instruct him to
place guns on Kentucky shore at point selected
under my directions August 29. Also to send
over adequate force to protect them.
SEPT. 4. General Grant leaves Girardeau and
assumes command at Cairo.
SEPT. 5. I telegraph the President asking my
command be extended now to include Kentucky.
Inform him Paducah should be occupied if pos-
sible that enemy begin to occupy on Kentucky
side every good place between Paducah and
SEPT. 5. Letter of instructions to General
Grant to " push forward with utmost speed " all
work on point selected on Kentucky shore ten
miles from Paducah to be called Fort Holt.
Also, " if you feel strong enough to take posses-
sion of Paducah." "If not, then opposite Pa-
ducah on Illinois side and plant battery to com-
mand Ohio River and mouth of the Tennessee."
SEPT. 5. My scout, on his way to me from
Kentucky, informs General Grant enemy advan-
cing on Paducah. General Grant acts imme-
diately. Takes possession of Paducah morning
of 6th. Returns same day leaving garrison and
gunboats to hold it.
SEPT. 6. In answer to my urgent and repeated
applications for him, General C. F. Smith arrives
from Washington. The President had made
him Brigadier-General at my special request. I
assign him at once to command at Paducah and
the Kentucky shore of the Mississippi River.
Letter of instructions furnished him which ac-
quaints him with all previous measures taken to
hold Kentucky shore and mouth of the Tennessee
and Cumberland Rivers. Inform him of rebel
advance on Paducah, and of General Grant's
movement the previous night with gunboats and
an adequate force for the mouth of the Tennes-
see and Paducah. General Smith leaves at mid-
night on the 6th on an engine, for Cairo.
SEPT. 8. Letter to the President with detailed
plan of campaign. Movements indicated in this
plan afterward used, but not credited to me.
Begin to feel effects of the withdrawal of the
confidence and support of the Government.
Secret machinations. Emissaries from Wash-
ington sent in to my department to report against
me. Notwithstanding open and secret measures
to paralyze my efforts, I succeed in organizing and
arming a sufficient force to meet General Price in
South-western Missouri. March against him.
Reach Springfield. Troops in an enthusiastic con-
dition. A splendid body of men animated by gen-
uine patriotism. Zagonyi's brilliant charge. Eve
of battle. Receive order when in face of the en-
emy to turn over my command to General Hunter.
Purporting to be from General Scott. Singular
informality in order. General Scott had already
retired " on account of infirmities," and Gen-
eral McClellan was Commander-in-chief. Offi-
cers assemble at my headquarters and urge
movement on Price. His advance being within
fifteen miles. Take leave of army in general
order and leave Springfield for Saint Louis No-
vember 2d. Before reaching Sedalia receive tele-
graphic order from General McClellan, Command-
er-in-chief of the armies, directing me to report
to him my movements in the field. Arrival in Saint
Louis. Enthusiastic reception from the Ger-
mans. Directed to turn over Department to
General Halleck. History of subsequent events
shows that my dispositions in Missouri secured
the North-western States from invasion by Con-
federates and blocked their plan in the Missis-
sippi Valley. Reception in Cincinnati. Remain
in New York until January.
Summoned before Congressional Committee
on Conduct of the War at Washington. Com-
mittee report that " the administration of Gen-
eral Fremont was eminently characterized by
earnestness, ability, and most unquestionable
loyalty," and that "he rightly judged in regard
to the most effective means of subduing this re-
bellion." Splendid sword of honor presented by
the Germans of the West. Ordered to com-
mand of " Mountain Department." Stonewall
Jackson's invasion. Am ordered by the Presi-
dent to leave my Department and cut off his re-
treat. Forced marches. Unprepared troops,
Blenker's division without shoes. Night march
in heavy rain across mountain. Strike Jackson's
column at Strasburg. Junction of General Mc-
Dowell promised by President. Not made.
Running fight of seven days. Hard fighting at
Harrisonburg. " Bucktails." Death of General
Ashby. President telegraphs June gth, "Halt
at Harrisonburg, pursuing Jackson no further."
Overtake Jackson's main force. Battle of Cross
Keys June 8th. Junction promised here by Gen-
eral Shields not made. Jackson crosses Shenan-
doah and burns bridge. President telegraphs
June I2th, " Many thanks to yourself, officers, and
men, for the gallant battle of last Sunday." June
26th ordered to place my own corps and those
with me under Major-General Pope. Conduct of
General Pope while under me in Missouri caused
me to ask to be relieved from the duty to which I
had been assigned under him. My request com-
plied with. Ordered to proceed to New York
" to wait further orders." Applied repeatedly
for active duty. Constantly promised. Never
Turn attention to private affairs. Mariposas
estate sold. Debt upon it of $1,800,000 (eigh-
teen hundred thousand dollars) paid. I recur to
the building of a Pacific railroad. Purchase
franchises and assets of the Kansas Pacific
Presidential campaign. Lincoln and McClel-
lan nominated. Public movement against ad-
ministration. War-governors, editors, leading
men. I am nominated at Cleveland to represent
this feeling. Resign my commission of Major-
ME At O IRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FR&MONT.
General in the regular army. Committee to rep-
resent administration and Republican party sent
to me at New York. Urges withdrawal in favor
of Lincoln. His defeat otherwise inevitable.
Offered terms and patronage. I decline both,
but withdraw to save the party. Letter from
Committee recognizing " the vital service" ren-
San Juan (Oregon) boundary question. Turns
on my map published by order of the Senate in
1848. Settled upon my letter of explanation.
Present Emperor of Germany arbitrator.
Pacific railways. Follow substantially the
lines and passes laid down in my examination of
routes to the Pacific Union Pacific, Central
Pacific Southern Pacific, and San Francisco
and Pacific Railway. Interesting foreign travel.
Contract to build Memphis, El Paso Railroad
under a grant from Texas. Bonds based on
land grant from Texas sold in Paris. Mistake
of French agents represent guaranteed by Unit-
ed States. Difficulties ensuing. These used
and envenomed by railroads interested adverse-
ly. Brought before Senate Committee Pacific
R. R. Senate debate June 21, 1870. My action
and connection with proceedings in France vin-
dicated by unanimous vote of Senate. Honoring
speeches by Senators TrumbuH, Cameron, Nye,
and Sumner. Proceedings instigated in Paris
against the company. Myself not notified by
French court to appear, but condemned by de-
fault for not appearing.
The road solvent, but a receiver, Mr. John
A. C. Gray, appointed by New York courts.
Years of litigation. March I, 1878, receiver ex-
ecutes to me a full release. Accompanied by a
letter, March 2, 1878, *** " I deem it fair to say
that throughout the long and careful scrutiny
which I have made into the affairs of the com-
pany I have found no proof that would sustain
the charges brought against you." *** " Your
condemnation was in continuation, or for non-
appearance, and was not, as I understand it, a
judgment on the merits or on the facts."
Am appointed Governor of Arizona Territory.
Confirmed by Senate. Public dinner from Pio-
neer Society of New York before starting. Grati-
fying evidences of friendly feeling on overland
journey. Chicago. Omaha. Public reception
by Pioneer Association of California at San Fran-
cisco. Hearty welcome of the citizens. Los
Angeles. Camping-out journey from Yuma to
Prescott. Kind reception by the citizens, and
ball of welcome. Incidents of residence in Ari-
zona. Resign in '81.
SOME ACCOUNT OF THE PLATES.
bf 1853 we were Hving in Paris, where Mr. Fremont mas having
his first leisure and rest, and his plan was repose and congenial study
for a year or more longer, when there came from my lather the informa-
tion that Congress had quieted three fines to be jarirjed with a view
to select the best for overland travel and fcimailji a railway : that it
bad been intended that be, Mr. Fremont, should lead one, but as COB-
" 7 T * i ~. i. 1 ~. ' ~ ". ~ 1 r~. ~ 1 ~z-7 ' ' ~_~^ ~ _~_ ~ _~. ~ " * "_ "_ \~.~". ~~* ~ ~- ~ t '-'- " '. _ r.
j4r lettefson 1 *ayn?w bad not named MtLf rncmo^rt CD an^r 01 toe
Captain Gnnmson, who had been given the command of the Eae of
veys intended for Mr. Fremont, was kuled by the Indians in the
part of his voik.
Of the four journeys of exploration already
* ~, ~ "r ~i r. ~ - \ ~. ~ ~.
~~- it .".. ; i " : : -:
which was T^*Til on his own uJnay Mr. Fr
nnh journey at his own expense.
"~ _ ..- _ ^ m ^^^B^a ^BK^k^H^ 1 - - - """- - ^K^K^l d^^B ^K^K -^V-^iVW 4^IM^V^V^B
L oc His^nmiems vrez*c SCBCCDCU HI x^xnsy ano. OH GDC rzw^ IJBWM^CJBI
London to his steamer at Liverpool, be found the jnst pubfished volume
of Cosmos, in which Humboldt, *pfjling of photography, hopes k wZl
be appfied in travel, as secmaf "the truth in Nature."' In New York Ac
dagaerre apparatizs was bought, and a good artist secured, Mr.
And though new < omllifjiii. and
: _ '---: :_ t>.-r ---.--
H_~: : .i: ::r tr.tr. :r.
aid ciade mto photographs by Brady Hi
_ : _- r_- : - . - :.:r: .;-
xvi MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FR&MONT.
the searching tropical damp of the sea voyage back across the Isthmus,
left them unharmed and surprisingly clear, and, so far as is known,
give the first connected series of views by daguerre of an unknown coun-
try, in pictures as truthful as they are beautiful.
During the winter of '55~'56 Mr. Fremont worked constantly at Mr.
Brady's studio aiding to fix these daguerre pictures in their more per-
manent form of photographs. Then at our own house I made a studio
of the north drawing-room, where a large bayed window gave the proper
light. Here for some months Hamilton worked on these views, repro-
ducing many in oil ; he was a pupil of Turner and had great joy in the
true cloud effects as well as in the stern mountains and castellated rock
formations. The engravings on wood were also made under our home
supervision ; by an artist young then, a namesake and grandson of Frank
Key, the author of " The Star-Spangled Banner." From these artists
their work was passed to artist-engravers of the best school of their art.
Darley also contributed his talent. Some pictures he enlarged into india-
ink sketches, and from his hand came the figures in many of the plates.
This work progressed through the busy year to us of 1856.
Mr. George Childs, of Philadelphia, was to bring out the journals of
the various expeditions as a companion book of American travel to the
Arctic journeys of Dr. Kane, then being published by the same house. The
year of '56 gave no leisure however for writing ; what could be done
without too much demand on Mr. Fremont was carried forward, but he
alone could write and that was no time for looking back. Private
affairs had been so much interfered with and necessarily deranged by the
Presidential campaign, that the work proposed to be written and published
was unavoidably delayed, and the contract finally cancelled ; Mr. Fremont
reimbursing Mr. Childs for all the expenditures made in preparation. The
time for writing did not seem to come. Private affairs in California, then
our war, and again private business until now. During these thirty years
the boxes containing the material for this book were so carefully guarded
by me, that all understood they must be saved first in case of fire. When
we were leaving for Arizona in '78 the boxes containing the steel plates
and wood blocks were placed in Morrell's "Fire-Proof" warehouse, which
was destroyed by fire in October of '81. We lost much that was stored
in that warehouse, choice books, pictures, and other treasured things, but
these materials for the book we had had placed for greater security in the
safes below the pavement, where the great fire passed over them and
left them completely unharmed.
My father's portrait is another of the illustrations which have gone
through the ordeal by fire. When his house here was burned in February
of '52, the day chanced to be so cold that the water froze in the hose.
MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT. xvii
There was no adequate water supply, or good appliances for fire here
then, and the firemen could only look on, powerless. Both Houses of
Congress had adjourned immediately on hearing of the fire, and a vast
throng surrounded the doomed house. My father felt their sympathy,
but the volumes of suffocating smoke drove back all who tried to enter,
when there came a young friend, our neighbor, and son of an old friend
and neighbor, Mr. Frank Key (of " The Star-Spangled Banner "), and in
spite of warning cries he plunged into the smoke and fire to save for my
father the portrait of my mother, which he thought was in her former
When he was seen at a front window a great shout of relief rose. Drop-
ping the picture to outstretched arms he climbed to the lintel of the hospita-
ble door no one was ever to pass again and helping hands and roaring shouts
greeted him singed, scorched, but his eyes alight with joy to have saved
the home face to my father. It was a mistake, for the portrait was that
of my father in his younger day. It was the one only thing saved from
all that house so full of accumulated household treasures from both my
mother's and my father's lives and belongings. The library, his own, and
his father's, with the great folios of English state trials from which he began
to read law and history with his mother, was the keenest felt loss. Many
precious private papers were burned, and nearly half the manuscript of the
second volume of the Thirty Years' View.
My house was near and my father came to me. Neither of us had slept
but he made me lie down and we had talked together as only those who
love one another can talk after a calamity. This portrait stood on a dress-
ing table, and we spoke of Barton Key's tender thought and brave effort to
save for him what he would most value, and the pity of the mistake. " It
is well," my father said, " there is less to leave now this has made death
more easy. You will have this picture of me."
I felt the undertone ; but never knew until his life was ended that even
then he was observing and recording for the guidance of his physician,
symptoms which from the first he thought foretold cancer. So wonderful
was his calm endurance that Dr. Hall and Dr. May each thought it might
be another cause and that an operation might restore his health. For a
time it did give relief. Then the disease re-asserted itself. With the cer-
tainty now, with the fierce pain eating away his life, my father rewrote
the burned manuscript and completed his work. He had exacted silence
from his physicians because " my daughters are all young mothers, and
must not be subject to the prolonged distress of knowing my condition
The last likeness, taken by Brady forme in New York in '57, shows the
same energy, will, and directness, but all softened by time and the influence
xviii MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT.
of a mind constantly enlarging and therefore constantly freeing itself from
personal views. And the constant exercise of kindness and protection, so
marked in my father's nature and habits, have left a stamp of benignity
which proves the tender inner nature lying deeper and stronger than that
more commonly known which made his public record of defiant and aggres-
sive leadership, and gives the complete man who was so loved by his
friends and family.
The portrait of Mr. Jefferson is from an excellent copy of the original
by Stuart, belonging to Mrs. JohnW. Burke, of Alexandria, Virginia; the
great-granddaughter of Jefferson, and daughter of Mr. Nicholas Trist, the
intimate friend of Jackson. Through another of Jefferson's immediate de-
scendants, Miss Sarah Randolph, who wrote the beautiful "Domestic Life
of Jefferson," I am indebted for knowledge of this portrait and the intro-
duction to Mrs. Burke who has so kindly let me use it.
The head of Napoleon is from a collection of authentic Bonaparte sou-
venirs, a part of which was bequeathed to me by the Count de la Garde,
a French gentleman who had made his collection in Paris from the days of
the first Consulate. He was already a man of advanced age when we first
knew him there in '52. His father was a member of the last Cabinet of
Louis the i6th, and, as a boy often, he had seen the opening of the great
revolution. In 1804 Bonaparte restored to him the remainder of their fam-
ily estates, and gratitude was added to the sincere admiration he felt for
the master-mind that had brought France to order from anarchy. There
was also a previous link of intermarriage which connected his family with
that of the Beauharnais, and brought friendly intimacy between Prince
Eugene, Queen Hortense, and himself. From among his rich collection he
made up for me an Album of Souvenirs of this historical family, with many
autograph letters and various portraits at different epochs of Napoleon,
Josephine, Hortense, and her brother Eugene and others. The portrait
here given is of Napoleon as First Consul, date 1804.
The Count de la Garde died in 1861, and it shows how little the most
cultivated continental foreigners comprehended our people, when even this
charmingly intelligent man provided in his will "that, should the unhappy
conditions of the country and disorders arising from revolution make it
impossible to trace the Fremont family within a year," then my Album was
to go to the Emperor (Napoleon III.), to whom he left all the rest of his
Of course I received at once at my home in New York the letter of the
Executor, and there should have been no delay in the bequest being sent
to me there after my answer reached Paris.
In place of the Album however came a letter from the Executor, saying
the Emperor wished to keep unbroken all souvenirs of his mother, and would
MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FR&MONT. xix
like to have also what the Count de la Garde had intended for me. That
naturally they were of less interest to me, and that in any matter of personal
interest to myself "aupres de votre gouvernement " the Emperor would lend
Although I repeated my request for the Album it did not come. The
silence made me uneasy. I thought of the simple business American plan
of asking at Wells and Fargo's Express if they could not get it on my order
as a parcel ; explaining the matter and showing them the correspondence.
They agreed with me that a quick, silent move which was a business trans-
action could not be interfered with. And in that way my Alburn was at
once secured, and brought to me. But the year of delay which was to
make it lapse to the Emperor was nearly complete.
Other portraits, belonging with events, and given us for this use, will
be further spoken of in the book.
THOMAS H. BENTON.
IN CONNECTION WITH WESTERN EXPANSION.
BY JESSIE BENTON FREMONT.
WHEN, in the opening of the war ot 1812, my Father, under General
Jackson, marched from Nashville to defend the lower Mississippi, he made
two discoveries which gave new form to his own life and largely moulded
the fate of our Western country to its ocean boundary.
The first, on which depended the other, was, that it lay within the
power of his own will to regain health and live ; the other, that until then
his mind had been one-sided, and that there was a West as well as an
East to our country. This march revealed to him the immense possibili-
ties and future power of the then recent " Louisiana purchase ; " and his
mind gained the needed balance against the exclusively English and sea-
board influences to which he had been born and in which he had been
Quick to see and to foresee, and equally steadfast in living up to his
convictions, his decision was made then ; to leave inherited lands, family
friends, and an already brilliant position in the law, and devote himself to
the new West. To its imperial river the Father of Floods he became
captive, and to it and the lands it drained he gave life-long, faithful, and
accumulating service and homage. My father was so proudly and thor-
oughly American that his departure from all the influences that had created
and until then governed his thoughts shows the power of innate force
against inherited and educated influence.
Born of English parentage on the English seaboard ; brought up in
English and intensely colonial-royalist surroundings ; trained by a scholar!/
2 MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT.
Englishman to English thought and aims ; and with his profession of the
law keeping his mind down to a habit of deference to precedent and safe
usage, my father had reached his thirtieth year before he discovered him-
self. With the great river and his instinct of what the West must become,
came to him the resolve which governed all his after life ; and, by the
happy chance which made me the connecting link, this resolve was con-
tinued and expanded through that of Mr. Fremont. And so the two lives
became one in the work of opening out our Western country to emigration
and secure settlement, and in the further acquisition of Pacific territory
which " gives us from sea to sea the whole temperate zone," and brings to
our Pacific ports, across our continent, that long-contested-for India trade.
In the Park at Saint Louis stands a bronze statue of my father, and
upon its pedestal, below the hand which points WEST, are his prophetic
"THERE is THE EAST;
THERE LIES THE ROAD TO INDIA ; "
words which, when spoken by him, had made men smile significantly to
one another ; too much dwelling on this idea had they thought warped
his mind. " They who listened said, This man is mad ; now they asked,
Hath he a God ? "
Anyone can grasp prepared results. The mind that can see, prepare,
and concentrate chaotic and antagonistic conditions, so that a great result
becomes inevitable, is rarely the one to wear the laurels of completed suc-
cess. Moses led the children of Israel to the Promised land, but he did
not enter there and rest. The heat and burden of the day were for him ;
the fruit was for those whose doubts and discords had made his heaviest
It is the formation phase of this western expansion of our country,
of much that shaped our present national greatness, of which I am able to
tell from my own home knowledge what one might name the fireside
history of the great West.
It is only in connection with this side of his long useful public life that
I here speak of my father ; but to appreciate his departure from all that
had governed his thought and action before he gave in his adhesion to the
West, it is needed to know what were those restraining influences from
which his own far-sighted mind, and his own will, lifted him into the higher
and broader outlook for our future as a completed nation.
His father, English and of reserved and scholarly nature, was out of his
element in the new Republic, having come to it from his student-life as pri-
vate secretary to Governor Tryon, the last of the royal governors of North
Carolina. His natural preference was for settled usages and a life confined
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF SENA TOR BENTON. 3
to his family and his cherished library. This was in five languages, and
he was at home in all five, Greek and Latin and French and Spanish ;
while the English portion was rich in fine editions of the best works.
Shakspere, Don Quixote, and Madame de Sevigne we read in the origi-
nals as my grandfather and father had, from this treasure for a new country.
Governor Tryon had also brought over in his suite a chaplain, a man
of high character and of the same cultivated mind as my grandfather. In
the increasing and angry agitation of the coming separation from the
mother-country, these two men, already close friends, found in each other
increasing harmony of feeling and mutual support. It soon came to be
the strongest earthly support to my grandfather.
He had married into another English family of colonial governors, as
my grandmother, Anne Gooch, was the only child of a younger brother
of Sir William Gooch, who replaced Lord Dunmore as deputy-gover-
nor in his absence from his post in Virginia. New York had a more
"loyal" atmosphere than Richmond, and both Lord Dunmore and Gov-
ernor Tryon were chiefly there during the closing period of English rule.
Their official families bore for them the brunt of the rising storm, and, like
true men, became only the more devoted to their country, for which they
With the end of colonial rule came the end of scholarly rest and se-
clusion for my grandfather. The need for larger provision for many
young children turned him westward, and leaving them in their North
Carolina home, he led a surveying party of sixteen men, the first to make
surveys in Kentucky.
Already his health was giving way under the inroads of pulmonary
disease, which at that date was accepted as a death-sentence, and sub-
mitted to as inevitable. Doubtless the survey-work in the open air, the
change of thoughts, and a new aim in life gained for him a reprieve, and
he persevered until he had secured large landed property, but soon after
his return to North Carolina died there, asking of his faithful friend, the
chaplain, that overlooking care for his family which he could no longer
give them. And faithfully was this charge kept.
It is from my father himself that I know what followed.
He was but eight years of age then, and there were six other children.
He had not seen his mother during her long illness after his father's
death, and when at length he was taken in to her he was struck with awe
and terror. In place of the young mother he knew, with bright brown
hair crowning her stately head, and health and animation lighting her blue
eyes, he saw a thin, white-faced, white-haired woman, who put his hand
on that of a baby-girl, and told him that he was now the head of the fam-
ily, the eldest son, and must be her help in taking care of the others.
4 MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT.
" When I came out I rushed into the grove, and there, with cries and
tears, / made war on myself until I could accept that ghost in place of my
There the chaplain found him. He had looked for him there, I am
sure. Knowing the boy's vitality, his strong affections, and his powerful,
self-reliant will, he must have felt that it was only to Nature he would turn
in this his first contest with the inevitable.
Coming back from chapel the Sunday following this memorable day,
the chaplain led him by the hand through the grove, and taking a little
Greek Testament from his pocket, read to him a verse, making him repeat
it correctly as he pronounced it after him, then giving him the meaning,
and so continuing the oral lesson until they neared the house. It was the
Sermon on the Mount, and his first lesson in Greek was the blessing on
" they that mourn," with its promise that " they shall be comforted."
These lessons in Greek, and in Latin also, were continued faithfully by
the true friend. Fair instruction, of the ordinary kind, was given him at a
good college school ; but his true education was from the chaplain, from
his mother, and through the fine library of his father. From its great fo-
lios of " English State Trials " my father had his first law lessons, his
mother interesting him in them by choosing the narrative portions, and
giving him the needed links of information, then drawing from him his im-
pressions in discussion on the readings. The wise mother made these
readings a reward, and prevented any undue influence of such large ideas
by encouraging the wholesome out-door life which the four brothers, with
horse, dog, and gun, made for themselves.
The moulding influence of this uncommon woman was too life-long and
ennobling for her to be omitted from a just account of my father. From
her example and her teaching he was trained to industry, to truth, cour-
age, and justice a good woman's sense of justice, which includes mercy ;
which causes justice to be thorough by making action follow conviction ;
to that moral courage which sustains and defends conviction ; above all to
the succor and protection of the weak and oppressed. Those who know
my father's public life will recognize these underlying forces.
In the brief memoranda for a biographical notice made by himself when
nearing his certain and painful death ; in recalling what then seemed best
worth recording, there comes first the grateful tribute to his Mother.
Then, the fact that, when in the Legislature of Tennessee, he had been
the author of " a humane law, still on her statute-books, giving to slaves
the full benefit of jury trial which was the right of white men under the
same accusation." This originated in the case of a slave-woman accused
of murder, for whom he volunteered as counsel, and defended her success-
fully on arguments which Maudsly has put in use to-day.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF SENA TOR BENTON. 5
In his young time, in a Southern country, this was a brave outcome of
the active sense of justice which a woman had taught him to feel for all
women, even those "despised of men."
When he was sixteen they removed to Tennessee, to their large
landed property near Nashville, which the father's forethought had se-
cured for his young family. There they commenced cotton-planting. My
Father and his three brothers, with the head-negroes, went out one fine
night to make a final survey of the ripened crop which lay white and beau-
tiful in the moonlight. The next day found it blackened by frost, and
with it withered all the plans founded on its sale. This decided my Father
against planting, as "a pursuit of which he could not influence the re-
And he turned to the study of law, keeping at the same time an active
supervision of the estate, the family, and the safety of their little colony.
For from the southern border of " the Widow Benton's estate," through to
the Gulf of Mexico, was unbroken and warlike Indian territory. And lead-
ing directly through their lands was the war-trail of neighboring Indian
He was admitted early to practice, and soon had the friendship of Gen-
eral Jackson among other important settlers. Later, when a member of
the General Assembly of the State, he was the author of the Judicial Re-
form Act, by which the administration of justice was relieved of much delay,
expense, and inconvenience to all concerned. This too, came from the
home readings and discussions, and was an effort to combine justice with
Then came the war of 1812, when, enlisting under Jackson who was
major-general of the Tennessee militia, he made the march to the defence
of the lower Mississippi which was to radically alter his plan of life, and
lead to great good for our whole country.
Doubtless, in leaving North Carolina, his mother had had fresh grief in
parting from all the visible memories of her happy time. But she was not
of the women who vainly look back, or make their lament aloud ; the one
blow that struck the color from her life, as from her hair, killed all personal
interest in living ; leaving her only for duty and protecting love for her chil-
dren. This, and the many cares of a Southern household of old days, the
newer conditions of the large estate, and the obligations of neighborhood
in a new country, she was faithful to.
But there came a time when her love and protection could not avail her
children. They all grew up apparently full of health and fine promise ; but
five of the eight died, as their father had died, of rapid consumption. " The
Grave of the Three Sisters " is still a known landmark near Nashville,
although a great tree has grown up in the enclosure, and partly uprooted
6 MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT. ,
its stone walls and the family grave-stones ; the burial-place of their slaves
hard-by, as was the custom remains comparatively undisturbed.
When my father found himself on the same sad downward road when
constant fever, the hacking cough, and restless nights and days without
energy admonished him that his turn had come, he felt despair. " If it
had been a battle I would have had a chance, or even in a desperate duel,
but for this there was no chance. All was fixed and inevitable."
The war coming then he hailed the occasion to end his life in action
rather than in the slow progress of a fatal illness.
As we have seen in our late war, whole neighborhoods of young men
went out together, and distinctions of private and officer were only used
when on duty. " Sam " Houston was a corporal in the regiment of which
my father was colonel, and when they were in the Senate together the
ex-President of Texas often signed himself " Your friend and old sub-
Some of the young men were not so practised in walking as my Father,
and he lent them his horses, himself going on foot. Of course they carried
but little baggage, and he supplied the want of fresh clothing by constant
baths in the running waters of streams by the way, drying the skin in
sunshine. This, with the abundant exercise which opened the pores and
threw off fevered conditions, the sleep in open air, the simple regular food,
all combined to bring about such changes that hope came to him. His
own observations taught him how to follow up these indications of possible
health ; and, in brief, seventy years ago my father found for himself the
way out of inherited conditions of pulmonary disease by the same means
so successfully ordered in our present time open air, night and day ;
abundant perspiration from steady exercise ; bathing and rubbing, always
if possible in sunshine ; always, all the sunshine possible ; simple food
regularly taken ; and " to forget yourself in some pursuit."
All his life my father needed to keep as close to these rules as circum-
stances permitted. The continued use of his voice in speaking in public
was prepared for by silence for days previous and was almost sure to be
followed by flecks of blood from the throat, but his self-control gained him
the superb health which was so great a factor in his usefulness.
The English did not come so soon as they were looked for, and when
General Jackson returned to Tennessee my father applied for active service,
and was commissioned by President Madison a Lieutenant-Colonel of the
regular army (39th Infantry) and was sent to Canada on his first duty.
What he saw there of the antagonism of French and English added to
his interest in the people of the " Louisiana purchase," whose French set-
tlers were both grieved and angered by their abrupt transfer to their tra-
ditional enemy ; for they cared little about other differences where Ian-
THOMAS H. BENTON.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF SENATOR BEN TON. 7
guage, laws, and religion were those they were accustomed to hate as
When peace was declared my father resigned from the army and estab-
lished his new home at Saint Louis. There was no further change. The
winter home was in Washington, where his thirty years in the Senate made
a home of our own a necessity. But my grandmother remained at the
Saint Louis house always ; with her own old servants and some young
grandchildren children of another son whose health could not brave the
Saint Louis winters beautiful and unusually fine children who gave young
life about the house before our day, and of whom one has always been like
a dear elder sister. When I was in England in '51, my father in writing
to me of the death of my only brother, says " Your cousin Sarah has been
constantly with us. Her face, always lovely to me, has been that of an
While in the army my father made the friendship with General James
Preston of Virginia which led to what he held to be the crowning good
fortune of his life his marriage to my mother, who was the niece of Gen-
eral Preston. It was his singular good fortune to have both in his mother
and his wife friends and sharers in his largest ideas, while every soothing
charm of a well-ordered home came as second nature from my mother's
influence. To him home brought the strength of peace and repose, and
he never suffered the outside public atmosphere of strife to enter there.
" Peace and honor charmed the air."
And in its warmth long-closed memories bloomed anew. Some trouble in
tuning a guitar was making one of my sisters impatient, " Bring it to me,"
spoke my father from his table covered with books and work. We
looked on while with strong but light and skilful touch he turned the
pegs, and tuned it perfectly, trying a few chords. The sight of " Father
playing the guitar " made an outcry from the youngest, but we elder girls
felt we must not speak ; when he himself, handing it back, and doubtless
seeing some pitying tenderness of look in us, said gently " I often
tuned their guitar for my sisters, and sang with them " and to one of us,
" You are like the youngest." Of his brothers we had had many and
many a hunting story, and knew their dogs by name, and the gray horse
which must have had a troubled life among them, but of the sisters this
was all he ever said. But we knew they made the hidden source of his
unfailing gentleness to all women. My grandmother lived to past eighty,
in fullest clearness of mind sharing and aiding her son's life ; and except
for his needed absences in Washington they had no separations. They
rest together near Saint Louis by the Great River mother and son and
around them are their children to the third and fourth generations.
8 MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT.
Saint Louis was in 1817, when my father established himself there,
only a village in numbers, but it had a large and stirring life and great
interests which found their outlet and pathway to the sea down the Mis-
sissippi. It was like a port on the border of its vast dimly known In-
dian country, with its business extending deep into Mexico and through
to Sonora and the Gulf of California ; and across the Rocky Mountains
into Oregon to the Pacific Ocean. The armed caravans of merchandise
crossing this dangerland encountered not only the perils from savages
intent on plunder, but the jealous capricious interferences of Spanish
policy ; while the small army of hunters and trappers and traders and
voyageurs belonging with the American Fur Company had in addition to
the Indians to meet the covert but powerful hostility of the Hudson Bay
Fur Company, and consequent collision with English policy. The whole
condition of loss to us and increasing gain and strength to England com-
ing from the joint-occupation of the Columbia; the resulting loss of life
and driving out of the American Fur trade ; the increasing settlements of
English subjects fostered by their government and encouraged to hold the
land made the situation my father found governing Saint Louis.
Fresh from his military life he found himself confronting English ag-
gression in another form. The little French town so far in the centre of
our continent found itself direct heir to the duel of a century between
England and France for the New World and the Asiatic trade, and,
France having withdrawn, was meeting the added resentment of English
feeling against her late subjects, who now replaced France in that contest.
The few years intervening between his arrival among them and his being
sent in 1821 to represent them as their first Senator, gave my father time
to learn fully their interests, and the sources of information were unusual
and each of the highest value.
The venerable General Clarke, who had under Jefferson first explored
Oregon and the Columbia, was ending his days quietly but in large use-
fulness in Saint Louis. He was the chief Superintendent of all western
Indians, a post in which his experience and high character gave the best
results to the Indians as well as to our Government. Much of what now
belongs with the Indian Bureau and Department of the Interior was thus
in his control, even the making of treaties. General Clarke had married
a connection of my mother's, and there was a family and neighborly inti-
macy between the two homes. All that one mind can take from that of
another who has had the advantage of seeing, my father gathered from
General Clarke in regard to his exploration. And of the evils growing
out of the permitted joint-occupation ; a permission fast growing into a
right of possession, and already harassing and excluding American set-
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF SENATOR BENTON. 9
The headquarters of the Fur Company were with the Chouteaus, an
old French family who had come up from New Orleans for this business
sixty years before, and remained there ; overseeing, themselves and
through younger branches, the ramified increasing business which en-
riched them and gave profitable employment to so many adventurous men.
From these all the heads of the House to the last arrived voyageur my
father eagerly and perseveringly gleaned information, and gained grounds
for his maturing resolve to carry out Jefferson's plan of overland commu-
nication with the Asiatic countries, and to hold for ourselves the port on
the Pacific which was its key ; and for this to end the impossible condi-
tion of combined use of our Oregon territory. Mr. Jefferson had scorned
this idea when applied to the Mississippi. He would not even refer to
the Senate the treaty containing this provision. What would the English
not have made of " treaty-rights" for "free navigation of the Mississippi
and access to it through the territories of the United States" which was
their renewed attempt at Ghent in 1814.
From the Pere Marquette through to Father de Smet, the missionary
priests of the Catholic Church had a great part in opening up our western
Indian country, and creating centres of order and good influence wherever
they founded their missions. The transfer of Louisiana had been followed
by the watchful care of their Church, which did not abandon its Spanish
and French people to the new conditions, but sent to them clergy of high
dignity and governing minds who made for them new importance and en-
larged advantages. Special attention was given to establishments for edu-
cation. Bishop Du Bourg brought over five Sisters of the Sacred Heart
from the famous mother-house in Paris where the daughters of royalty are
sent for training. These ladies were of noble families, and their gentle,
refined manners, their pure French and accomplishments, gave to the young
girls of Saint Louis the same advantages they would have to-day at the
Sacre-Cceur in Paris. My father, who comprehended the power of edu-
cation and promoted it in all forms, was glad to use this rare advantage
for his young niece. There was an odd reason for his constant pleasant
intercourse with the Bishop aside from public causes.
Those about M. Du Bourg were, like himself, French. He needed to
acquire fluent English for all uses, and for use from the pulpit. It was a
point of honor among the older French not to learn English many never
did so at all " ye suis Francais dc France ct je parle ma langue" they
would say, ignoring the need for the other language and looking down
with reprobation on their descendants born and living contentedly under
" foreign " rule, and speaking English. The older people never reacted
from the shock of anger and pain which came to them, as their simple
annals record, "on this qtk of July, 1803, at 7 p.m." when they learned
MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT.
indirectly at first that " Louisiana has been sold by Napoleon to the
To force himself into familiar practice the Bishop therefore secluded
himself for a while with the family of an American farmer, where he would
hear no French. Soon he had gained enough to announce a sermon in
English, on some occasion of general interest which crowded the Cathedral.
My father was there, and as among other languages the Chaplain had
taught him a fastidious use of English, his feelings can be imagined when
the polished, refined Bishop said to the hushed crowd :
" My friends : / ant right-down glad to see suck a smart chance of
folks here to-day."
What he thought to say was the paternal gentle " Mes Amis," " I am
profoundly happy to see here such an assemblage."
To feel and to act were one thing with my father, and his offered assist-
ance led to an intimacy in which he was as much the gainer in cultivated
French as was the Bishop in equivalent English.
By this time my father's thoughts were all converging on the vital im-
portance to our new possession of ridding it of English interference, and
through the Bishop, also, he learned much bearing on his main idea. The
missionary priests reported to the Bishop, and their experience swelled the
evidence gained through the Fur Company and its employes, that the joint
occupation of the Columbia was the virtual loss of that part of our territory ;
that our fur trade was already driven out ; that American settlers were
harassed many killed by Indians friendly with the Hudson Bay Com-
pany ; and that our Government was giving no encouragement or protec-
tion to our people, while in every way fostering care was given to English
settlers who were taking up the land.
What to do ? " There is all the difference possible between the man
who possesses his subject and the man who is possessed by it."
My father became possessed by this Oregon question. He had that
fire of devotion to an idea which transmutes the thought of many into
united defined action, and his courage always rose with obstacles.
Oregon was far, unfamiliar, of no distinct interest to the East.
The one man who had foreseen and planned our ownership of its Pa-
cific port, with the resulting gain of overland commerce from Asia peopling
our waste lands and enriching the whole country, was not then in power.
After his many years of extraordinary services Mr. Jefferson was ending
his days in much care from fortune lost while serving his country and neg-
lecting his own interests. To him, at his mountain home in Virginia, my
father made a visit the Christmas of 1824; he felt it a pilgrimage. The
commonplace topic of the bad roads was lifted by the mind of genius into
a talk which became the link in a chain of national progress ; a talk into
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF SENATOR BENTON. n
which there came an unconscious touch of pain which will find echo in
American hearts as unworthy to have been inflicted on that noble mind.
From the local road they came to speak of the need for national aid to
roads for the spread of our people westward.
My father, having now the vantage-ground of the Senate, was endeav-
oring to get for those of his constituents whose business led them into
Mexican trade as far as to the " Sea of Cortez " (the old name for the
Gulf of California), a right of way in Mexico, and consequent protection
by both republics. This was meeting opposition on the perennial objec-
tion of " creating a precedent." Mr. Jefferson said this objection would be
disposed of by a similar road made in the closing year of his administra-
tion. He said there could be found in the Library of Congress a manu-
script copy of this map bound up in a volume of maps, formerly his own.
" Formerly ! " Could not the representatives of that people who owed
so much to him have given him the pitiful price they paid for his library
and left it .with him, undisturbed, to console the few remaining years of his
old age and poverty ?
"The sympathies of the American people are instantaneous, and alive
to any deeds of merit brought to their notice. But the conscience of the
people of this country is not in their own keeping. It is a delegated con-
Mr. Jefferson's intention to secure for his country the Asiatic trade by
an overland route across our continent so directly governed the three lives
written of in this book that I give here to this point some detail, though
nothing befitting his foresight and perseverance.
Before the American captain, Captain Gray of Boston, had actually
found the mouth of the Columbia, in 1790, Jefferson, then our Minister to
France, met in Paris the English traveller Ledyard, who was about to ex-
plore the Nile. Mr. Jefferson turned him from this to what both felt to be
a fresher and more useful field of discovery. I have listened to such talks ;
and can fancy the fascination to the born explorer in listening to Jefferson's
theory that the snow-clad Rocky Mountains, which shed their waters to
the east in such a mighty stream as the Missouri, must have a correspond-
ing water-shed and great river to the west. No explorer had trod its
banks, no navigator found its mouth ; but where Jefferson thought such a
river should be, is the Columbia.
Jefferson obtained for Ledyard the passport which carried him to Saint
Petersburg, where he received the permission of the Empress Catherine
to traverse her dominions in a high northern latitude to their eastern ex-
tremity ; then he would cross the sea from Khamschatka, or at Behring's
Straits ; and, descending the northwest coast of America, come down the
river which they were certain must have its head opposite that of the Mis-
12 MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT.
souri ; ascend it to its source in the Rocky Mountains, and then follow the
Missouri to the French settlements of the Upper Mississippi, thence home.
By what petty intrigue, or whose small mind overthrew such a grand
plan we cannot know very small causes aid to determine the fate of great
events but all the large thought of Jefferson, the enterprise of Ledyard,
and the intelligent co-operation of the Empress Catherine were defeated
when Ledyard, who had already reached Siberia, was overtaken by an
order revoking his permission, and conducted back " as a spy " out of
The Nile exploration was resumed ; to end in the early death of the
enthusiastic young explorer.
When, as President he had the power, Mr. Jefferson renewed his plan,
and projected the Expedition of Lewis and Clarke ; and having obtained
the consent of Congress, sent them to discover the head and course of the
river, whose mouth was then known ; giving to Congress in his message
the reason that this would " open overland commercial relations with Asia ;
and enlarge the boundaries of geographical science "-putting as the first
motive a North-American road to India, and the introduction of Asiatic
trade over that road. What proud emotion must have filled him when he
secured from France our ownership of that vast " Louisiana purchase "
the mouth of the Columbia and the mouth of the Mississippi, and all the
lands they drained throughout their mighty length ! When in an English
treaty a clause was inserted providing free navigation on the Mississippi
and access through our territories to it President Jefferson would not even
refer it to the Senate but suppressed it himself. Here again was the same
intention to regain something of the lost power over us, to acquire such
hold in Oregon as would enable her to keep the mouth of the Columbia,
and add that port on the Pacific to those of Gibraltar, Malta, the Cape of
Good Hope, and her other such outposts.
The story of varying intrigues, now bold, now crafty, is long, but it
was now with her own children she was dealing, and with men who had
felt the war of the revolution and that of 1812, and who had not laid
their armor by, and were ready to resist any further attempts at dominion.
My father was a man grown when the Mississippi and the Columbia
were French property and Saint Louis and New Orleans French ports.
Although so bred and tutored in English feeling and knowledge, yet there
lay all about him the atmosphere of our successful rebellion against unjust
abuse of power, and the going to Tennessee had opened his mind to still
more American impressions of self-reliance and thought. The military
episode which gave him back health, and revealed to him the future of the
West, brought also reliance on his own will. He had found it could con-
trol the issues of life and death ; he came back to the new life conscious of
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF SENATOR BENTON. 13
an ally within himself on which he could surely rely his own will. And
in his work to make secure our Pacific outlet that will never faltered, but
gained strength from opposition, and expanded with the greatness of the
In 1813, while this new life was coming to my father, there began,
again on the eastern sea-coast, another life which was to be in alliance
with his ; to carry forward and enlarge his plans ; and to seize opportunity
to bring them to a higher and more grand realization than one life alone
The renewal ol the joint-occupation of the Columbia had effectually dis-
couraged American enterprise, and infused new life into the English occu-
pation ; their encroachments were continued in various forms, now open,
now covert ; they even built upon the Columbia River a cordon of forts
ostensibly for " defence " against Indians, who were in reality allies of the
Hudson Bay Company, and made fur-trading and trapping impossible to
Every measure proposed by their western friends for protection was met
by opposition, curious to read to-day. Even so late as '43 the ignorance,
the indifference, the blindness to the value of our Pacific territory the
heedless inattention to the evidence of living history as to England's per-
tinacious designs on that coast, is shown in the debates on every bill. On
one giving lands to settlers, while a Senator from Ohio (then a very west-
ern State), Mr. Tappan, supported the measure and said 50,000 settlers
with their 50,000 rifles should be given lands to colonize the banks of the
Oregon, there was open expression that this would give offence to England,
and the vote to strike out the land-donation clause was very close, 24 to 22.
Allen of Ohio led the vote in favor of lands for colonists.
Yeas : Allen, Benton, Buchanan, Clayton, Fulton, Henderson, King,
Linn, McRoberts, Mangum, Merrick, Phelps, Sevier, Smith of Connecticut,
Smith of Indiana, Sturgeon, Tappan, Walker, White, Wilcox, Williams,
Woodbury, Wright, Young.
Nays : Archer, Bagby, Barrow, Bates, Bayard, Berrien, Calhoun,
Choate, Conrad, Grants, Dayton, Evans, Graham, Huntington, McDuffie,
Miller, Porter, Rives, Simmons, Sprague, Tallmadge, Woodbridge.
They could not get the House to act upon the bill, but this vote of
the Senate encouraged the West, and they went forward and planted the
colony which forced the stand against England that our Congress had been
unwilling to make. The debate is too long for this paper, but belongs in
the book as part of the ground for the explorations and other acts for our
national as well as for our western benefits. It is strange to-day to see how
our Government refused its own great property ; on what grounds it left it
to England and, with some, how it was scorned and regretted as a possession.
i 4 MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT.
Mr. McDuffie of South Carolina openly regretted we owned it ; that it was
" worthless except a mere strip along the sea-coast the rest, mountains
almost inaccessible, and lowlands covered with stone and volcanic remains ;
where rain never falls except during the spring, and even on the coast no
rain falls from April to October, and for the remainder of the year there is
nothing but rain. Why, sir, of what use will this be for agricultural pur-
poses ? I would not for that purpose give a pinch of snuff for the whole
territory. I wish to God we did not own it. . . . Who are we to send
there ? Do you think honest farmers in Pennsylvania, New York, or even
Ohio and Missouri, will abandon their farms to go upon any such enterprise
as that ? God forbid ! If any man who is to go to that country under the
temptations of this bill was my child if he was an honest, industrious man,
I would say to him, for God's sake do not go there. . . . But if I had
a son whose conduct was such as made him a fit subject for Botany Bay, I
would say to him in the name of God, go."
And further that England would be offended and forced into war " in
defence of her rights and her honor."
Mr. Calhoun was as strongly opposed to the bill as his colleague, though
his keen intelligence made him see " the value of the territory and the com-
mercial advantages in communicating with China and Japan which should
not be lost." He takes an admirable far-sighted view of this. But he too
thinks the danger of war too great, and the possession so remote that
we could not meet the difficulty and expense of defending it. He thinks
" Time " is our best ally, and " a wise and masterly inactivity."
My father admitted that England would take offence, and that it was
her intention to do so whatever we might do. But that was not the ques-
tion. Had she the right to take offence ? It was agreed she had not.
Then, he was for going forward on our rights, and not taking counsel of
fear. " Neither nations nor individuals ever escaped danger by fearing it.
They must face it and defy it."
Mr. Nicollet, a French astronomer and savant of distinction, who had
already spent some years in his own studies of the river and its Indians, had
just finished for our Government a two years' survey of the country between
the Missouri and Mississippi ; coming to Washington to make up his re-
port, he found in my father an appreciative friend. Mr. Fremont had been
the topographical engineer of the surveys, and was now making up its
maps. My father found so much to inform and interest him in this Mis-
sissippi work, that quickly there grew up close and friendly relations. He
communicated to them his earnest feeling of the need for further western
surveys in the interest of our emigration to Oregon. The inevitable result
of our " conciliatory " policy on the joint-occupation had now reached a point
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF SENATOR BENTON. 15
at which one or the other country must be the only holder ; a short time
later it threatened war, and it was only in '46 that the subject was settled
as it stands to-day. Immediate surveys which should mark out the road
for emigration, and at least imply government interest and protection,
seemed to my father the nearest measure. Mr. Nicollet entered into the
idea with enthusiasm though his health was much worn by unusual discom-
forts and exposures, but in Mr. Fremont my father found his Ledyard.
Coming home from school in an Easter holiday, I found Mr. Fremont
part of my father's " Oregon work." It was the spring of '41 ; in Octo-
ber we were married, and in '42 the first expedition was sent out under
Mr. Fremont. Mr. Nicollet died during the summer, regretting he could
have no part in this great and useful development of the country which
had been part of France.
This first encouragement to the emigration westward fitted into so large
a need that it met instant favor, and a second was ordered to connect with
it further surveys to the sea-coast of Oregon. At last my father could feel
his idea " moved." Of his intense interest and pride and joy in these
expeditions I knew best ; and when it came in my way to be of use to them
and protect his life-time work, there was no shadow of hesitation. Mr.
Fremont was at the frontier getting his camp and animals into complete
travelling condition when (as with Ledyard) there came an order recall-
ing him to Washington ; where he was to explain why he had armed his
party with a howitzer ; that the howitzer had been charged to him ; that
it was a scientific and not a military expedition, and should not have been
so armed ; and that he must return at once to Washington and " explain."
Fortunately I was alone in Saint Louis, my father being out of town.
It was before telegraphs ; and nearly a week was required to get letters
either to the frontier or to Washington. I was but eighteen, an age at
which consequences do not weigh against the present. The important thing
was to save the expedition, and gain time for a good start which should
put it beyond interference. I hurried off a messenger the mails were
slow to Mr. Fremont, writing that he must start at once and never mind
the grass and animals, they could rest and fatten at Bent's Fort ; only, go,
and leave the rest to my father ; that he could not have the reason for
haste, but there was reason enough.
To the Colonel of the Topographical Bureau who had given the order of
recall I answered more at leisure. I wrote him exactly what I had done and
to him I gave the reason. That I had not sent forward the order nor let
Mr. Fremont know of it because it was given on insufficient knowledge and
to obey it would ruin the expedition ; that it would require a fortnight to
settle the party, leave it, and get to Washington and indefinite delay there
another fortnight for the return, and by that time the early grass would
1 6 MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT.
be past its best and the underfed animals would be thrown into the
mountains for the winter ; that the country of the Blackfeet and other fierce
tribes had to be crossed, and they knew nothing of the rights of science.
When my father came he entirely approved my wrongdoing and wrote to
Washington that he would be responsible for my act ; and that he would
call for a court-martial on the point charged against Mr. Fremont. But
there was never further question of the wisdom of arming his party suf-
ficiently in fact it was but a pretext. The precious time had been se-
cured and " they'd have fleet feet who follow " where such purpose leads
the advance. I had grown up to and into my father's large purpose ;
and now that my husband could be of such aid to him in its accom-
plishment, I had no hesitation in risking for him all consequences. We
three understood each other and acted together then- and later without
question or delay.
That expedition led directly to our acquiring California ; which was
accomplished during the third, and last, of the expeditions made under the
Government. My father was a man grown when our western boundary
was the Mississippi. In 1821 he commenced in the Senate his champion-
ship of a quarter of a century for our new territory on the Pacific. Now
with California added he could say in that Senate :
" We own the country from sea to sea from the Atlantic to the
Pacific and upon a breadth equal to the length of the Mississippi and
embracing the whole temperate zone."
The long contest, the opposition, the indifference, the ignorance, the
sneering doubts were in the past. From his own hearth had gone forth
the one who carried his hopes to fullest execution ; and who now after
many perils and anxieties was back in safety even to a seat in the Senate
beside him. Who had enabled him to make true his prophetic words
carved on the pedestal of his statue in Saint Louis, whose bronze hand
points West :
" THERE is THE EAST ;
THERE is THE ROAD TO INDIA."
For with our Pacific ports came to us that Asiatic trade which was
the underlying cause of all the wars of France and England for a hun-
dred years. France lost India Canada and the vigilant English navy
prevented her from protecting Louisiana. Then Napoleon avenged him-
self and made the master move which checkmated England by giving over
to her rebellious colonies the Mississippi and the Columbia.
England was loth to lose her grasp. She tried to get by treaty free
navigation of the Mississippi and right of way over our territories in ac-
cess to it. But Jefferson was President. He would not even lay before
the Senate the treaty containing that clause.
BENTON MONUMENT ST. LOUIS, MO.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF SENATOR BENTOJST. 17
England tried then by force to get New Orleans and failed. Then
followed her attempt to colonize and in that way hold Oregon under the
permitted joint-occupation, weakly prolonged by our Government until we
barely escaped war in regaining our boundary.
There remained the Mexican territory of California with its noble
harbor of San Francisco ; surveyed by England as her own.
The issue had narrowed as to who should possess this the finest har-
bor on the coast.
In the early home readings my father had studied the trial of Warren
Hastings, and Clive and India were almost as close to his boyhood as
our war is to the boys of to-day. The struggle for India and its trade
" greater than that of Tyre and Sidon " made the story of a great war on
a background of oriental splendor.
To gain for one's country a great rich land was the glory to be envied
by him in those dreams of boyhood when nothing seems impossible.
What mysterious foreshadowing may not have moved him to the long
labors that led to a greater and richer addition to his own country ? That
enabled America to hold the Golden Gate to the commerce of the Pacific ?
With her territory we inherited from France her long contest, and now
when the Mexican war opened up a fresh opportunity it was England and
America who faced each other.
Two men were in position to use deciding influence, and both under-
stood the crisis and each other, my father in Washington with his estab-
lished power in the Senate ; Mr. Fremont on the ground where the decisive
blow must be given.
The tenacity of purpose, the staying-power of England was impersonated
in one of her American descendants, and the partly French blood added
French audacity of execution to the other whose life and purpose was inter-
woven with that of my father.
Long thought and deliberation had ripened hopes and plans : when the
signal came the duel of a century was ended by the raising of the American
MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE.
BY JOHN CHARLES FREMONT.
1828-33 School days 1833-36 Cruise on U. S. S. Natchez 1836-37 Appointed Pro-
fessor of Mathematics in the Navy Assistant Engineer under Captain Williams
Work in Mountains of North and South Carolina 1837-38 Threatened hostilities
with Cherokee Indians, etc., etc.
LOOKING back over the years of the life which I am about to transfer to
the blank pages before me, I see in its earlier part but few things worthy of
note. The lights and shadows of schoolboy life are like April weather.
There is much sunshine and the clouds pass quickly. Farther along the
shadows darken and lengthen. But the current events which belong to early
life make slight impressions and have no consequences. They do not extend
their influence into the time when life begins in earnest. Looking back over
the misty road I dwell with mixed feelings upon the pictures that rise up in
my memory. Not upon all with pleasure.
Yet they are part of myself and represent pleasant scenes and faces that
were dear, now dim in the obscurity of years. But on these pages I recur
only to those passages in my early life which had some connnection with its
after part and were a governing influence in it. Throughout, at different
periods it has been my good fortune to be in familiar relations with men who
were eminent, each in his own line, all of whom were individualized by char-
acter and some distinguished by achievement. Even if insensibly, such asso-
ciations influence the course of life and give its coloring to it. The early
part of mine was desultory. " The path that men are destined to walk "
had not been marked out for me. Later events determined this, and mean-
time I had freedom of choice in preparatory studies.
At sixteen I was a good scholar. My teacher, who became my friend as
well, was a Scotch gentleman who had been educated at Edinburgh ; he was
thoroughly imbued with classic learning, and lived an inner life among the
Greeks and Latins. Under his enthusiastic instruction I became fond as
SCHOOL AND COLLEGE DA YS. 19
himself of the dead languages, and to me also they became replete with
living images. I entered upon the study of Greek with genuine pleasure and
excitement. It had a mysterious charm for me as if behind the strange
characters belonging to an ancient world I was to find things of wonderful
interest. I loved to pore over the volumes of old Greek plays in their
beautiful Edinburgh print that were among my teacher's cherished books
and the fresh ones that occasionally came to him from Scotland. Filled
with the figures of that ancient world into which I had entered they re-
main stamped as pleasing bits into the recollections of that time, and show
how completely my mind was possessed by my work. The years spent in
this way gave me habits of study and laid the foundation for a knowledge
of modern languages which long afterward became valuable in important
Upon the strength of these studies I now entered at once into the junior
class at the Charleston college, though far behind it in other branches and
especially in mathematics. But this new field interrupted the close relations
with my friend and teacher Dr. John Roberton. Many years afterward,
in reading the introduction to his translation of Xenophon's Anabasis I
had the pleasure to find him speaking of me as " his once beloved and fa-
vorite pupil his prodigious memory and enthusiastic application."
I was fond of study, and in what I had been deficient easily caught up
with the class. In the new studies I did not forget the old, but at times I
neglected both. While present at class I worked hard, but frequently
absented myself for days together. This infraction of college discipline
brought me frequent reprimands. During a long time the faculty forbore
with me because I was always well prepared at recitation, but at length,
after a formal warning neglected, their patience gave way and I was expelled
from college for continued disregard of discipline. I was then in the senior
class. In this act there was no ill-feeling on either side. My fault was such
a neglect of the ordinary college usages and rules as the faculty could not
overlook and I knew that I was a transgressor.
A few years afterward the faculty voluntarily revised their decision and
conferred on me the degree of Bachelor and Master of Arts, so taking me
back into the fold. Meantime I had my compensation. The college author-
ities had wrapped themselves in their dignity and reluctantly but sternly in-
flicted on me condign punishment. To me this came like summer wind, that
breathed over something sweeter than the " bank whereon the wild thyme
blows." I smiled to myself while I listened to words about the disappoint-
ment of friends and the broken career. I was living in a charmed atmos-
phere and their edict only gave me complete freedom. What the poets dwell
on as " the rarest flower of life " had bloomed in my path only seventeen
I was passionately in love. This was what had made me regardless of
20 MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT.
discipline and careless of consequences. This was the true rebel that car-
ried me off to pleasant days and returned me buoyant at night to hard work
in order to catch up with my class next morning. With my memory full
of those days, as the recollection rises to the surface I put it down here.
This is an autobiography and it would not be true to itself if I left out the
bit of sunshine that made the glory of my youth what Schiller calls " his
glorious youth." It is only a few lines, a tribute which as they reappear
around me I give to the pleasant companions who made life gay at that
time. There will be enough hereafter of grave and hard, conflict and dis-
sension, violence and injury and fraud ; but none of these things were known
to us, that little circle of sworn friends, who were gathering our spring flow-
ers. We took no thought for the harvest but gathered our cornflowers from
the upspringing grain.
I remember, once along the banks of the Des Moines, a botanist with
me stooped down and grasped the clustered head of a low flowering plant.
Under the broad leaves lay coiled a rattlesnake, close to his hand. Geyer
escaped, but itgave him a spasm that made him dig his heels into the ground
and jerk his arms nervously about as he threw off the shock.
Always afterward he looked for snakes among his flowers. With ours
there were never any. Some thorns perhaps as I hadjust found, but these
go with the sweetest flowers.
Since I was fourteen years old I had been intimate with a creole family
who had escaped from the. San Domingo massacre. With the mother and
grandmother, there were two boys and three girls. The elder of the boys
was older than I, the girls all younger. The eldest of the three girls was
Cecilia. They were all unusually handsome ; clear brunette complexions,
large dark eyes, and abundant blue-black hair.
The grandmother was the head of the family and its autocratrice. She
was a tall, stern old woman, with iron-gray hair, over seventy years of age,
and held absolute rule over us all, from the mother down. Often when the
riot was at the highest or we had kept it up late, her sudden appearance
would disperse us like a flock of quail. The house-children would
scamper off to bed and the visitors make a prompt escape. The house
stood on a corner and there was a room at the rear which is daguerreo-
typed on my memory. This room opened directly on the street and be-
longed to us by squatters' right. It was by this door that we were accus-
tomed to make a sudden exit when the grandmother made one too many
But her ill-humor of the moment never lasted until the next time came
for us to meet. The severe lines imprinted on her face by trials, after re-
pose had not smoothed away. But often when we were in full flight before
her I have seen the lurking smiles break into a pleased laugh that cleared
SCHOOL AND COLLEGE DAYS. 21
away the sternness. In a manner I grew up with the children. Before
and after I left college they, but especially one, were the companions with
whom I was always happy to spend what time I could seize upon. The
boys and I made a restless trio.
The days went by on wings. In the summer we ranged about in the
woods, or on the now historic islands, gunning or picnicking, the girls
sometimes with us ; sometimes in a sailboat on the bay, oftener going over
the bar to seaward and not infrequently when the breeze failed us getting
dangerously near the breakers on the bar. I remember as in a picture,
seeing the beads of perspiration on the forehead of my friend Henry as he
tugged frantically at his oar when we had found ourselves one day in the
suck of Drunken Dick, a huge breaker that to our eyes appeared mon-
strous as he threw his spray close to the boat. For us it really was pull
Dick pull Devil.
Those were the splendid outside days ; days of unreflecting life when I
lived in the glow of a passion that now I know extended its refining in-
fluence over my whole life. The recollection of those days has never
faded. I am glad that it was not required of me to come back as an enemy
among those scenes.
This holiday time could not last, but it was beautiful, although I was
conscious that I could not afford it. I had not entirely neglected my
studies. Sometimes seized with a temporary remorse for time lost I gath-
ered up my books and overworked myself for awhile, only to relapse with
keener zest into the more natural life.
The accidents that lead to events are often hardly noticeable. A single
book sometimes enters fruitfully into character or pursuit. I had two such.
One was a chronicle of men who had made themselves famous by brave
and noble deeds, or infamous by cruel and base acts. With a schoolboy's
enthusiasm I read these stories over and over again, with alternate pleas-
ure or indignation. I please myself in thinking they have sometimes ex-
ercised a restraining or inspiring influence. Dwelling in the memory they
were like the ring of Amasis.
The other was a work on practical astronomy, published in the Dutch.
The language made it a closed book but for the beautifully clear maps of
the stars and many examples of astronomical calculations. By its aid I
became well acquainted with the night skies and familiarized myself with
the ordinary observations necessary to determine latitude and longitude.
This was the beginning of the astronomical knowledge afterwards so es-
sential to me.
Soon now the day for care and work came. We were only two, my
mother and I. We had lost my sister. My brother was away, making his
own career, and I had to concern myself for mine. I was unwilling to
22 MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT.
leave my mother. Circumstances had more than usually endeared us to
each other and I knew that her life would be solitary without me. I was
accustomed to be much at home and our separations had been slight. But
now it was likely to be for long and the hard part would be for the one left
alone. For me it was very different. Going out into the excitement of
strange scenes and occurrences I would be forced out of myself and for
long intervals could forget what I left behind. For her in the sameness of
daily life there would be a blank not easily filled. But my mother had an
experience of sacrifice which with her true womanly nature it had been
hard to learn. Realizing that now the time had come for another, she, but
not cheerfully, sent me forward on my way.
The necessity for exertion was making itself felt and the outlook for my
future was vague. But among the few men whom I had come to know as
friends there was one whose kindly aid and counsel was often valuable to
me, then and afterward.
Mr. Poinsett was one of the distinguished men of the day, of broad and
liberal mind, refined by study and much travel. While Minister to Mexico
his cultivated taste led him to interest himself in the luxuriant flora of that
country. Known in a graver way through his public works and service, it
has chanced that his name has been kept familiarly present and most popu-
larly known by the scarlet Poinsettia which he contributed to botany.
I knew him after he returned from Mexico, and before and during the
time when he was Secretary of War. By his aid, but not with his appro-
val, I went to the South American coast as teacher on board the U. S.
sloop of war Natchez, Captain Zantzinger. Admiral Farragut was one of
the Lieutenants. The voyage had its advantages. I saw more of the
principal cities and people than a traveller usually does on passing through
a country, though nothing of the interior. But the time spent was long
and had no future bearing. Among the few events that occurred to break
the routine of ship life there was one in which I was concerned that I re-
member with satisfaction. While lying at Rio de Janeiro a duel had taken
place between two of the midshipmen in which one lost his life. Both
were men of high character and had been friends. The fatal termination
of the meeting was deeply regretted, and by no one more than the survivor.
A trivial misunderstanding shortly after resulted in another. The princi-
pals on this occasion were Mr. Lovell, of South Carolina, and Mr. Parrott,
of Massachusetts. Decatur Hurst was Lovell's second, and I Parrott's.
Lovell was a nephew of Mr. Poinsett and Hurst a nephew of Commodore
Decatur. Hurst and I were friends. He proposed to put only powder in
the pistols for the first fire. If then another should be insisted on we would
give them lead. In this we incurred some personal risk, but were quite will-
ing to take it for the sake of the persons principally interested in the result.
2 u. -
* < tjj
Q . o
SCHOOL AND COLLEGE DA VS. 23
This being agreed upon, we succeeded in leaving the ship without hav-
ing attracted any attention to our movements, and crossing the bay quietly
landed on the north shore. Leaving the boat, we found a narrow strip of
sandy beach about forty yards long between the water and the mountain.
In such a place men could hardly miss each other. The few preparations
made, we placed our men twelve paces apart and gave the word. Both
looked sincerely surprised that they remained standing upright as before.
Going up each to his man, we declared the affair over ; the cause of quar-
rel in our opinion not justifying a second shot. There was some demur, but
we insisting carried our men triumphantly back to the ship, nobody hurt
and nobody wiser. Hurst and I greatly enjoyed our little rzise de guerre.
Of the four men three are dead. Just when Lovell died I do not know.
Admiral Parrott died in New York about seven years ago. Hurst too is
dead. While on the African coast he was badly wounded in a duel, which
ultimately caused his death not long afterward.
When the cruise was over I returned to Charleston. In the meantime
Congress had created the post of Professor of Mathematics in the Navy. I
applied for a commission and was ordered before an examining board, to
be convened shortly at Norfolk. Then came for me another pleasant
month, for I was back among my old friends, and the strong motive I had
now added to the pleasure I always found in study. All day long I was
at my books, and the earliest dawn found me at an upper window against
which stood a tall poplar, where the rustling of the glossy leaves made a
soothing accompaniment. The surroundings go for a great deal in intel-
My examination was successfully over and I had received, and declined,
Just then an opportunity was offered me to go under Captain W. G.
Williams, of the U. S. Topographical Corps, as one of the assistant engi-
neers on surveys to be made for a projected railway from Charleston to
Cincinnati. I gladly accepted the chance that fell to me, and spent a sum-
mer in congenial work among the mountains of South Carolina and Ten-
nessee. There were several parties, each under an able engineer. That
to which I belonged was under the direction of Lieutenant White, a gradu-
ate of West Point, who knew well how to make our work agreeable. We
were engaged in running experimental lines, and the plotting of the field
notes sometimes kept us up until midnight. Our quarters were sometimes
at a village inn and more frequently at some farmer's house, where milk
and honey and many good things were welcome to an appetite sharpened
by all day labor on foot and a tramp of several miles backward and forward,
morning and evening. It was cheery, wholesome work. The summer
weather in the mountains was fine, the cool water abundant, and the streams
24 MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT.
lined with azaleas. As often is with flowers of that color the white azaleas
were fragrant. The survey was a kind of picnic with work enough to give
it zest, and we were all sorry when it was over.
The surveys being suspended, I returned home and only casually if ever
met again the men with whom I had been associated. General Morrell,
with whom many years afterward I lived as neighbor on the Hudson, was
the only one I remember to have met.
It had been the policy of President Jefferson, suggested by his acquisi-
tion of the Louisiana territory, to remove all the Indian tribes from the
Eastern States to the west of the Mississippi. This policy was adopted and
carried forward by Mr. Monroe, and completed under President Jackson.
The last to be removed were the Cherokees who inhabited a district
where the States of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia cornered to-
gether. This territory was principally in Georgia, and consisted in greater
part of a body of land ceded to the Cherokees by Georgia in 1783.
For the good of the bordering States, and for the welfare of the Indians
as well, this was a wise and humane measure. But the Cherokees were
averse to the change. They were unwilling to leave the homes where they
had been domiciled for half a century.
The country was mountainous and the face of it not accurately known.
Looking to the contingency of hostilities already threatening with the In-
dians, Captain Williams was ordered to make a military reconnaissance of
the territory they occupied. I went with him again as one of his assistants.
The accident of this employment curiously began a period of years of
like work for me among similar scenes. Here I found the path which I
was " destined to walk." Through many of the years to come the occu-
pation of my prime of life was to be among Indians and in waste places.
Other events which intervened were incidents in this and grew out of it.
There were to be no more years wasted in tentative efforts to find a way
for myself. The work was laid out and it began here with a remarkable
continuity of purpose.
This was a winter survey made hurriedly. When we entered the In-
dian territory we were three together, Archie Campbell, Hull Adams and
I. About dark we reached the Nantaheyle River, at an Indian village.
The Indians were having a feast and a carouse and were all drunk. The
squaws hid us in a log out-cabin, half filled with shucked corn. We did not
pass a comfortable night. The shouts of the drunken Indians and rats
running over us kept us awake ; and we were glad when morning came.
The night had been cold and our bath-tub was the Nantaheyle River.
There was ice along the banks and the water in my hair froze into fretful
With the beginning of the reconnaissance our little party was scattered,
SCHOOL AND COLLEGE DAYS. 25
each to separate work. The Indians after their usual way of living, occu-
pied the country sparsely. In parts, this was beautifully fertile ; broad
level valleys, with fine streams and forest land. I had a guide named
Laudermilk, a very intelligent, good-tempered man, intimately acquainted
with the territory to be surveyed. In true pioneer spirit he had built his
cabin at a spot in the woods as much out of the way and isolated as he
could well find. He was about thirty years old and his wife twenty. It
was comfortable quarters. Occasionally we would spend a night there,
making a hard ride through snow to reach it. Sometimes we were alone,
making a sketch of some stream, and stopping at night at an Indian cabin.
At other times, when the work was in a more uninhabited part of the ter-
ritory, we had a small party of men, with pack-saddles to carry our tents
It was a forest country thinly occupied by Indian farms. At night we
slept in half-faced tents, with great fires of hickory logs at our feet. Pigs
which ranged during the fall and fattened on chestnuts made Qv^r piece de
resistance on these occasions.
As it sometimes chanced, I was present at Indian feasts, where all would
get wild with excitement and some furious with drink. Bloody frays were
a certain accompaniment, slashing with knives, hands badly cut from clutch-
ing the blades and ugly body wounds. Their exhibition of brute courage
and indifference to pain compelled admiration, with regret for the good
material wasted. But these were the exceptional occasions. In their villages
and in their ordinary farming life they lived peaceably and comfortably.
Many of their farms were much the same as those that are to be met with
everywhere on our remote frontier. The depreciating and hurtful influence
was the proximity of the whites. One of the pieces of work assigned to
me was a reconnaissance of the Hiwassee River. It was over very rough
and tangled ground. The first day's work of twenty miles on foot made
me so stiff next morning that I moved like a foundered horse, and I suppose
I was foundered for the time. In getting over the trunks of fallen trees I
had to sit down upon them and lift over first one leg and then the other.
But this was only for the first day. That night we had stopped at the log
house of an Indian. It was a handsome specimen of forest architecture ; a
square-built house standing on a steep bank of the Hiwassee, with glass-
paned windows. But the striking feature in such surroundings was that
all the logs were evenly hewed so that they laid solidly together and pre-
sented a smoothly even surface. Its finish, in its own way, made quite an
agreeable impression from its unexpectedness in such a place. Below, the
river banks fell away, leaving a little valley, in which he had made his
In much travel among Indians I have had a fair opportunity to become
26 MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT.
acquainted with different tribes and learned to appreciate and comprehend
the results of the differing influences brought to bear upon them. Here in
the Cherokee country, as in different regions afterward, I saw how their dif-
fering conditions depended upon their surroundings. In the Great Basin I
saw them in the lowest stage of human existence where it was in its simplest
elements, differing from that of wild animals only in the greater intelligence
of the Indians. Sage bush sheltered them, seeds, bush squirrels and hares,
grasshoppers, worms, anything that had life made their food.
Going upward I saw them on the great prairie plains in the higher
stages to which the surrounding facilities for a more comfortable and easier
life had raised them. Nomadic, following the game and the seasons but
living in villages, buffalo and large game gave them good food and cloth-
ing, and made for them dry warm lodges. And afterward in the nearer
approach to the civilized life to which the intermittent efforts of the Gov-
ernment at agencies and reservations, and the labor of the Protestant and
Catholic churches, had brought them.
The efforts of the Protestant churches had been limited by time and
extent of territory. The area of their work had been confined chiefly to
a part of the country east of the Mississippi, where they found the field
yet unoccupied and the influences English and Protestant. The Catholic
Church was first in the field in the West. Its area west of the Mississippi
extended from the Gulf of Mexico into Canada and along the shores of the
Pacific, where, under Spanish rule, their stable policy was best displayed.
The earlier explorers west of the Mississippi were French. Explored,
occupied, and owned by France and Spain as this whole country was, in-
evitably their religion became part of it also, and was carried among the
Indians by the missionary priests of that Church. For two centuries this
was their undisturbed domain. The policy of the Roman Catholic Church
is unchanging and impersonal, and the perpetuity of its institutions seems
infused into the extremest details. The policy of its government was the
policy of the agent who was part of the government, having the same in-
terest at heart ; and the interest and well-being of the Indians were equally
the interest and object of the government and its agent, who was always
one of the body politic and religious and whose aim was impersonal, di-
rected solely to the good of his church. All this I have seen exemplified
in the missions on the Pacific coast, in the remnant of civilization among
the interior tribes, and in the present condition of the missions on the At-
lantic side. The results of their work stand out to-day in the great build-
ings which under their direction were erected by the Indians in California.
They made them herdsmen and raised by them hundreds of thousands of
horses and cattle. They made them farmers self-supplying, and taught
them a foreign language too deeply implanted to be eradicated by long
SCHOOL AND COLLEGE DA VS. 27
disuse. The remnants of their teachings remain in the grain fields of the
Pimas on the Gila River of Arizona and in the orchards of the Sepais in
the canon valleys of the Colorado, to whom the Navajoes come regularly
every year to trade for fruit and grain. All this resulted from a singleness
of purpose carried into effect by agents inevitably responsible. And they
went ahead to occupy and civilize with reliance on the support of their
The Protestant churches had the aid of no such strength, and their
success, as I have seen it evidenced among the Cherokees and Shawnees
and Delaware people, as with later missionary efforts, has been due to in-
dividual energy and character.
On the other hand, our Government, itself changing in its personality
every few years, administered the details of its general policy through
agents to whom change was the normal and expected condition ; who had
no persistent interest in the Indians and, above all, no responsibility. So
there has been no continuous effective policy by the Government except
in the removal of the Indians from East to West, and out of the way of the
white man, as the tide of population rose.
These results clearly show that the Indians were capable of being civ-
ilized and utilized, and they show too how this could be effected more or
less by the nature of the policy directed upon them.
Our army is a permanent body, having continuity of existence, and its
officers have not only a class responsibility but a responsibility founded
in a regard for their individual and personal honor, and the honor of the
body to which they belong. These two qualities of permanency and re-
sponsibility make the army the best and simplest as well as the safest and
least expensive medium through which to control and care for these Indian
wards of the nation. We have taken away from them their property and
means of support and are bound to a corresponding obligation.
In the fall of 1853, on an overland journey, I spent a day at the Catho-
lic station of Saint Mary's on the Kansas River, among the Pottawatamie
Indians. Under the impression of what I saw I wrote then in my note-
book as follows :
" Oct. 25. Went to Uniontown and nooned. This is a street of
log-cabins. Nothing to be had here. Some corn for our animals and
a piece of cheese for ourselves. Lots of John Barleycorn which the men
about were consuming. Uniontown is called a hundred miles from Kan-
" Oct. 26. High wind and sleet. Clouds scudding across the sky.
About two o'clock we reached the pretty little Catholic Mission of
28 MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT.
Saint Mary's. The well-built, whitewashed houses, with the cross on
the spire showing out above them was already a very grateful sight. On
the broad bottoms immediately below are the fields and houses of the
Pottawatamie Indians. Met with a hospitable reception from the head of
the Mission. A clear sky promises a bright day for to-rnorrow. Learned
here some of the plants which are medicinal among the Indians. Among
them Asarrim Canadensis jewel-weed a narcotic; and Oryngium
Aqziaticum, the great remedy of the Pottawatamies for snake-bites."
" Oct. 27. White frost covers the ground this morning. Sky clear
and air still. With bowls of good coffee and excellent bread made a
good breakfast. We already begin to appreciate food. Prepared our
luggage, threw into the wagon the provisions obtained here, and at ten
o'clock took leave of the hospitable priests and set out. I was never more
impressed by the efficiency of well-directed and permanent missionary
effort than here at this far-off mission settlement, where the progress and
good order strike forcibly as they stand in great contrast with the neigh-
boring white settlement."
In the course of a winter exploration into the Rocky Mountains in
1 848-' 49 I had been driven southward by stress of weather, and in the
spring of the latter year I passed through Arizona. With the treaty of
Guadaloupe Hidalgo that Territory had just come under the dominion of
the United States. I had gone as far south as the little town of San Pe-
dro, which still was within Mexico. Returning northward down the San
Pedro River we passed on the way an abandoned Mission where there
was an extensive peach orchard in solitary bloom. The soft pink bloom
was startling where the ideas of the place spoke only now of violence and
bloodshed. There were large buildings here, and the situation in the
river valley was beautiful, but the Apaches had made it too dangerous to
live in isolated places.
We followed the river down until it spread out where it entered the
plain and lost itself in the ground. At the foot of a steep hill we found
grass and water, and next morning continued our journey in a northwesterly
direction and struck the Gila near the villages of the Pimas and Maricopas
above the Great Bend of the river. I found these Indians still retaining
the civilization that had been taught them by the missionary priests and
living as farmers in fixed habitations. They raised wheat and corn, water-
melons, beans and other vegetables, and grew cotton out of which they
made blankets. They lived undisturbed, having no other enemy than the
wild Apaches, who seldom dared molest them, and they were friendly to
the Mexican or other travellers who at rare intervals passed that way on
their road to the Californias.
SCHOOL AND COLLEGE DAYS. 29
They received me in a truly friendly and hospitable way, supplying
in exchange for a few trifling articles all the provisions that I required.
What they particularly valued was a small opaque white bead, of which
we had a quantity.
In 1879, while Governor of Arizona, I was travelling between Phcenix
and Maricopa, which is on the line of the South Pacific Railway, and again
passed by their villages. Our Government had covered the ground they
occupied by a reservation. Under the laws of Spain and Mexico, they in
their legal and recognized character of citizens living in Pueblos were en-
titled to the ownership of four square leagues of land. The terms of the
treaty confirmed this right ; but with its usual disregard of private right
our Government had assumed ownership and reserved to them their own
lands, as against other trespassers than itself.
The settlements of these Indians stretch along the bottom lands of the
Gila above the Great Bend. Their houses are built with wattled sides,
the roofs being of the natural long laths of the seguara a tree cactus and
of ocotillo a scarlet flowering shrub, plastered with earth. These houses
are detached and in this way the village covers considerable space. As
we reached the reservation the driver of the stage-coach in which I was
travelling drew up his horses at a small adobe house, which had a ramada
or bush-covered shed in front. An Indian was leaning against one of the
posts, and a gray-headed white man came out to the coach. The driver
delivered to him a demijohn, and after a word or two he went back into
the house and returned with a stout glass of whiskey for the driver.
These Indians were then, when I saw them last, deteriorating fast. Their
lands are very fertile, and the grain which they raise is of excellent qual-
ity. Ten car-loads of wheat raised by the Maricopas, about the time I
write of, and sent to San Francisco were sold at $2.20 the hundred, the
ruling price at the time being $2.10 to $2.15 the hundred.
If these Indians were under the immediate control of an army officer
who would act as their factor and sell their produce and make their neces-
sary purchases to the greatest advantage, aiding their progress in agri-
culture while at the same time he held them in wholesome restraint, their
villages would soon become handsome and industrious settlements.
Appointed by President Van Buren Second Lieutenant of Topographical En-
gineers Expedition under Nicollet 1839 Second Expedition of Nicollet North
of Missouri River 1840 in Washington.
THE Cherokee survey was over. I remained at home only just long
enough to enjoy the pleasure of the return to it, and to rehabituate
myself to old scenes. While I was trying to devise and settle upon
some plan for the future, my unforgetful friend, Mr. Poinsett, had also
been thinking for me. He was now Secretary of War, and, at his request,
I was appointed by President Van Buren a second lieutenant in the
United States Topographical Corps, and ordered to Washington. Wash-
ington was greatly different then from the beautiful capital of to-day. In-
stead of many broad, well-paved, and leafy avenues, Pennsylvania Avenue
about represented the town. There were not the usual resources of public
amusement. It was a lonesome place for a young man knowing but one
person in the city, and there was no such attractive spot as the Battery
by the sea at Charleston, where a stranger could go and feel the freedom
of both eye and thought.
Shut in to narrow limits, the mind is driven in upon itself and loses
its elasticity ; but the breast expands when, upon some hill-top, the eye
ranges over a broad expanse of country, or in face of the ocean. We do
not value enough the effect of space for the eye ; it reacts on the mind,
which unconsciously expands to larger limits and freer range of thought.
So I was low in my mind and lonesome until I learned, with great relief,
that I was to go upon a distant survey into the West. But that first im-
pression of flattened lonesomeness which Washington had given me has
remained with me to this day.
About this time, a distinguished French savant had returned from a
geographical exploration of the country about the sources of the Missis-
sippi, the position of which he first established. That region and its capa-
bilities were then but little known, and the results of his journey were of
so interesting a nature that they had attracted public notice and comment.
Through Mr. Poinsett, Mr. Nicollet was invited to come to Washington,
EXPEDITION UNDER NI COLLET. 31
with the object of engaging him to make a complete examination of the
great prairie region between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, as far
north as the British line, and to embody the whole of his labors in a map
and general report for public use.
Mr. Nicollet had left France, intending to spend five years in geo-
graphical researches in this country. His mind had been drawn to the
early discoveries of his countrymen, some of which were being obliterated
and others obscured in the lapse of time. He anticipated great pleasure
in renewing the memory of these journeys, and in rescuing them all from
the obscurity into which they had fallen. A member of the French
Academy of Sciences, he was a distinguished man in the circles to which
Arago and other savants of equal rank belonged. Not only had he been
trained in science, but he was habitually schooled to the social observances
which make daily intercourse attractive, and become invaluable where
hardships are to be mutually borne and difficulties overcome and hazards
met. His mind was of the higher order. A musician as well as a mathe-
matician, it was harmonious and complete.
The Government now arranged with him to extend his surveys south
and west of the country which he had already explored. Upon this sur-
vey I was ordered to accompany him as his assistant.
It was a great pleasure to me to be assigned to this duty. By this time
I had gone through some world-schooling and was able to take a sober
view of the realities of life. I had learned to appreciate fully the rare value
of the friendly aid which had opened up for me such congenial employment,
and I resolved that, if it were in me to do so, I would prove myself worthy
of it. The years of healthy exercise which I had spent in open air had
hardened my body, and the work I had been engaged in was kindred to
that which I was now to have. Field work in a strange region, in associa-
tion with a man so distinguished, was truly an unexpected good fortune,
and I went off from Washington full of agreeable anticipation.
At St. Louis I joined Mr. Nicollet. This was the last large city on the
western border, and the fitting-out place for expeditions over the unin-
habited country. The small towns along the western bank of the Missouri
made for two or three hundred miles a sort of fringe to the prairies. At
St. Louis I met for the first time General Robert E. Lee, then a captain
in the United States Engineer Corps, charged with improvements of the
Mississippi River. He was already an interesting man. His agreeable,
friendly manner to me as a younger officer when I was introduced to him,
left a more enduring impression than usually goes with casual introduc-
In St. Louis Mr. Nicollet had a pleasant circle of friends among the old
French residents. They were proud of him as a distinguished country-
32 MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT.
man, and were gratified with his employment by the American Govern-
ment, which in this way recognized his distinction and capacity. His in-
tention, in the prosecution of his larger work to revive the credit due to
early French discoverers, was pleasing to their national pride.
His acquaintances he made mine, and I had the pleasure and advan-
tage to share in the amiable intercourse and profuse hospitality which in
those days characterized the society of the place. He was a Catholic, and
his distinction, together with his refined character, made him always a wel-
come guest with his clergy. And I may say in the full sense of the word,
that I " assisted " often at the agreeable suppers in the refectory. The
pleasure of these grew in remembrance afterward, when hard and scanty
fare and sometimes starvation and consequent bodily weakness made
visions in the mind, and hunger made memory dwell upon them by day
and dream of them by night.
Such social evenings followed almost invariably the end of the day's
preparations. These were soon now brought to a close with the kindly
and efficient aid of the Fur Company's officers. Their personal experi-
ence made them know exactly what was needed on the proposed voyage,
and both stores and men were selected by them ; the men out of those in
their own employ. These were principally practised voyageurs, accustomed
to the experiences and incidental privations of travel in the Indian coun-
The aid given by the house of Chouteau was, to this and succeeding
expeditions, an advantage which followed them throughout their course to
their various posts among the Indian tribes.
Our destination now was a trading post on the west bank of the Missis-
sippi, at the mouth of the St. Peter's, now better known as the Mini-
sotah River. This was the residence of Mr. Henry Sibley, who was in
charge of the Fur Company's interests in the Mississippi Valley. He gave
us a frontier welcome and heartily made his house our headquarters.
This was the point of departure at which the expedition began its work.
It was on the border line of civilization. On the left or eastern bank of
the river were villages and settlements of the whites, and the right was
the Indian country which we were about to visit. Fort Snelling was on
the high bluff point opposite between the Mini-sotah and the Mississippi.
Near by was a Sioux Indian village, and usually its Indians were about
the house grounds. Among these I saw the most beautiful Indian girl I
have ever met, and it is a tribute to her singular beauty that after so
many years I remember still the name of " Ampetu-washtoy " "the
The house had much the character of a hunting-lodge. There were
many dogs around about, and two large wolfhounds, Lion and Tiger, had
EXPEDITION UNDER NICOLLET.
the run of the house and their quarters in it. Mr. Sibley was living alone,
and these fine dogs made him friendly companions, as he belonged to the
men who love dogs and horses. For his other dogs he had built within
the enclosure a lookout about fifteen feet high. Around its platform the
railing was usually bordered with the heads of dogs resting on their paws
and looking wistfully out over the prairie, probably reconnoitering for
wolves. Of the two hounds Tiger had betrayed a temper of such ferocity,
even against his master, as eventually cost him his life. Lion, though a
brother, had, on the contrary, a companionable and affectionate disposition
and almost human intelligence, which in his case brought about a separa-
tion from his old home.
On the marriage of Mr. Sibley, Lion so far resented the loss of his first
place that he left the house, swam across the Mississippi, and Avent to the
Fort, where he ended his days. Always he was glad to meet his mas-
ter when he came over, keeping close by him and following him to the
shore, though all persuasion failed to make him ever recross the river to
the home where he had been supplanted ; but his life-size portrait still
hangs over the fireplace of Mr. Sibley's library. These dogs were of the
rare breed of the Irish wolfhound, and their story came up as an incident
in a correspondence, stretching from Scotland to Mini-sotah, on the ques-
tion as to whether it had not become extinct ; growing out of my happen-
ing to own a dog inheriting much of that strain.
Cut off from the usual resources, Mr. Sibley had naturally to find his in
the surroundings. The prominent feature of Indian life entered into his,
and hunting became rather an occupation than an amusement. But his
hunting was not the tramp of a day to some neighboring lake for wild fowl,
or a ride on the prairie to get a stray shot at a wolf. These hunting ex-
peditions involved days' journeys to unfrequented ranges where large game
was abundant, or in winter to the neighborhood of one of his trading-posts,
where in event of rough weather the stormy days could be passed in shel-
ter. He was fully six feet in height, well and strongly built, and this, to-
gether with his skill as a hunter, gave him a hold on the admiration and
respect of the Indians.
In all this stir of frontier life Mr. Nicollet felt no interest and took no
share ; horse and dog were nothing to him. His manner of life had never
brought him into their companionship, and the congenial work he now had
in charge engrossed his attention and excited his imagination. His mind
dwelt continually upon the geography of the country, the Indian names of
lakes and rivers and their signification, and upon whatever tradition might
retain of former travels by early French explorers.
Some weeks had now been spent in completing that part ot the outfit
which had been referred to this place. The intervening time had been
34 MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT.
used to rate the chronometers and make necessary observations of the
latitude and longitude of our starting-point.
At length we set out. As our journey was to be over level and un-
broken country the camp material was carried in one-horse carts, driven
by Canadian voyageurs, the men usually employed by the Fur Company
in their business through this region. M. de Montmort, a French gentle-
man attached to the legation at Washington, and Mr. Eugene Flandin, a
young gentleman belonging to a French family of New York, accompanied
the party as friends of Mr. Nicollet. These were pleasant travelling com-
panions, and both looked up to Mr. Nicollet with affectionate deference
and admiration. No botanist had been allowed to Mr. Nicollet by the
Government, but he had for himself employed Mr. Charles Geyer, a bot-
anist recently from Germany, of unusual practical knowledge in his pro-
fession and of companionable disposition.
The proposed surveys of this northwestern region naturally divided
themselves into two : the present one, at this point connecting with Mr.
Nicollet's surveys of the upper Mississippi, was to extend westward to the
waters of the Missouri Valley ; the other, intended for the operations of the
succeeding year, was to include the valley of the Missouri River, and the
northwestern prairies as far as to the British line.
Our route lay up the Mini-sotah for about a hundred and fifteen miles,
to a trading-post at the lower end of the Traverse des Sioux ; the prairie
and river valley being all beautiful and fertile country. We travelled
along the southern side of the river, passing on the way several Indian
camps, and establishing at night the course of the river by astronomical ob-
servations. The Traverse des Sioux is a crossing-place about thirty miles
long, where the river makes a large rectangular bend, coming down from
the northwest and turning abruptly to the northeast ; the streams from
the southeast, the south, and southwest flowing into a low line of depres-
sion to where they gather into a knot at the head of this bend, and into its
lowest part as into a bowl. In this great elbow of the river is the Marah-
tanka or Big Swan Lake, the summer resort of the Sissiton Sioux. Our
way over the crossing lay between the lake and the river. At the end of
the Traverse we returned to the right shore at the mouth of the Waraju
or Cottonwood River, and encamped near the principal village of the
Sissitons. Their lodges were pitched in a beautiful situation, under large
trees. It needs only the slightest incident to throw an Indian village into
a sudden excitement which is startling to a stranger. We were occupied
quietly among the Indians, Mr. Nicollet, as usual, surrounded by them,
with the aid of the interpreter getting them to lay out the form of the lake
and the course of the streams entering the river near by, and, after repeated
pronunciations, entering their names in his note-book ; Geyer, followed by
A, VON HUMBOLDT.
HEADQUARTERS WESTERN DEPARTMENT,
ST. Louis, August 30, 1861.
Circumstances, in my judgment of sufficient urgency, render it neces-
sary that the Commanding General of this Department should assume the
administrative powers of the State.
Its disorganized condition, the helplessness of the civil authority, the
total insecurity of life, and the devastation of property by bands of mur-
derers and marauders who infest nearly every county in the State, and
avail themselves of the public misfortunes and the vicinity of a hostile
force to gratify private and neighborhood vengeance, and who find an
enemy wherever they find plunder, finally demand the severest measures
to repress the daily increasing crimes and outrages which are driving off
the inhabitants and ruining the State. In this condition the public safety
and the success of our arms require unity of purpose without let or hin-
derance to the prompt administration of affairs.
In order, therefore, to suppress disorders, to maintain, as far as now
practicable, the public peace, and to give security and protection to the
persons and property of loyal citizens, I do hereby extend, and declare
established, Martial Law throughout the State of Missouri.
The lines of the army of occupation in this State are, for the present,
declared to extend from Leavenworth, by way of the posts of Jefferson
City, Rolla, and Ironton, to Cape Girardeau, on the Mississippi River.
All persons who shall be taken with arms in their hands, within these
lines, shall be tried by court-martial, and, if found guilty, will be shot.
The property, real and personal, of all persons in the State of Missouri,
who shall take up arms against the United States, or who shall be directly
proven to have taken active part with their enemies in the field, is declared
to be confiscated to the public use, and their slaves, if any they have, are
hereby declared free men.
All persons who shall be proven to have destroyed, after the publica-
202 PROCLAMA TION.
tion of this order, railroad tracks, bridges, or telegraphs, shall suffer the
extreme penalty of this law.
All persons engaged in treasonable correspondence, in giving or pro-
curing aid to the enemies of the United States, in fomenting tumults, in
disturbing the public tranquillity by creating and circulating false reports or
incendiary documents, are, in their own interest, warned that they are
exposing themselves to sudden and severe punishment.
All persons who have been led away from their allegiance are required
to return forthwith to their homes. Any such absence without sufficient
cause will be held to be presumptive evidence against them.
The object of this declaration is to place in the hands of the military
authorities the power to give instantaneous effect to existing laws, and to
supply such deficiencies as the conditions of war demand. But it is not in-
tended to suspend the ordinary tribunals of the country, where the law will
be administered by the civil officers in the usual manner and with their
customary authority, while the same can be peaceably exercised.
The Commanding General will labor vigilantly for the public welfare,
and in his efforts for their safety hopes to obtain not only the acquiescence,
but the active support of the people of the country.
J. C. FREMONT,
MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT. 389
WIND-RIVER PEAK AND FLAG.
August 10. The air at sunrise is clear and pure, and the morning ex-
tremely cold, but beautiful. A lofty snow-peak of the mountain is glitter-
ing in the first rays of the sun, which has not yet reached us. The long
mountain wall to the east rising two thousand feet abruptly from the plain,
behind which we see the peaks, is still dark, and cuts clear against the
glowing sky. A fog, just risen from the river, lies along the base of the
mountain. A little before sunrise the thermometer was at 35, and at
sunrise 33. Water froze last night, and fires are very comfortable. The
scenery becomes hourly more interesting and grand, and the view here is
truly magnificent ; but, indeed, it needs something to repay the long prairie
journey of a thousand miles. The sun has just shot above the wall, and
makes a magical change. The whole valley is glowing and bright, and all
the mountain peaks are gleaming like silver. Though these mountains are
not the Alps, they have their own character of grandeur and magnificence,
and will doubtless find pens and pencils to do them justice. In the scene
before us we feel how much wood improves a view. The pines on the
mountain seemed to give it much additional beauty. I was agreeably
disappointed in the character of the streams on this side of the ridge.
Instead of the creeks, which description had led me to expect, I find bold
broad streams, with three or four feet water, and a rapid current. The fork
on which we are encamped is upward of a hundred feet wide, timbered
with groves or thickets of the low willow.
We were now approaching the loftiest part of the Wind River chain ;
and I left the valley a few miles from our encampment, intending to pene-
trate the mountains as far as possible with the whole party. We were
soon involved in very broken ground, among long ridges covered with
fragments of granite. Winding our way up a long ravine, we came unex-
pectedly in view of a most beautiful lake, set like a gem in the mountains.
The sheet of water lay transversely across the direction we had been pur-
suing ; and, descending the steep, rocky ridge, where it was necessary to
lead our horses, we followed its banks to the southern extremity. Here a
view of the utmost magnificence and grandeur burst upon our eyes. With
nothing between us and their feet, to lessen the effect of the whole height, a
grand bed of snow-capped mountains rose before us, pile upon pile, glowing
in the bright light of an August day. Immediately below them lay the lake,
between two ridges, covered with dark pines, which swept down from the
main chain to the spot where we stood. Here, where the lake glittered in
the open sunlight, its banks of yellow sand and the light foliage of aspen
groves contrasted well with the gloomy pines. " Never before," said Preuss,
39 o WIND-RIVER PEAK AND FLAG.
" in this country or in Europe, have I seen such magnificent, grand rocks."
I was so much pleased with the beauty of the place that I determined to
make the main camp here, where our animals would find good pasturage,
and explore the mountains with a small party of men. Proceeding a little
farther, we came suddenly upon the outlet of the lake, where it found its
way through a narrow passage between low hills. Dark pines, which over-
hung the stream, and masses of rock, where the water foamed along, gave
it much romantic beauty. Where we crossed, which was immediately at
the outlet, it is two hundred and fifty feet wide, and so deep that with
difficulty we were able to ford it. Its bed was an accumulation of rocks,
boulders, and broad slabs, and large angular fragments, among which the
animals fell repeatedly. The current was very swift, and the water cold,
and of a crystal purity.
In crossing the stream I met with a great misfortune in having my
barometer broken. It was the only one. A great part of the interest of
the journey for me was in the exploration of these mountains, of which so
much had been said that was doubtful and contradictory ; and now their
snowy peaks rose majestically before me, and the only means of giving them
authentically to science, the object of my anxious solicitude by night and
day, was destroyed. We had brought this barometer in safety a thousand
miles, and broke it almost among the snow of the mountains. The loss
was felt by the whole camp all had seen my anxiety, and aided me in pre-
serving it. The height of these mountains, considered by the hunters and
traders the highest in the whole range, had been a theme of constant dis-
cussion among them ; and all had looked forward with pleasure to the
moment when the instrument, which they believed to be true as the sun,
should stand upon the summits, and decide their disputes. Their grief was
only inferior to my own.
This lake is about three miles long, and of very irregular width, and
apparently great depth, and is the head-water of the third New Fork, a
tributary to Green River, the Colorado of the West. On the map and in
the narrative I have called it Mountain Lake. I encamped on the north
side, about three hundred and fifty yards from the outlet. This was the
most western point at which I obtained astronomical observations, by which
this place, called Bernier's encampment, is made in 110 08' 03" west
longitude from Greenwich, and latitude 42 49' 49". The mountain peaks,
as laid down, were fixed by bearings from this and other astronomical
points. We had no other compass than the small ones used in sketching
the country ; but from an azimuth, in which one of them was used, the va-
riation of the compass is 18 east. The correction made in our field-work
by the astronomical observations indicates that this is a very correct ob-
MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT. 391
As soon as camp was formed, I set about endeavoring to repair my
barometer. As I have already said, this was a standard cistern-barometer,
of Troughton's construction. The glass cistern had been broken about
mid-way ; but as the instrument had been kept in a proper position, no air
had found its way into the tube, the end of which had always remained
covered. I had with me a number of vials of tolerably thick glass, some
of which were of the same diameter as the cistern, and I spent the day in
slowly working on these, endeavoring to cut them off the requisite length ;
but as my instrument was a very rough file, I invariably broke them. A
groove was cut in one of the trees, where the barometer was placed during
the night, to be out of the way of any possible danger, and in the morning
I commenced again. Among the powder-horns in the camp, I found one
which was very transparent, so that its contents could be almost as plainly
seen as through glass. This I boiled and stretched on a piece of wood to
the requisite diameter, and scraped it very thin, in order to increase to the
utmost its transparency. I then secured it firmly in its place on the instru-
ment with strong glue made from a buffalo, and filled it with mercury,
properly heated. A piece of skin, which had covered one of the vials, fur-
nished a good pocket, which was well secured with strong thread and glue,
and then the brass cover was screwed to its place. The instrument was left
some time to dry ; and when I reversed it, a few hours after, I had the sat-
isfaction to find it in perfect order ; its indications being about the same as
on the other side of the lake before it had been broken. Our success in
this little incident diffused pleasure throughout the camp ; and we immedi-
ately set about our preparations for ascending the mountains.
As will be seen on reference to a map, on this short mountain-chain
are the head-waters of four great rivers of the continent ; namely, the Colo-
rado, Columbia, Missouri, and Platte Rivers. It had been my design,
after having ascended the mountains, to continue our route on the western
side of the range, and, crossing through a pass at the northwestern end of
the chain, about thirty miles from our present camp, return along the east-
ern slope, across the heads of the Yellowstone River, and join on the line
to our station of August 7, immediately at the foot of the ridge. In this
way I should be enabled to include the whole chain, and its numerous
waters, in my survey ; but various considerations induced me, very reluc-
tantly, to abandon this plan.
I was desirous to keep strictly within the scope of my instructions ;
and it would have required ten or fifteen additional days for the accom-
plishment of this object ; our animals had become very much worn out
with the length of the journey ; game was very scarce ; and, though it
does not appear in the course of the narrative (as I have avoided dwelling
upon trifling incidents not connected with the objects of the expedition),
392 WIND-RIVER PEAK AND FLAG.
the spirits of the men had been much exhausted by the hardships and pri-
vations to which they had been subjected. Our provisions had well-nigh
all disappeared. Bread had been long out of the question ; and of all our
stock, we had remaining two or three pounds of coffee, and a small quan-
tity of macaroni, which had been husbanded with great care for the moun-
tain expedition we were about to undertake. Our daily meal consisted of
dry buffalo meat, cooked in tallow ; and, as we had not dried this with
Indian skill, part of it was spoiled ; and what remained good was as
hard as wood, having much the taste and appearance of so many pieces
of bark. Even of this, our stock was rapidly diminishing in a camp
which was capable of consuming two buffaloes in every twenty-four hours.
These animals had entirely disappeared ; and it was not probable that we
should fall in with them again until we returned to the Sweet Water.
Our arrangements for the ascent were rapidly completed. We were
in a hostile country, which rendered the greatest vigilance and circumspec-
tion necessary. The pass at the north end of the mountain was generally
infested by Blackfeet ; and immediately opposite was one of their forts, on
the edge of a little thicket, two or three hundred feet from our encamp-
ment. We were posted in a grove of beech, on the margin of the lake,
and a few hundred feet long, with a narrow prairillon on the inner side,
bordered by a rocky ridge. In the upper end of this grove we cleared a
circular space about forty feet in diameter, and with the felled timber and
interwoven branches, surrounded it with a breastwork five feet in height.
A gap was left for a gate on the inner side, by which the animals were to
be driven in and secured, while the men slept around the little work. It
was half hidden by the foliage ; and, garrisoned by twelve resolute men,
would have set at defiance any band of savages which might chance to
discover them in the interval of our absence. Fifteen of the best mules,
with fourteen men, were selected for the mountain party. Our provisions
consisted of dried meat for two days, with our little stock of coffee and
some macaroni. In addition to the barometer and a thermometer, I took
with me a sextant and spy-glass, and we had, of course, our compasses.
In charge of the camp I left Bernier, one of my most trustworthy men,
who possessed the most determined courage.
August 12. Early in the morning we left the camp, fifteen in number,
well armed, of course, and mounted on our best mules. A pack animal
carried our provisions, with a coffee-pot and kettle, and three or four tin
cups. Every man had a blanket strapped over his saddle, to serve for his
bed, and the instruments were carried by turns on their backs. We entered
directly on rough and rocky ground ; and, just after crossing the ridge, had
the good fortune to shoot an antelope. We heard the roar, and had a
glimpse of a waterfall as we rode along ; and, crossing in our way two fine
MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT. 393
streams, tributary to the Colorado, in about two hours' ride we reached the
top of the first row or range of the mountains. Here, again, a view of the
most romantic beauty met our eyes. It seemed as if, from the vast expanse
of uninteresting prairie we had passed over, Nature had collected all her
beauties together in one chosen place. We were overlooking a deep valley,
which was entirely occupied by three lakes, and from the brink the surround-
ing ridges rose precipitously five hundred and a thousand feet, covered with
the dark green of the balsam pine, relieved on the border of the lake with
the light foliage of the aspen. They all communicated with each other ; and
the green of the waters, common to mountain lakes of great depth, showed
that it would be impossible to cross them. The surprise manifested by our
guides when these impassable obstacles suddenly barred our progress,
proved that they were among the hidden treasures of the place, unknown
even to the wandering trappers of the region. Descending the hill, we
proceeded to make our way along the margin to the southern extremity.
A narrow strip of angular fragments of rock sometimes afforded a rough
pathway for our mules, but generally we rode along the shelving side, oc-
casionally scrambling up, at a considerable risk of tumbling back into the
The slope was frequently 60 ; the pines grew densely together, and the
ground was covered with the branches and trunks of trees. The air was
fragrant with the odor of the pines ; and I realized this delightful morning
the pleasure of breathing that mountain air which makes a constant theme
of the hunter's praise, and which now made us feel as if we had all been
drinking some exhilarating gas. The depths of this unexplored forest were
a place to delight the heart of a botanist. There was a rich undergrowth
of plants and numerous gay-colored flowers in brilliant bloom. We reached
the outlet at length, where some freshly barked willows that lay in the
water showed that beaver had been recently at work. There were some
small brown squirrels jumping about in the pines, and a couple of large
mallard ducks swimming about in the stream.
The hills on this southern end were low, and the lake looked like a
mimic sea, as the waves broke on the sandy beach in the force of a strong
breeze. There was a pretty open spot, with fine grass for our mules ; and
we made our noon halt on the beach, under the shade of some large hem-
locks. We resumed our journey after a halt of about an hour, making our
way up the ridge on the western side of the lake. In search of smoother
ground, we rode a little inland ; and, passing through groves of aspen,
soon found ourselves among the pines. Emerging from these, we struck
the summit of the ridge above the upper end of the lake.
We had reached a very elevated point, and in the valley below, and
among the hills, were a number of lakes at different levels ; some, two or
394 WIND-RIVER PEAK AND FLAG.
three hundred feet above others, with which they communicated by foam-
ing torrents. Even to our great height, the roar of the cataracts came up,
and we could see them leaping down in lines of snowy foam. From this
scene of busy waters we turned abruptly into the stillness of a forest, where
we rode among the open bolls of the pines, over a lawn of verdant grass
having strikingly the air of cultivated grounds. This led us after a time
among masses of rock which had no vegetable earth but in hollows and
crevices, though still the pine forest continued. Toward evening, we
reached a defile, or rather hole in the mountains, entirely shut in by dark
A small stream, with a scarcely perceptible current, flowed through a
level bottom of perhaps eighty yards width, where the grass was saturated
with water. Into this the mules were turned, and were neither hobbled
nor picketed during the night, as the fine pasturage took away all tempta-
tion to stray ; and we made our bivouac in the pines. The surrounding
masses were all of granite. While supper was being prepared I set out
on an excursion in the neighborhood, accompanied by one of my men.
We wandered about among the crags and ravines until dark, richly repaid
for our walk by a fine collection of plants, many of them in full bloom.
Ascending a peak to find the place of our camp, we saw that the little de-
file in which we lay communicated with the long green valley of some
stream, which, here locked up in the mountains, far away to the south
found its way in a dense forest to the plains.
Looking along its upward course, it seemed to conduct, by a smooth
gradual slope, directly toward the peak, which, from long consultation as
we approached the mountain, we had decided to be the highest of the
range. Pleased with the discovery of so fine a road for the next day, we
hastened down to the camp, where we arrived just in time for supper. Our
table service was rather scant ; and we held the meat in our hands, and
clean rocks made good plates, on which we spread our macaroni.
Among all the strange places on which we had occasion to encamp
during our long journey, none have left so vivid an impression on my mind
as the camp of this evening. The disorder of the masses which surrounded
us ; the little hole through which we saw the stars overhead ; the dark
pines where we slept ; and the rocks lit up with the glow of our fires, made
a night-picture of very wild beauty.
August 13. The morning was bright and pleasant, just cool enough to
make exercise agreeable, and we soon entered the defile I had seen the
preceding day. It was smoothly carpeted with a soft grass, and scattered
over with groups of flowers, of which yellow was the predominant color.
Sometimes we were forced, by an occasional difficult pass, to pick our way
on a narrow ledge along the side of the defile, and the mules were fre-
MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT. 395
quently on their knees ; but these obstructions were rare, and we journeyed
on in the sweet morning air, delighted at our good fortune in having found
such a beautiful entrance to the mountains.
This road continued for about three miles, when we suddenly reached
its termination in one of the grand views which at every turn meet the trav-
eller in this magnificent region. Here the defile up which we had travelled,
opened out into a small lawn, where, in a little lake, the stream had its
There were some fine asters in bloom, but all the flowering plants ap-
peared to seek the shelter of the rocks, and to be of lower growth than be-
low, as if they loved the warmth of the soil, and kept out of the way of the
winds. Immediately at our feet a precipitous descent led to a confusion of
defiles, and before us rose the mountains as we have represented them in
the annexed view. It is not by the splendor of far-off views, which have
lent such a glory to the Alps, that these impress the mind ; but by a gi-
gantic disorder of enormous masses, and a savage sublimity of naked rock,
in wonderful contrast with innumerable green spots of a rich floral beauty
shut up in their stern recesses. Their wildness seems well suited to the
character of the people who inhabit the country.
I determined to leave our animals here, and make the rest of our way
on foot. The peak appeared so near that there was no doubt of our re-
turning before night ; and a few men were left in charge of the mules, with
our provisions and blankets. We took with us nothing but our arms and
instruments, and, as the day had become warm, the greater part left our
coats. Having made an early dinner, we started again. We were soon
involved in the most ragged precipices, nearing the central chain very
slowly, and rising but little. The first ridge hid a succession of others ;
and when, with great fatigue and difficulty we had climbed up five hundred
feet, it was but to make an equal descent on the other side ; all these in-
tervening places were filled with small deep lakes, which met the eye in
every direction, descending from one level to another, sometimes under
bridges formed by huge fragments of granite, beneath which was heard the
roar of the water. These constantly obstructed our path, forcing us to make
long dd^irs ; frequently obliged to retrace our steps, and frequently falling
among the rocks. Maxwell was precipitated towards the face of a preci-
pice, and saved himself from going over by throwing himself flat on the
ground. We clambered on, always expecting with every ridge that we
crossed, to reach the foot of the peaks, and always disappointed, until about
4 o'clock when, pretty well worn out, we reached the shore of a little lake,
in which was a rocky island, and from which we obtained the view given
here. We remained here a short time to rest, and continued on around
the lake, which had in some places a beach of white sand, and in others
396 WIND-RIVER PEAK AND FLAG.
was bound with rocks over which the way was difficult and dangerous, as
the water from innumerable springs made them very slippery.
By the time we had reached the farther side of the lake, we found our-
selves all exceedingly fatigued and, much to the satisfaction of the whole
party, we encamped. The spot we had chosen was a broad flat rock, in
some measure protected from the winds by the surrounding crags, and the
trunks of fallen pines afforded us bright fires. Near by was a foaming tor-
rent, which tumbled into the little lake about one hundred and fifty feet
below us, and which, by way of distinction, we have called Island Lake.
We had reached the upper limit of the piny region ; as,. above this point,
no tree was to be seen, and patches of snow lay everywhere around us
on the cold sides of the rocks. The flora of the region we had traversed
since leaving our mules was extremely rich, and, among the characteristic
plants, the scarlet flowers of the dodecatheon dentatum everywhere met
the eye in great abundance. A small green ravine, on the edge of which
we were encamped, was filled with a profusion of alpine plants in brilliant
bloom. From barometrical observations, made during our three days'
sojourn at this place, its elevation above the Gulf of Mexico is 10,000 feet.
During the day we had seen no sign of animal life ; but among the rocks
we heard what was supposed to be the bleat of a young goat, which we
searched for with hungry activity, and found to proceed from a small ani-
mal of a gray color, with short ears and no tail probably the Siberian
squirrel. We saw a considerable number of them, and, with the exception
of a small bird like a sparrow, it is the only inhabitant of this elevated part
of the mountains. On our return, we saw below this lake, large flocks of
the mountain goat. We had nothing to eat to-night. Lajeunesse, with
several others, took their guns and sallied out in search of a goat ; but
returned unsuccessful. At sunset the barometer stood at 20.522 ; the
attached thermometer 50. Here we had the misfortune to break our
thermometer, having now only that attached to the barometer. I was
taken ill shortly after we had encamped, and continued so until late in the
night, with violent headache and vomiting. This was probably caused by
the excessive fatigue I had undergone, and want of food, and perhaps,
also, in some measure, by the rarity of the air. The night was cold, as a
violent gale from the north had sprung up at sunset, which entirely blew
away the heat of the fires. The cold, and our granite beds, had not been
favorable to sleep, and we were glad to see the face of the sun in the
morning. Not being delayed by any preparation for breakfast, we set out
On every side as we advanced was heard the roar of waters, and of a
torrent, which we followed up a short distance, until it expanded into a lake
about one mile in length. On the northern side of the lake was a bank of
MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT. 397
ice, or rather of snow covered with a crust of ice. Carson had been our
guide into the mountains and, agreeably to his advice, we left this little
valley, and took to the ridges again ; which we found extremely broken,
and where we were again involved among precipices. Here were ice-
fields ; among which we were all dispersed, seeking each the best path
to ascend the peak. Mr. Preuss attempted to walk along the upper edge
of one of these fields, which sloped away at an angle of about twenty de-
grees ; but his feet slipped from under him, and he went plunging down
the plane. A few hundred feet below, at the bottom, were some frag-
ments of sharp rock, on which he landed ; and though he turned a couple
of somersets, fortunately received no injury beyond a few bruises. Two of
the men, Clement Lambert and Descoteaux, had been taken ill, and laid
down on the rocks a short distance below ; and at this point I was attacked
with headache and giddiness, accompanied by vomiting, as on the day be-
fore. Finding myself unable to proceed I sent the barometer over to Mr.
Preuss, who was in a gap two or three hundred yards distant, desiring him
to reach the peak, if possible, and take an observation there. He found
himself unable to proceed farther in that direction, and took an observation,
where the barometer stood 19.401 ; attached thermometer 50 in the gap.
Carson, who had gone over to him, succeeding in reaching one of the snowy
summits of the main ridge, whence he saw the peak towards which all our
efforts had been directed, towering eight or ten hundred feet into the air
above him. In the meantime, finding myself grow rather worse than bet-
ter, and doubtful how far my strength would carry me, I sent Basil Lajeu-
nesse, with four men back to the place where the mules had been left.
We were now better acquainted with the topography of the country,
and I directed him to bring back with him, if it were in any way possible,
four or five mules, with provisions and blankets. With me were Maxwell
and Ayer; and after we had remained nearly an hour on the rock, it became
so unpleasantly cold, though the day was bright, that we set out on our
return to the camp, at which we all arrived safely, straggling in one after
the other. I continued ill during the afternoon, but became better towards
sundown, when my recovery was completed by the appearance of Basil and
four men, all mounted. The men who had gone with him had been too
much fatigued to return, and were relieved by those in charge of the horses ;
but in his powers of endurance Basil resembled more a mountain goat than
a man. They brought blankets and provisions, and we enjoyed well our
dried meat and a cup of good coffee. We rolled ourselves up in our blan-
kets, and, with our feet turned to a blazing fire, slept soundly until morning.
Aiigust 15. It had been supposed that we had finished with the
mountains ; and the evening before, it had been arranged that Carson
should set out at daylight, and return to breakfast at the camp of the
398 WIND-RIVER PEAK AND FLAG.
mules, taking with him all but four or five men, who were to stay with me
and bring back the mules and instruments. Accordingly, at the break of
day they set out. With Mr. Preuss and myself remained Basil Lajeu-
nesse, Clement Lambert, Janisse, and Descoteaux. When we had se-
cured strength for the day by a hearty breakfast, we covered what re-
mained, which was enough for one meal, with rocks, in order that it might
be safe from any marauding bird ; and, saddling our mules, turned our
faces once more towards the peaks. This time we determined to proceed
quietly and cautiously, deliberately resolved to accomplish our object if it
were within the compass of human means. We were of opinion that a
long defile which lay to the left of yesterday's route would lead us to the
foot of the main peak. Our mules had been refreshed by the fine grass
in the little ravine at the island camp, and we intended to ride up the defile
as far as possible, in order to husband our strength for the main ascent.
Though this was a fine passage, still it was a defile of the most rugged
mountains known, and we had many a rough and steep slippery place to
cross before reaching the end. In this place the sun rarely shone ; snow
lay along the border of the small stream which flowed through it, and
occasional icy passages made the footing of the mules very insecure, and all
the rocks and ground were moist with the trickling waters in this spring
of mighty rivers. We soon had the satisfaction to find ourselves riding
along the huge wall which forms the central summit of the chain. There
at last it rose by our sides, a nearly perpendicular wall of granite, termi-
nating 2,000 to 3,000 feet above our heads in a serrated line of broken,
jagged cones. We rode on until we came almost immediately below the
main peak, which I denominated the Snow Peak, as it exhibited more
snow to the eye than any of the neighboring summits. Here were three
small lakes of a green color, each of perhaps a thousand yards in diam-
eter, and apparently very deep. These lay in a kind of chasm ; and,
according to the barometer, we had attained but a few hundred feet above
the Island Lake. The barometer here stood at 20.450 ; attached ther-
We managed to get our mules up to a little bench about a hundred
feet above the lakes, where there was a patch of good grass, and turned
them loose to graze. During our rough ride to this place they had ex-
hibited a wonderful surefootedness. Parts of the defile were filled with
angular, sharp fragments of rock, three or four and eight or ten feet cube ;
and among these they had worked their way, leaping from one narrow
point to another, rarely making a false step, and giving us no occasion to
dismount. Having divested ourselves of every unnecessary encumbrance,
we commenced the ascent. This time, like experienced travellers, we did
not press ourselves, but climbed leisurely, sitting down so soon as we
MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT. 399
found breath beginning to fail. At intervals we reached places where a
number of springs gushed from the rocks, and about 1,800 feet above the
lakes came to the snow-line. From this point our progress was uninter-
rupted climbing. Hitherto I had worn a pair of thick moccasins, with soles
oiparficche ; but here I put on a light thin pair, which I had brought for
the purpose, as now the use of our toes became necessary to a further ad-
vance. I availed myself of a sort of comb of the mountain, which stood
against the wall like a buttress, and which the wind and the solar radia-
tion, joined to the steepness of the smooth rock, had kept almost entirely
free from snow. Up this I made my way rapidly. Our cautious method
of advancing in the outset had spared my strength ; and, with the excep-
tion of a slight disposition to headache, I felt no remains of yesterday's
illness. In a few minutes we reached a point where the buttress was over-
hanging, and there was no way of surmounting the difficulty than by pass-
ing round one side of it, which was the face of a vertical precipice of
several hundred feet.
Putting hands and feet in the crevices between the blocks, I succeeded
in getting over it, and, when I reached the top, found my companions in a
small valley below. Descending to them, we continued climbing, and in a
short time reached the crest. I sprang upon the summit, and another step
would have precipitated me into an immense snow-field five hundred feet
below. To the edge of this field was a sheer icy precipice ; and then, with
a gradual fall, the field sloped off for about a mile, until it struck the foot
of another lower ridge. I stood on a narrow crest, about three feet in
width, with an inclination of about 20 N. 51 E. As soon as I had grat-
ified the first feelings of curiosity I descended, and each man ascended in
his turn ; for I would allow only one at a time to mount the unstable and
precarious slab, which it seemed a breath would hurl into the abyss below.
We mounted the barometer in the snow of the summit, and, fixing a ram-
rod in a crevice, unfurled the national flag to wave in the breeze where
never flag waved before. During our morning's ascent, we had met no
sign of animal life, except the small sparrow-like bird already mentioned.
A stillness the most profound and a terrible solitude forced themselves
constantly on the mind as the great features of the place. Here, on the
summit, where the stillness was absolute, unbroken by any sound, and the
solitude complete, we thought ourselves beyond the region of animated
life ; but while we were sitting on the rock, a solitary bee (6romus, the
humble-bee) came winging his flight from the eastern valley, and lit on
the knee of one of the men. It was a strange place, the icy rock and the
highest peak of the Rocky Mountains, for a lover of warm sunshine and
flowers ; and we pleased ourselves with the idea that he was the first of his
species to cross the mountain barrier a solitary pioneer to foretell the ad-
4 WIND-RIVER PEAK AND FLAG.
vance of civilization. I believe that a moment's thought would have made
us let him continue his way unharmed ; but we carried out the law of this
country, where all animated nature seems at war ; and, seizing him imme-
diately, put him in at least a fit place in the leaves of a large book, among
the flowers we had collected on our way. The barometer stood at 18.293,
the attached thermometer at 44 ; giving for the elevation of this summit
I 3'57 f eet above the Gulf of Mexico, which may be called the highest
flight of the bee. It is certainly the highest known flight of that insect.
From the description given by Mackenzie of the mountains where he
crossed them, with that of a French officer still farther to the north, and
Colonel Long's measurements to the south, joined to the opinion of the
oldest traders of the country, it is presumed that this is the highest peak
of the Rocky Mountains. The day was sunny and bright, but a slight
shining mist hung over the lower plains, which interfered with our veiw of
the surrounding country. On one side we overlooked innumerable lakes
and streams, the spring of the Colorado of the Gulf of California ; and on
the other was the Wind River Valley, where were the heads of the Yellow-
stone branch of the Missouri ; far to the north, we could just discover the
snowy heads of the Trois Tetons, where were the sources of the Missouri
and Columbia Rivers ; and at the southern extremity of the ridge, the
peaks were plainly visible, among which were some of the springs of the
Nebraska or Platte River. Around us the whole scene had one main
striking feature, which was that of terrible convulsion. Parallel to its
length, the ridge was split into chasms and fissures ; between which rose
the thin lofty walls, terminated with slender minarets and columns, which
is correctly represented in the view from the camp on Island Lake. Ac-
cording to the barometer, the little crest of the wall on which we stood
was three thousand five hundred and seventy feet above that place, and
two thousand seven hundred and eighty above the little lakes at the
bottom, immediately at our feet. Our camp at the Two Hills (an astro-
nomical station) bore south 3 east, which, with a bearing afterward ob-
tained from a fixed position, enabled us to locate the peak. The bearing
of the Trois Tetons was north 50 west, and the direction of the central
ridge of the Wind River Mountains south 39 east. The summit rock was
gneiss/succeeded by sienitic gneiss. Sienite and feldspar succeeded in our
descent to the snow line, where we found a feldspathic granite. I had re-
marked that the noise produced by the explosion of our pistols had the
usual degree of loudness, but was not in the least prolonged, expiring al-
most instantaneously. Having now made what observations our means
afforded, we proceeded to descend. We had accomplished an object of
laudable ambition, and beyond the strict order of our instructions. We
had climbed the loftiest peak of the Rocky Mountains, and looked down
SCALE / 1000000.
THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT. 401
upon the snow a thousand feet below, and, standing where never human
foot had stood before, felt the exultation of first explorers. It was about
two o'clock when we left the summit ; and when we reached the bottom,
the sun had already sunk behind the wall, and the day was drawing to a
close. It would have been pleasant to have lingered here and on the
summit longer ; but we hurried away as rapidly as the ground would
permit, for it was an object to regain our party as soon as possible, not
knowing what accident the next hour might bring forth.
We reached our deposit of provisions at nightfall. Here was not the
inn which awaits the tired traveller on his return from Mont Blanc, or the
orange groves of South America, with their refreshing juices and soft fra-
grant air ; but we found our little cache of dried meat and coffee undisturbed.
Though the moon was bright, the road was full of precipices, and the fatigue
of the day had been great. We therefore abandoned the idea of rejoin-
ing our friends, and lay down on the rock, and in spite of the cold slept
August 1 6. We left our encampment with the daylight. On our way
we saw large flocks of the mountain goat looking down on us from the
cliffs. At the crack of a rifle they would bound off among the rocks, and
in a few minutes make their appearance on some lofty peak, some hundred
or a thousand feet above. It is needless to attempt any further description
of the country ; the portion over which we travelled this morning was rough
as imagination could picture it, and to us seemed equally beautiful. A con-
course of lakes and rushing waters, mountains of rocks naked and destitute
of vegetable earth, dells and ravines of the most exquisite beauty, all kept
green and fresh by the great moisture in the air, and sown with brilliant
flowers, and everywhere thrown around all the glory of the most magnificent
scenes these constitute the features of the place, and impress themselves
vividly on the mind of the traveller. It was not until 1 1 o'clock that we
reached the place where our animals had been left, when we first attempted
the mountains on foot. Near one of the still burning fires we found a piece
of meat which our friends had thrown away, and which furnished us a
mouthful a very scanty breakfast. We continued directly on, and reached
our camp on the mountain lake at dusk. Nothing had occurred to interrupt
the quiet since our departure, and the fine grass and good cool water had
done much to re-establish our animals. All heard with great delight the
order to turn our faces homeward ; and toward sundown of the i yth we
encamped again at the Two Buttes.
In the course of this afternoon's march, the barometer was broken past
remedy. I regretted it, as I was desirous to compare it again with Dr.
Engelman's barometers at St. Louis, to which mine were referred ; but it
had done its part well, and my objects were mainly fulfilled.
582 GREA T TLAMA TH LAKE.
We were encamped on the northern shore of the Great Tlamath Lake,
in Oregon. The night was cool, for the early days of May are sharp in
this high country, under the shadow of the great mountains. I was stand-
ing by the camp-fire late in the evening when I caught the sound of
horses' hoofs and two men rode quickly up. It was an unexpected event
to see in this place white men who did not belong to our camp. They
proved to be a stranger, a half-breed in the service of the Hudson Bay
Company, and Samuel Neal, who had been with me in the expedition of
1843-44. He had been won by the glowing fertility and beauty of Cali-
fornia, and decided to remain there ; he was now a ranchero, or stockman,
owning a good rancho on Butte Creek, in the Sacramento Valley. Start-
ing at daybreak, he and his companion had ridden from the outlet of the
lake to my camp. He informed me that a United States officer was on
my trail with despatches for me, but he doubted if he would get through,
as he and his companion had escaped the Indians only by the goodness of
their horses, which he brought from his own rancho. A quick eye and a
good horse mean life to a man in an Indian country. Neal had both.
He was a lover of horses and knew a good one ; and those he had with
him were the best on his rancho. He had been sent forward by the
messenger to let me know that he was in danger of being cut off by the
The trail back along the shore at the foot of the mountains was so
nearly impassable at night that nothing could be gained by attempting it,
but everything was made ready for an early start in the morning. For
the relief party, in view of contingencies, I selected nine of the best men,
including Carson, Dick Owens, and Lajeunesse, with four of the Dela-
When the excitement of the evening was over I lay down, speculating
far into the night on what could be the urgency of the message which had
brought an officer of the Government to search so far after me into these
mountains. At early dawn we took the backward trail. Snow and fallen
timber made the ride hard and long to where I thought to meet the mes-
senger. On the way no Indians were seen and no tracks later than
those where they had struck Neal's trail. In the afternoon, having made
about sixty miles, we reached the spot where the forest made an opening
to the lake and where I intended to wait. This was a glade, or natural
meadow, shut in by the forest, with a small stream and good grass. I knew
that this was the first water to which the trail would bring the messenger
and that I was sure to meet him here if no harm befell him on the way.
The sun was about going down when he was seen issuing from the wood
accompanied by three men. He proved to be Lieutenant Gillespie, of the
United States Marine Corps. He was a bearer of despatches to the U. S.
MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT. 583
Consul at Monterey and had travelled over six hundred miles to overtake
me, through great dangers He brought me a letter of introduction from
the Secretary of State, Mr. Buchanan, and letters and papers from Sena-
tor Benton and the family. We greeted him warmly. All were glad to
see him, whites and Indians. It was long since any news had reached us
and every one was as pleased to see him as if he had come freighted with
letters from home, for all. It was now eleven months since any tidings
had reached me. Neal had much to talk over with his old companions,
and pleasurable excitement kept us up late ; but before eleven o'clock all
were wrapped in their blankets and soundly asleep, except myself. I sat
by the fire in fancied security, going over again the home package. The
letter from the Secretary was directed to me in my private, or citizen
capacity, and though importing nothing beyond the introduction it ac-
credited the bearer to me as coming from the Secretary of State, in con-
nection with the circumstances and place of delivery it indicated a purpose
in sending it which was intelligently explained to me by the accompanying
letter from Senator Benton and by communications from Lieutenant Gilles-
pie. This officer informed me that he had been directed by the Secretary
of State to find me wherever I might be, and to acquaint me with his in-
structions, which had for their principal objects to ascertain the disposition
of the California people, to conciliate their feelings in favor of the United
States, and to find out, with a view to counteracting, the designs of the
British Government upon this country. The letter from Senator Benton,
while apparently of friendship and family details, contained passages and
suggestions which, read by the light of many conversations and discus-
sions with himself at Washington, clearly indicated to me that I was re-
quired by the Government to find out any foreign schemes in relation to
the Californias and to counteract them.
I had about thought out the situation when I was startled by a sudden
movement among the animals. Lieutenant Gillespie had told me that
there were no Indians on his trail and I knew there were none on mine.
This night was one of two when I had failed to put men on guard in an
Indian country this one and a night spent on an island in the Great Salt
Lake. The animals were near the shore of the lake, not a hundred yards
away. Drawing a revolver I went down among them. A mule is a good
sentinel, and when he quits eating and stands with his ears stuck straight
out taking notice, it is best to see what is the matter. The mules knew
that Indians were around, but nothing seemed stirring, and my presence
quieting the animals I returned to the fire and my letters.
There appeared but one way open to me. War with Mexico seemed
inevitable, and a grand opportunity might now present itself to realize in
their fullest extent the far-sighted views of Senator Benton and make the
5 84 GREA T TLAMA TH LAKE.
Pacific Ocean the western boundary of the United States. These con-
siderations decided my course. I determined to act on my own respon-
sibility and return forthwith to California. This decision was the first
step in the conquest of California.
My mind having settled into this conclusion I went to my bed under a
cedar. The camp was divided into three fires, and near each one, but
well out of the light, were sleeping the men belonging to it. Close up
along the margin of the wood which shut us in on three sides were some
low cedars, the ends of their boughs reaching nearly to the ground.
Under these we had made our beds. One always likes to have his head
sheltered and a rifle with a ramrod or a branch or bush with a blanket
thrown over them answers very well where there is nothing better.
I had barely fallen to sleep when I was awakened by the sound of
Carson's voice, calling to Basil to know " what the matter was over there."
No reply came and immediately the camp was roused by the cry from Kit
and Owens who were lying together " Indians ! " Basil and the half-
breed had been killed. It was the sound of the axe driven into Basil's
head that had awakened Carson. The half-bred had been killed with
arrows, and his groans had replied to Carson's call, and told him what the
matter was. No man, with an Indian experience, jumps squarely to his
feet in a night attack, but in an instant every man was at himself. The
Delawares who lay near their fire on that side sprung to cover rifle in
hand at the sound of the axe. We ran to their aid, Carson and I, Godey
and Stepp, just as the Tlamaths charged into the open ground. The
fires were smouldering but gave light enough to show Delaware Crane
jumping like a brave as he was from side to side in Indian fashion, and
defending himself with the butt of his gun. By some mischance his rifle
was not loaded when he lay down. All this was quick work. The
moment's silence which followed Carson's shout was broken by our rifles.
The Tlamath chief who was at the head of his men fell in front of Crane
who was just down with five arrows in his body three in his breast.
The Tlamaths checked in their onset and disconcerted by the fall of their
chief jumped back into the shadow of the wood. We threw a blanket
over Crane and hung blankets to the cedar boughs and bushes near by
behind my camp-fire for a defence against the arrows. The Indians did
not dare to put themselves again in the open but continued to pour in
their arrows. They made no attempt on our animals which had been
driven up by Owens to be under fire of the camp, but made frequent
attempts to get the body of their chief. We were determined they should
not have it and every movement on their part brought a rifle-shot ; a
dozen rifles in such hands at short range made the undertaking too haz-
ardous for them to persist in it. While both sides were watching each
MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE JOHN CHARLES FREMONT. 585
other from under cover and every movement was followed by a rifle-shot
or arrow, I heard Carson cry out "Look at the fool! Look at him will
you ! " This was to Godey, who had stepped out to the light of my fire
to look at some little thing which had gone wrong with his gun ; it was
still bright enough to show him distinctly, standing there a fair mark to
the arrows turning resentfully to Carson for the epithet bestowed on
him but in nowise hurrying himself. He was the most thoroughly in-
sensible to danger of all the brave men I have known.
All night we lay behind our blanket defences, with our rifles cocked in our
hands, expecting momentarily another attack, until the morning light ena-
bled us to see that the Indians had disappeared. By their tracks we found
that fifteen or twenty Tlamaths had attacked us. It was a sorrowful sight
that met our eyes in the gray of the morning. Three of our men had been
killed ; Basil, Crane, and the half-breed, and another Delaware had been
wounded ; one-fourth of our number. The chief who had been killed was
recognized to be the same Indian who had given Lieutenant Gillespie a
salmon at the outlet of the lake. Hung to his wrist was an English half-
axe. Carson seized this and knocked his head to pieces with it, and one of
the Delawares, Saghundai, scalped him. He was left where he fell. In his
quiver were forty arrows ; as Carson said, " the most beautiful and warlike
arrows he had ever seen." We saw more of them afterward. These arrows
were all headed with a lancet-like piece of iron or steel probably obtained
from the Hudson Bay Company's traders and were poisoned for about
six inches. They could be driven that depth into a pine tree.
This event cast an angry gloom over the little camp. For the moment
I threw all other considerations aside and determined to square accounts
with these people before I left them. It was only a few days back that some
of these same Indians had come into our camp, and I divided with them
what meat I had and unpacked a mule to give them tobacco and knives.
On leaving the main party I had directed it to gear np as soon as the
men had breakfasted and follow my trail to a place where we had encamped
some days back. This would put them now about twenty-five miles from
us. Packing our dead men on the mules, we started to rejoin the main
camp, following the trail by which we had come. Before we had been two
hours on the way many canoes appeared on the lake, coming from different
directions and apparently making for a point where the trail came down to
the shore. As we approached this point the prolonged cry of a loon told
us that their scout was giving the Indians warning of our approach. Know-
ing that if we came to a fight the care of our dead men would prove a great
hindrance and probably cost more lives, I turned sharply off into the moun-
tain, and buried, or cached, them in a close laurel thicket The Indians,
thrown out by our sudden movement, failed in their intended ambush ; and
j. ^v_ ' * /
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THE PRUSSIAN ORDE^ OF MERIT.
SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS 1848.
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