Anniversary of Fremont's Court-Martial
by Michelle Carr Crowe, Silicon Valley guide and real estate agent
While many consider Fremont, Calif. as a bedroom community of Santa Clara County, what people don't know is that Fremont was named for famous explorer, senator and former major general, John C. Frémont.
Today, January 31, 1848 is the anniversary of his court martial.
Local schoolchildren learned Fremont was an explorer known as "The Great Pathfinder." In 1838 he was appointed a second lieutenant in the Corps of Topographical Engineers and assisted and led multiple surveying expeditions through the western territory of the United States and beyond.
From 1842 to 1846 Frémont and his guide Kit Carson led expedition parties on the Oregon Trail and into the Sierra Nevada. During his expeditions in the Sierra Nevada, Frémont became the first American to see Lake Tahoe. He later recruited volunteers to assist with the governing of California under orders from President James K. Polk.
On January 16, 1847, Commodore Stockton appointed Frémont military governor of California following the Treaty of Cahuenga.
What neither realized was U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny, who outranked both Stockton and Frémont, had orders from President Polk and secretary of war William L. Marcy to serve as the territory's military governor.
Upon arrival, Kearny requested Frémont relinquish the governorship, which he refused to do multiple times before relenting. Frémont was arrested on August 22, 1847 at Fort Leavenworth. He was charged with mutiny, disobedience of orders, assumption of powers, along with several other military offenses.
At his court-martial on January 31, 1848, Frémont was convicted of mutiny, disobedience of a superior officer and military misconduct.
President James K. Polk quickly and quietly commuted his sentence due to Frémont's services.
Frémont would later serve as one of the two first U.S. Senators from the new state of California.