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It was 171 years ago today on January 31, 1848, that one of our nations heroes was found guilty of disobeying direct orders in a very public Court-Martial. John C. Fremont, adventurer, cartographer – map maker, soldier, abolitionist, politician and one hundred percent American Man, found himself in a controversy that arose out of the Mexican- American War.
Fremont had led several adventures into the western territory, fighting Indians along with the likes of Kit Carson. During the war, the now Major Fremont led an expedition to study the south west, which then turned into a military operation that swept south from northern California. The controversy arose when on January 16, 1847, Fremont was appointed military governor of California. However, communications were slow in those days, as several people had been given such a command as well. On February 13, 1847, Brigadier General Stephen W. Kearny was given governorship by General Winfield Scott. Fremont; however, did not want to give up his command, nor did his men want to fight under the command of Kearny.
Fremont and Kearny traveled back east to solve the situation, and upon arrival at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Kearny placed Fremont under arrest for Mutiny during war time. The trial shocked the nation, Fremont was an American hero, how could he be a traitor? However, the prosecutors could not convince the tribunal that Fremont was guilty of mutiny. Fremont was found guilty of disobeying orders, which resulted in a dishonorable discharge from the military. President Polk intervened to save Fremont, and reinstated him.
Fremont, though glad to have the stain of dishonorable discharge removed from his record, resigned his commission for private life. Fremont still remained a pivotal figure in American history, becoming the first Republican Presidential Candidate in the 1856 election, losing to the Democrat candidate James Buchanan. Many public figures have had to defend their reputations, Fremont, the great adventure, cartographer, soldier, military governor for just a short time, and Republican Presidential Candidate was no different. Although it was 171 years ago, things just don’t change.
About the Author
Ronald G. Mayer Jr. is a Native of Arizona and a graduate of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. He teaches history at Liberty Traditional School in Prescott Valley where he resides. He looks forward to a career as a Professor of History.
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