This was granted, but was almost immediately revoked, and Fremont was peremptorily ordered to leave the country without delay. He as peremptorily refused to comply. The Mexican governor, Gen. Castro, mustered the forces of the province and prepared to attack the Americans, who were only 62 in number. Fremont took up a strong position on the Hawk's peak, a mountain 30 m. from Monterey, built a rude fort of felled trees, hoisted the American flag, and, having plenty of ammunition, resolved to defend himself. The Mexican general formed a camp with a large force in the plain immediately below the position held by the Americans, whom he hourly threatened to attack. On the evening of the fourth day of the siege Fremont withdrew with his party and proceeded toward the San Joaquin. The fires were still burning in his deserted camp when a messenger arrived from Gen. Castro to propose a cessation of hostilities. Without further molestation Fremont pursued his way northward through the valley of the Sacramento into Oregon. Near Tlamath lake, on May 9, 1846, he met a party in search of him with despatches from Washington, directing him to watch over the interests of the United States in California, there being reason to apprehend that the province would be transferred to Great Britain, and also that Gen. Castro intended to destroy the American settlements on the Sacramento. Fremont promptly retraced his steps to California. Gen. Castro was already march-ing against the settlements.
The settlers rose in arms, flocked to Fremonfs camp, and under his leadership the result was that in less than a month all northern California was freed from Mexican authority. On July 4 Fremont was elected governor of California by the American settlers. On the 10th of that month he learned that Commodore Sloat, who commanded the United States squadron on the coast, had taken possession of Monterey. Fremont proceeded to join the naval forces, and reached Monterey with 160 mounted riflemen on the 19th. Commodore Stockton about the same time arrived at Monterey with the frigate Congress, and took command of the squadron, with authority from Washington to conquer California. At his request Fremont, who had been promoted (May 27) to the rank of lieutenant colonel, organized a force of mounted men, known as the "California battalion," of which he was appointed major. He was also appointed by Com. Stockton military commandant and civil governor of the territory, the project of making California independent having been relinquished on receipt of intelligence that war had broken out between the United States and Mexico. On Jan. 13, 1847, he concluded with the Mexicans articles of capitulation which terminated the war in California, and left that country permanently in the possession of the United States. Meantime Gen. Kearny, with a small force of dragoons, had arrived in California. A quarrel soon broke out between him and Com. Stockton as to who should command.
They each had instructions from Washington to conquer and organize a government in the country. Fremont had accepted a commission from Com. Stockton as commander of the battalion of volunteers, and had been appointed governor of the territory. Gen. Kearny, as Fremont's superior officer in the regular army, required him to obey his orders, which conflicted with those of Com. Stockton, whose authority Fremont had already fully recognized as com-mander-in-chief of the territory; an authority which had also been admitted by Gen. Kearny for a considerable period after his arrival. In this dilemma Fremont concluded to obey the orders of Com. Stockton. Despatches from Washington received in the spring of 1847 terminated this conflict of authorities by directing Com. Stockton to relinquish to Gen. Kearny the supreme command in California. Fremont hesitated no longer to place himself under Gen. Kearny's orders, who in June set out overland for the United States, ordering Fremont to accompany him, and treating him with deliberate disrespect throughout the journey, until at Fort Leavenworth, Aug. 22, he put him under arrest, and directed him to go to Washington and report himself to the adjutant general.
He arrived at Washington Sept. 16, and immediately asked for a speedy trial on Gen. Kearny's charges. Accordingly a court martial was held, beginning Nov. 2, 1847, and ending Jan. 31, 1848, which found him guilty ofmutiny,"disobedience of the lawful command of a superior officer," and "conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline," and sentenced him to be dismissed from the service. A majority of the members of the court recommended him to the clemency of President Polk. The president refused to confirm the verdict of mutiny, but approved the rest of the verdict and the sentence, of which, however, he immediately remitted the penalty. Fremont declined to avail himself of the president's pardon, and forthwith resigned his commission as lieutenant colonel. On Oct. 14, 1848, Fremont started on a fourth expedition across the continent, at his own expense. With 33 men and 120 mules he made his way along the upper waters of the Rio Grande through the country of the Utes, Apaches, Comanches, and other Indian tribes, then at war with the United States. His object was to find a practicable passage by this route to California. In attempting to cross the great Sierra, covered with snow, his guide lost his way, and Fremont's party encountered horrible suffering from cold and hunger, a portion of them being driven to cannibalism.
All of his animals and one third of his men perished, and he was forced to retrace his steps to Santa Fe. Undaunted by this disaster, he gathered another band of 30 men, and after a long search discovered a secure route, which conducted him eventually to the Sacramento in the spring of 1849. He now determined to settle in California, where in 1847 he had bought the Mariposa estate, a very large tract of land, containing rich gold mines. His title to this estate was contested, but after a long litigation it was decided in his favor in 1855 by the supreme court of the United States. In 1849 he received from President Taylor the appointment of commissioner to run the boundary line between the United States and Mexico. The legislature of California, which met in December, 1849, elected him on the first ballot one of the two senators to represent the new state in the senate of the United States. He consequently resigned his commissionership, and departed for Washington by way of the isthmus. He took his seat in the senate Sept. 10, 1850, the day after the admission of California as a state.
In drawing lots for the terms of the respective senators, Fremont drew the short term, ending March 4, 1851. The senate remained in session but three weeks after the admission of California, and during that period Fremont devoted himself almost exclusively to measures relating to the interests of the state he represented. For this purpose he introduced and advocated a comprehensive series of bills, 18 or 20 in number, embracing almost every object of legislation demanded by the peculiar circumstances of California. In the state election of 1851 in California, the party which had opposed the introduction of slavery, and had placed the proviso against it in the state constitution, was defeated. As Fremont was one of the leaders of this party, he failed of reelection to the senate, after 142 ballotings. The next two years he devoted to his private affairs, and visited Europe in 1852, where he spent a year, and was received with distinction by many eminent men of letters and of science. While in Europe he learned that congress had made an appropriation for the survey of three routes from the Mississippi valley to the Pacific. He immediately returned to the United States for the purpose of fitting out a fifth expedition on his own account to complete the survey of the route he had taken on Mis fourth expedition.
He left Paris in June, 1853, and in September was on his march across the continent. He found passes through the mountains on the line of lat. 38° and 39°, and reached California in safety, after enduring great hardships. For 50 days his party lived on horse flesh, and for 48 hours at a time were without food of any kind. In the spring of 1855 Fremont with his family took up his residence in New York, for the purpose of preparing for publication the narrative of his last expedition. His name now began to be mentioned in connection with the presidency by those who were combining to act against the democratic party on the basis of opposition to the extension of slavery. The republican national convention, which met at Philadelphia, June 17, 1856, nominated him for the presidency by a vote of 359 to 196 for John McLean, on an informal ballot. On the first formal ballot Fremont was unanimously nominated. He accepted the nomination in a letter dated July 8, 1856," in which he expressed himself strongly against the extension of slavery and in favor of free labor. A few days after the Philadelphia convention adjourned, a national American convention at New York also nominated him for the presidency.
He accepted their support in a letter dated June 30, in which he referred them for an exposition of his views to his forthcoming letter accepting the republican nomination. After a most spirited and exciting contest, the presidential election resulted in the choice of Mr. Buchanan by 174 electoral votes from 19 states, while Fremont received 114 votes from 11 states, including the six New England states, New York, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Maryland gave her eight electoral votes for Mr. Fillmore. The popular vote for Fremont was 1,341,000; for Buchanan, 1,838,000; for Fillmore, 874,000. In 1858 Fremont went to California, where he resided for some time. In 1860 he visited Europe. Soon after the breaking out of the civil war he was made a major general and assigned to the command of the western district. On Aug. 31, 1861, he issued an order emancipating the slaves of those in his district who were in arms against the United States, which was annulled by the president as unauthorized and premature, and he was relieved from his command, Nov. 2. Three months later he was appointed commander of the mountain district of Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. He fought on June 8, 1862, an indecisive battle against Gen. Jackson at Cross Keys; and shortly afterward, on Pope being appointed to the command of the army of Virginia, Fremont declined to serve under an officer whom he ranked, and sent in his resignation, which was accepted by the president.
He took no further part in the war. On May 31, 1864, a convention of republicans dissatisfied with Mr. Lincoln met at Cleveland and nominated Gen. Fremont for president. He accepted the nomination, but in September, finding that he had few followers, withdrew from the field. He has since taken no part in public affairs, but has been active in promoting a projected southern transcontinental railway. In connection with this he was accused of fraud in France, and in 1873 was found guilty in a trial in Paris, and in his absence was sentenced to fine and imprisonment. He resides in New York in winter and at Mount Desert, Me., in summer.