"With this superb biography, the reader is soon convinced that Frémont's life is well worth examining, not only for its dizzying ups and downs but also for its intersection with so many hugely important themes in the nation's history . . . Chaffin's masterful grasp of storytelling creates a deeply nuanced portrait of a man of many parts . . . There's something here for every history buff: gripping accounts of Frémont's expeditions to map the rugged terrain of the West; insightful portrayals of Frémont's allies and adversaries that reveal the author's deep understanding of how power is wielded in both political and nonpolitical settings; and suberb analysis of the philosophical underpinnings of American empire." -Publishers Weekly, September 23, 2002
"A comprehensive, lively study of one of America's greatest and most controversial explorers . . . of great interest to students of Western History." -Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2002
"More than any other American, John C. Frémont became the pathfinder for a vast inland empire stretching from the Mississippi Valley to the Pacific Ocean. In a biography that, like its subject, never knows a dull moment, Tom Chaffin captures the spectacular successes as well as failures of this complex and colorful character." -James McPherson, Princeton University
"Throughout the 19th century the most celebrated explorer in America was not Lewis or Clark or Pike or Powell. It was the extraordinary 'Pathfinder,' John Charles Frémont. In his mesmerizing biography, Tom Chaffin brings to life not only Frémont but the amazing personalities who populated his world, including William Clark, Kit Carson, Robert E. Lee, and Abraham Lincoln. Near the end of his life, Frémont's remarkable wife Jessie Benton Frémont, remarked to her husband that 'All your campfires have become cities.' Today the American empire we see throughout the West is the enduring legacy of Frémont's campfires."
-Landon Jones, former Managing Editor, People Magazine
"John Charles Frémont and the Course of American Empire is the most eloquent, understanding and yet very candid biography of Frémont that has appeared to date. As the first general mapper of the West he reinvented the West for Americans as a key to their 'rising empire.' Tom Chaffin's beautifully written, dramatic biography of Frémont is a welcome major contribution to American historical writing. " -Howard R. Lamar, Yale University
"John Charles Fremont was a mansome would say *the* man-epitomizing mid-19th century America's driven, supremely confident spirit. Tom Chaffin has brought his remarkable character back into our midst, and by doing that he has shown us something of the heroism and blindnesses of that pivotal time in the nation's history." -Elliott West, University of Arkansas
"A masterful story teller, Tom Chaffin vividly narrates the personal as well as private lives of Frémont and the other colorful figures of his generation who pushed America to the Pacific. Drawing from his own deep exploration of the sources, Chaffin judiciously explains rather than blames his controversial protagonist." -David J. Weber, Southern Methodist University
"In clear and vivid language, Tom Chaffin's Pathfinder recreates the life of John C. Frémont, allowing us to see this extraordinary man warts and all. More, Chaffin shows us Frémont's importance to the great issues of his day. Explorer, soldier, businessman, politician, Frémont as much as any man, lived the ambitions of American empire and the ideals of the American republic." -Elliott J. Gorn, Purdue University
John Charles Fremont (1813-1890), nicknamed "the Pathfinder" in recognition of his groundbreaking expeditions to map the American West, is not as well known as Lewis and Clark, but with this superb biography, the reader is soon convinced that Fremont's life is well worth examining, not only for its dizzying ups and downs but also for its intersection with so many hugely important themes in the nation's history: Manifest Destiny, the settlement of the West and displacement of Native Americans; the building of the railroads; and the corrosive debate over slavery. Chaffin's masterful grasp of storytelling creates a deeply nuanced portrait of a man of many parts-dashing explorer, businessman and politician-and the tumultuous times he lived through and helped shape. There's something here for every history buff: gripping accounts of Fremont's expeditions to map the rugged terrain of the West; insightful portrayals of Fremont's allies and adversaries that reveal the author's deep understanding of how power is wielded in both political and nonpolitical settings; and superb analysis of the philosophical underpinnings of American empire. Chaffin (director of Emory University's Oral History Project) even delivers a memorable love story-the relationship between Fr mont and his wife, Jessie, daughter of powerful Missouri Sen. Thomas Hart Benton-that could easily stand on its own. 21 b&w illus., 4 maps not seen by PW. (Nov.) Forecast: Given a recent revival of interest in American history and biography-and the attention that will be showered on the 200th anniversary of Lewis and Clark's expedition-this excellent volume about another explorer of the West may rise with the tide if it receives enough review coverage. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Chaffin (Narcisco Lopez and the First Clandestine U.S. War Against Cuba) here examines the life of John Charles Fremont, one of the great figures in the American expansion throughout the West during the second third of the 19th century. With good storytelling sense, the author weaves together Fremont's work surveying the vast unmapped expanses of the trans-Mississippi region. Chaffin also reveals his subject's involvement with some of the major political issues of his time-e.g., relations with Indian tribes and with Mexico. We also see fascinating people: colorful and controversial fellow soldiers like Kit Carson and powerful politicians, such as his patron and father-in-law, the Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton. But unlike Andrew Rolle's psychological portrait in Character as Destiny: John Charles Fremont, Chaffin focuses on the empire of the West, which Fremont helped create and into which he thrust himself. Ultimately, the author sees his subject as tragic, used and ultimately pushed aside by a nation that had become larger than this larger-than-life man. This book will be essential reading for historians of the West, and its accessible style will make it enjoyable for many general readers as well. For large public libraries.-Charles K. Piehl, Minnesota State Univ., Mankato Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
A comprehensive, lively study of one of America's greatest-and most controversial-explorers. John Frémont scaled mountains, coined the geographical term "Great Basin," and battled renegades and rebels while traversing and mapping the American West. For his troubles, he was accused at various points of lying about the places he'd been, of inventing adventures in the interest of self-promotion, and of committing various crimes, from fomenting revolt to dining on his dead companions. His political rivals, who were legion, also never failed to mention that he was the illegitimate son of a French homewrecker. Frémont himself didn't help matters much, writes Chaffin (History/Emory Univ.): he was arrogant, to be sure, and so loose with the accounting in his role as a would-be mining and railroad magnate as to verge on fraud. He also had a profound talent for picking "formidable enemies, including General Stephen Watts Kearny, the philosopher Josiah Royce, and Frank Blair of Washington's powerful Blair family"-to say nothing of Abraham Lincoln, who removed Frémont from Civil War command and effectively ruined his postwar career. (He also had a good eye for choosing allies, however, among them the powerful politicians Thomas Hart Benton and Joel Poinsett.) Chaffin takes pains to show what in Frémont's record was of his own making, and what was laid at his door by enemies. He recognizes Frémont's many accomplishments as an explorer and geographer whose work advanced the cause of American empire-not only by helping thwart the ambitions of Mexico in California and of Britain in the Northwest, but, more simply, by providing accurate charts for those who followed ("Frémont's 1843 map [of the interiorWest]-eschewing anecdotes, legends, and other half-truths repeated from past maps-included only areas that he had personally seen and surveyed. Areas uncrossed by the expedition remained blank"). Little remains blank in this thorough life, of great interest to students of Western history.