Dream West (1986)

 

 

Director:     Dick Lowry. 

Starring:     Joe Inscoe (Advisor to President Polk), Chuck Hansen (Assistant Judge Advocate), Scott S. Jones (Young Soldier), Richard Chamberlain ( John Charles Fremont), Alice Krige (Jessie Benton Fremont), F. Murray Abraham (President Abraham Lincoln), René Enríquez (Gen. Castro), Ben Johnson ( Jim Bridger), Jerry Orbach (Capt. John Sutter), G.D. Spradlin (Gen. Steven Watts Kearney), Rip Torn (Kit Carson), Fritz Weaver (Sen. Thomas Hart Benton), Anthony Zerbe (Bill Williams), Claude Akins (Tom Fitzpatrick), John Anderson (Brig. Gen. Brooke), Lee Bergere ('Papa Joe' Nicollet), Jeff East (Tim Donovan), Michael Ensign (Karl Preuss), Mel Ferrer (Judge Elkins), Burton Gilliam (Martineau), John Harkins (Secretary of State George Bancroft), Gayle Hunnicutt (Mrs. Maria Crittenden), Matt McCoy (Louis Freniere) Cameron Mitchell (Cmmdre. Robert Stockton), Noble Willingham (President James Polk), Billy Campbell (Lt. Gaines), James Cromwell (Maj. Gen. David Hunter), Lee de Broux (Provost), Jonathan Frakes (Lt. Archibald Gillespie), John Francis (Zindel), Stefan Gierasch (Trenor Park), Richard Hamilton (Gen. Murdoch), Will Hare (Dr. McClain), Dave Lowry (Godey), Kip Niven (Sen. John Crittenden), John Quade (Big Fallon), Martin Rabbett ( Ned Kern), Hansford Rowe (John Floyd), Timothy Scott (Ezekial Merrit), Vernon Washington (Dodson), Anna Bjorn (Angelique), Cecile Callan (Nicole), Nikki Creswell (Lily Fremont), Terrence Evans (Farmer), William Glover (Sir Roger Dunston), Gloria Hayes (Indian Maiden), Barton Heyman (Judge Advocate Lee), George American Horse (Chief), Charles Hyman (Sgt. Riordan), Joaquín Martínez (Sagundai), George McDaniel (Col. Mason), Randal Patrick (Carvalho), Buck Taylor (Egloffstein), Helen Floyd (Sally),Charles Bazaldua (Mexican Officer), Marco Hernandez (Mexican Lieutenant), Jeff Allin ( Blonde Man), Michael Crabtree (2nd Man on Trek 5), Joe Dorsey (Col. Atherton), Jim Grimshaw (2nd Man), Dennis King (Francis Blair), Jay Louden (Campaign Aide), Robert Lussier (Dr. Harris).

TV mini-series about John Charles Frémont, pathfinder, explorer, fighter for California's independence, ran twice for President of the USA on the Republican ticket

 

 

 

Spoiler Warning:

 

Part 1.

Fremont is on a scientific expedition. He and his good friend Louie come across a starving family. The woman is alive for now, but the son and father are both dead of starvation. Then the mother dies. Louie picks up a bogus map that wrongfully says the map is based on the work of Lewis and Clark. But Lewis and Clark never made a made to to be used by settlers. And the so-called Oregon Trail is only a trapper's route. They bury the dead family and then return to their base camp.

The men are not happy. They says they are in real trouble because the snows are coming soon and they don't have the supplies and food to endure the winter. Guide Provost wants Fremont to tell Papa John, the expedition head, that they must be moving out soon to avoid the winter and get home in one piece. Fremont has to break up a fight between two men. Papa John comes out because of the noise. Fremont tells him that they have to go if they are to live through the winter. Papa John begs Fremont not to do this, but Fremont tells him that he is doing this for the sake of their leader. He tells the men to pack up because they are leaving.

St. Louis, Missouri, December 1839. The expedition arrives in St. Louis. Louie and Fremont go to a bordello to take a hot tub bath and carouse with the prostitutes. Fremont also talks about drawing accurate maps for settlers so they don't get lost and starve. Papa Joe takes Fremont over to the of Senator Thomas Hart Benton to meet the man who is one of the outstanding proponents of the idea of Manifest Destiny for the west. Benton is interested in sponsoring more expeditions into the west, so the two explorers must make a good impression on the senator if they are going to be chosen to lead some of those expeditions.

Fremont sees a vision of loveliness: the daughter of the senator, the 14 year old Jessie Benton. He stares at her. She sees him staring at her and seems a little flustered. She stares at him for a short while and then goes back to talking to two soldiers.

Papa Joe has to come get Fremont to drag him over to meet the senator. The senator is pontificating on his favorite subject: the American West. Fremont is not paying much attention and he watches as Jessie moves about the room. She sees him watching her and she smiles at him.

Fremont is not much of a politician and he foolishly challenges Benton’s statement wants the nation to go all the way to the Pacific Ocean and then on to China. Fremont asks the senator how can he talk about going to China, when settlers can’t even get to Oregon. Papa Joe apologizes to the senator for his "assistant" being so rash.

The senator tells Papa Joe to let his assistant go on. After all, he assumes that the assistant has more to say. Fremont says they have just returning from a mapping expedition and they will produce a map that will get the settler safely to Oregon and California. Benton doesn’t like the way Fremont talks to him. He tell Fremont: "Don’t preach to me, sir! You’re confident to a fault!"

Fremont doesn’t back down. He explains how they are going to make a man from their data that any settler can follow. Benton says maybe he will pop in on them to see their progress.

Outside, Papa Joe scolds Fremont for being so brash. He says Fremont has a lot to learn. Fremont isn’t much for politics. Papa Joe also tells Fremont to leave Jessie Benton alone. Ever since Benton’s wife died, Jessie is the apple of his eye and his closest confidant. Fremont replies that he intends to marry Jessie.

Washington, D.C. 4 months later. Jessie begs her father to let her leave her banishment to the girls’ school in Georgetown. She wants to be with her father and help him. And she says she just knows daddy misses her. He gives in to her wishes.

Benton is giving a party for the British Ambassador to Washington, Sir Roger Dunston. He dictates the guest list to Jessie. He mentions Fremont and Jessie’s face brightens up. Benton went to the map room and found it all so fascinating. He even says he rather likes young Fremont.

When Fremont arrives at the party early, Jessie rushes down to greet him. She’s almost out of breath. Here are two people who are obviously very attracted to each other. They are interrupted with the arrival of Jessie’s good friend, Mrs. Maria Crittenden and her husband. Jessie introduces them to Lt. Fremont.

At the dinner table, Benton tells guide Provost that he was thinking of beginning an expedition through Kansas, above the Platte River, to Ft. Laramie, to the head of the Sweetwater at South Pass. He wants to have a map of a trail taking people to Oregon.

This talk upsets the British Ambassador, who reminds Benton that Oregon is British territory. Benton says: "Only for the moment, sir."

After dinner, Benton talks with Papa Joe about the expedition, but Papa Joe just keeps on coughing and coughing. Benton asks if Papa Joe is well enough to lead such an arduous expedition? Papa Joe says it’s just a little cold, but Provost speaks up and says their leader’s on the last expedition just plumb broke down and Papa Joe still hasn’t recovered his health.

Papa Joe asks Fremont to help him out with Benton, but Fremont agrees with Provost. The older man replies to Fremont: "That is a vicious lie! Vicious and untrue. You were impatient to return. I humored you." Fremont says if Papa Joe leads the expedition, they will have to bury him out west.

Papa Joe now gets real ugly and declares that what the gentlemen hear here is the true ambition of a young man to lead the expedition himself. Fremont denies that.

Later Benton asks Fremont to lead the expedition. Papa Joe says some last bitter words to Fremont and leaves.

Fremont tells Jessie that he will ask her father for permission to see her. Fremont never gets a chance, because Benton comes over to him and tells him: "Your attentions to my daughter must cease at once. . . . She is 16 years old and I will not have you seeing her. . . . Defy me and I will break you!"

Maria Crittenden provides her place as a rendezvous for the young people. Left alone, the couple kiss. They both declare their love for the other. And for awhile, the couple will have to be satisfied with meeting on the Crittenden property.

On another day, Fremont tells Jessie that he was born out of wedlock. He explains how he and his mother survived from the ill-treatment they endured from the people of Charleston, South Carolina.

Jessie talks to Maria about her situation with Fremont and her father. Maria suggests that they just get married and Jessie agrees that this may be her only option.

Fremont goes to see his superior officer Gen. Steven Watts Kearney about the cannon he wants for the expedition. Kearney does like Fremont, partly because he doesn’t like Senator Benton, the backer of the expedition. In fact, Kearney tells Fremont right out that he resents what he regards as Benton’s political intervention in what should be solely a military matter. Kearney will only grudgingly give Fremont the cannon.

Fremont arrives in the jumping off point at Westport, Missouri (now an historic district of Kansas City). There mountain guide Kit Carson introduces himself to Fremont, who asks about the man’s credentials. Kit says he worked with Jim Bridger and that impresses Fremont, but he still asks Kit if he is so skilled as a mountain man, how come he has never heard about Kit Carson? Kit replies that if Fremont has never heard of Kit Carson: " . . . then you ain’t spend much time around the mountains your own self." Fremont hires Carson.

Jessie and Fremont together go to tell the senator that they are now man and wife. Benton gets up out of his chair at the dinner table and says he is going to kill Fremont. Jessie has to stand up to her father to stop him. Benton says Fremont seduced a child – he stole a child. And Fremont is a bastard. Jessie stands with her husband and Benton tells them to get out of his house. They leave.

Jessie makes a special flag for Fremont and his expedition.

Maria comes to tell Jessie that she must get word to Fremont and tell him to leave at once. He is about to be recalled. Col., Kearney has been causing trouble over the cannon, saying that it has not place on a scientific expedition. The West Pointers see Fremont as an upstart junior officer who doesn’t know his place.

At Westport a message arrives for now Captain John Charles Fremont. The letter tells Fremont to trust his wife and leave within the hour. Fremont shouts out: "All right men, pack it up! We’re moving out!"

On the trail, the hardest part of the journey is getting the cannon moved from place to place. Kit shows Fremont a huge buffalo herd. The two men run along with the buffalo and try to shoot them down. Kit shots some of the buffalo, but Fremont, using a pistol, has no such luck. In fact, Fremont and his horse take a spill. Kit has Fremont drink some fresh buffalo blood. Fremont doesn’t like the taste, but he swallows it down.

At night, Fremont records the readings from the starts and his assistant Karl Preuss writes down the readings in a book.

At camp Jim Bridger and his crew come upon Fremont’s camp. There’s a big reunion of Bridger and Carson. Then Kit introduces Bridger and Fremont. Bridger asks where’s Fremont going ad Fremont says to South Pass. Bridger advises against it, because the Oglala Sioux are running wild. They are killing anyone found beyond Fort Laramie.

Fremont’s friend Louie tells Fremont that the men don’t think it’s a good idea to go up against 1,500 Sioux warriors. Kit tells Fremont the same thing. In turn, Fremont says he’s going to pay a visit to the Sioux and tell them what they are doing here.

The expedition rides to the Sioux village. Fremont speaks with the Sioux chief in a hostile Indian encampment. Most of the Sioux warriors have their bow and arrows at the ready.

Seeing how small the expedition is, the chief says it would be foolish of the expedition to try to fight the Sioux. So the expedition can do its work. But first, the white men will attend what Kit calls a "fandango".

The Indians put on a great display of horsemanship for the whites. It says they are going to show them skill, so the expedition will show them power. They fire the cannon and then blow up a pumpkin head on a white man’s grass body used in effigy.

Maria brings Jessie to a party in order for her to see her father. When Benton sees Jessie, he excuses himself. She chases after him and tell hers that she betrayed him. Jessie tells him that she’s pregnant. The senator tells her she made her own bed.

Fremont tells Kit about his dreams for the American West. Kit is moved by his vision and says he would be might proud to go out with Fremont if he goes on another expedition. Fremont says Kit can count on it.

 

 

Part 2.

Fremont and Kit Carson are still on the expedition. And they are still having problems with the cannon. Fremont finally tells his men to get rid of the cannon. One man says let’s throw it over the ridge. The men push it over the mountain side and it crashes into many pieces.

Maria is there once again to provide love and support to Jessie. She says that they are saying that her husband is dead. Maria tells her that it’s not good for Jessie to be brooding so much. It’s could hurt the baby.

The expedition reaches a mountain peak and Kit suggests that they call it Fremont’s Peak. All the men enthusiastically support the new name.

Fremont decides to go down the river with all of their precious scientific findings and drawings. Kit tries to talk Fremont out of it. He doesn’t like the idea of using an inflatable rubber raft. And, if Fremont absolutely has to do this, then at least make a wood raft. Furthermore, Kit says he’s going to lose all their scientific records.

Fremont insists they are going down river. The six men get into the raft and take off. The river is very smooth, but then the men hear a roar up ahead. They are headed into extremely murderous white water rapids.

The waves keep swamping the raft. They run into a raft and Marty falls off. Louie also falls of, but they get him back in the raft. The raft turns over, throwing out the men and the records. The men just have to go downstream where the rapids will take them.

Kit is able to find the map records at least. They were in a waterproof bag.

Jessie opens the door and there stands her husband, home from his expedition. They hug and kiss each other.

Jessie has a girl.

Fremont tries writing his report on the trip, but he finds it so difficult that he develops nose bleeds every time he starts to write. Jessie tells him to just write it like he tells his buddies all about the trip. Fremont gets angry and says, damn it, I just can’t. So Jessie says he will tell the stories to her and she will write them down.

Jessie, however, does much more than take dictation. She listens when her husband tells his stories and she used the material for the report. When Fremont reads it over he says that a lot of this material is not even supposed to be in a military report. But then he says he likes it, because it’s a definite improvement.

Jessie writes the material, but at times, she also questions her husband’s decisions on the expedition. For instance, she asks him why did he take the scientific records and drawings with him on the boat ride. They could have been safely carried by the mules and horses.

Fremont gets angry and says it was a matter of necessity? Jessie rightfully asks: "What necessity?" He could have tested the rubber raft without taking along the scientific records. He protests but she tells him: "You jeopardized it all, Charles, to say nothing of your life and that of your men." They keep arguing until Charles says that maybe he shouldn’t have done it." Jessie wants her husband, facing another such dangerous situation, will remember what Confucius said: "The cautious seldom make mistakes."

The Fremonts buy a mansion by the river. They have a big house-warming party. After the guests are gone, the Secretary of the Navy asks Fremont does he know that if Texas does join the union, then there will be war with Mexico? Yes, Fremont knows that. But does Fremont know it’s likely that California will also fall into the nation’s orbit? Fremont asks how will that happen? The Secretary says there are many different ways that could happen.

The Secretary says that President Polk was very impressed by Fremont’s leadership on his recent expedition. He then says he will get right to the point. When war breaks out with Mexico, Commodore John D. Sloat of the Pacific Squadron, he is to seize California. And the President will appreciate Fremont and his men being in California to help seize it. He wants Fremont to go to Sutter’s Fort. And Fremont will be going there without written orders.

Jessie is very worried that without written orders, Fremont will be in a very difficult political situation in California.

Fremont and the expedition reach Sutter’s Fort. Mr. Sutter invites them to a celebration of their arrival. The talk among the Americans is of possibly throwing the Mexicans out of California. Of course, Fremont has to deny any thought of fostering a revolt.

Senator Benton just walks by his daughter and granddaughter without saying hello to them. Under her breath, Jessie says: "Damn you!"

Monterey, California, February, 1846. Fremont has come to meet Mexican General Castro. The General is concerned that Fremont has come together with 60 men. He says frankly that they find the sight of armed foreigners in their country offensive. He ways he will let Fremont stay over the winter, but he will only stay in unsettled areas. Furthermore, he orders Fremont to withdraw into the far interior of California. And Fremont is to avoid the coast and all settled areas.

A part of the Mexican Cavalry come to Fremont’s encampment to check on things. The Mexican officer protests that for ten days now, Fremont has been riding along the coast in direct defiance of the general’s orders. Therefore, Fremont is ordered out of California immediately. If he doesn’t go willingly, he will be expelled out by force.

The officer hands Fremont’s expulsion orders over to him. Fremont gives his answer by tearing up the orders. He says they have done nothing wrong, so they will go wherever they pleased and stay as long as they like.

The Mexicans leave and Fremont tells Kit to get the men ready for the Mexicans. They send out their Indian scout, and he returns with the information that the Mexicans are coming for them.

Fremont gets his men in ambush position among the mountains on either side. The American leader says that maybe the war with Mexico will start right here and now.

The Mexicans show up, but the soldiers rebel against their leader. On their own initiative, they turn around and leave. The Mexican General has to go with his men.

Jessie decides to go see father, without an invitation. The black butler is so happy to see Jessie, but he doesn’t now about the family feud. He goes to tell the senator that his daughter is here. He has to come back very upset. He tells Jessie that her father says he has no daughter named Jessie. Jessie starts to cry, and leaves the house.

The Cascade Range, Oregon. Six months later. At the American encampment, a Lt. Archibald Gillespie, brings Captain Fremont a message. The message is directly from President Polk. One, he intends to have California. And two, he’s counting on Fremont’s presence in California.

Zachary Taylor already has his troops on the Rio Grande. Fremont asks if the lieutenant has written orders? No. Then what about verbal orders? No. But Polk wants Fremont in California. Lt. Gillespie says he’s so tired that he wants to go to bed. Fremont gives him permission to leave.

Gillespie gets up from the table, but he is immediately hit in the chest with an arrow. It’s an Indian attack. Quite a few of the expedition are hit by arrows. Louie has his throat slit. The Indians quickly leave. Marty cries over the dead body of his friend Louie.

The next day the expedition attacks an Indian village, which may or may not have been involved in the raid the previous night. Marty finds the warrior that killed Louie, and he beats the warrior to death. He is going to scalp the Indian, but Fremont stops him.

Washington, D.C., 4 weeks later. President Polk is having a dinner with guests. War with Mexico was declared on May 12. Jessie is there sitting next to the Secretary of the Navy. He tells her that Gen. Kearney is headed for California to subdue the area. Jessie wants the Secretary to say that he sent her husband out to California. The Secretary tells her not to be rash.

Castro’s officer tells the Californians that they are going to drive all the forefinger out of the territory. Two of the Californians go to Fremont to see if he will lead them against the Mexicans. Fremont asks them how many men can they muster together? About six or seven hundred they reckon. Fremont then tells the men to go get their horses back that the Mexicans took from them.

John Sutter balls Fremont and the Californians out for the small rebellion. He says he’s sure the Mexicans will be back to hang the lot of them. After Sutter leaves, Fremont tells them that there are only two strong points in northern California: Sonoma and Sutter’s Fort. Anyone taking those two points will control everything north of Monterey. So the Californians decide to take Sonoma.

Sutter berates Fremont for having encouraged the 33 Californians who captured Sonoma to take the place. Two Californians now bring the captured Mexican General Vallejo to Sutter’s Fort to imprison him. And the Californians need Fremont’s help. So Fremont informs Sutter that he is taking over the fort and Sutter will do nothing here without Fremont’s approval. Fremont also tells Kit to raise the American flag. The Americans are now going to take northern and southern California.

Fremont arrives in time to stop a Mexican victory over the Californians. The proceed south.

Los Angeles, California. August 1846. Fremont meets with Commodore Robert Stockton, who is the acting Governor of California. He writes home to Jessie saying that Stockton is making him Governor of California. So he’s sending Kit to Washington, D.C. to explain to the politicians what has happened in California.

Three weeks later, Kit is carrying dispatches from Fremont and Stockton and the letter from Fremont to his wife. He, however, runs in Gen. Kearney and his army. Kit and Marty tells the General that California has already been took and it was Captain Fremont who took it.

Kearney insists that Kit guide the army back to California. Kit explains that he can’t do that because he has dispatches from Fremont and Stockton. Kearney tells Kit to give the dispatches to guide Fitzpatrick and he will take them to Washington, D.C. Kit refuses and Kearney has his men seize the famous scout and take away the man’s dispatches.

Kearney shows up at the offices of Col. Fremont. He reads his orders putting Kearney in charge of California. Fremont says he’s under the command of Commodore Stockton and will not obey Kearney’s orders. This really makes Kearney angry.

Kit Carson comes to tell Jessie what happened. Kearney is now in charge of California, despite his defeat at San Pasqual, California [on December 6, 1846] losing a third of his command.

An aide warns President Polk that Jessie Fremont and Kit Carson are coming to see the President, but Polk already knows that he can’t say that he authorized Fremont’s activities in California. That would give his political enemies too much ammunition against him. So, he hides his pretense under a veil of anger when the visitors come in. He really upsets Jessie and Kit, who have no sense of the political situation for Polk. She and Kit are told that they have overstayed their time.

 

 

Part 3.

Alex, a member of the expedition, tells Fremont that a Col. Mason is here saying he’s the new regimental commander here. Fremont tells Alex to send the Colonel in. Col. Mason comes in and demands that everything be turned over to him immediately. He is so rude that Fremont is ready to duel with the newcomer. At this point, Alex intervenes and threatens that something might happen to the Colonel if he ever harms Fremont, who has a lot of friends in California.

Colonel Mason says what will happen to anyone who tries to hurt him. Alex pulls out a huge knife and tells Mason that he better not threaten him, because he’s ready to open up Mason with his knife right here and now.

At this point, Gen. Kearney shows up and demands to know what’s going on. Mason says nothing’s going ion here. Alex leaves the room. Kearney backs up Mason in his demand to take over immediately. In fact, Kearney tells Fremont that he can consider himself under arrest on the charge of mutiny. Fremont and his men will follow Kearney and his men to Fort Leavenworth. From there Fremont will go to Washington to prepare himself for a court-martial.

Fremont goes home to Jessie, who is thrilled to see her husband. With her husband home again, Jessie is soon pregnant. The court-martial is coming up and Fremont suggests that Jessie should not attend the court-martial for the sake of the baby. Jessie says she’s going to attend the court-martial.

As the court-martial begins, Senator Benton comes and sits in the courtroom. Jessie is amazed that he has come to watch the proceedings. Benton acknowledges Jessie.

Fremont defends himself. He calls Gen. Kearney to the stand. Fremont is aggressive and Kearney is hostile. It’s Fremont’s contention that Kearney deliberately created a situation where he did not know who was in charge in California because Kearney did not disclose his orders to him. Fremont makes much of this, but Kearney is totally consumed with the presence of Senator Benton in the courtroom. He complains to the judge that the man has been glaring at him from the moment he stepped on the stand. Benton defends himself and then defends Fremont.

Kearney attacks Fremont for starting his own war in California. Fremont cannot tell the court that he had orders from President Polk.

Benton goes to see his granddaughter and they hug for a long time. Jessie sees this and is very pleased.

The court decides that Fremont is guilty on all the charges against him. He is dismissed from the service. There is disorder in the court caused by all the Fremont supporters in the room. The case is closed.

Jessie glares at Gen. Kearney with a great deal of hate.

Fremont goes home with his family. The family gets a letter from President Polk, who rejects the court’s decision on the mutiny charge. But he confirms the other charges and reverses them because of Fremont’s great contributions to his country. Indeed, Polk wants Fremont back at work. At first, Fremont says he won’t, but Jessie encourages him to start a new expedition. Fremont will, but he says he will raise private money to fund the expedition.

Alex visits Fremont and tells him that Kit says that they will be starting the expedition too late and they will be at the mercy of the winter storms in California. Fremont says they must leave now, because it’s now that he’s got the money for the expedition. If there’s a delay, the backers might pull their money out.

Fremont gave a man named Larkin almost all his savings to buy a particular piece of the California coastline for him and the family. But now he gets a letter from Larkin saying that he purchased a piece of land in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Jessie gives birth to a baby boy. They name him Bent after his grandfather.

Westport Landing, September 1848. Fremont says goodbye to Jessie. She says she will be taking a passage to Panama and will be waiting for him in California. The expedition moves out from Westport Landing.

Pueblo, Colorado. Three months later. Fremont explains to the only guide left to him, Williams, that they will go along the 37th parallel and scout out of a route for a train through the area. But Williams doesn’t want to go because Fremont insists on going now. He warns Fremont that this winter is going to be a real "daisy cutter". He says: "This ain’t no time to be going into the high mountains." Fremont tells them they have no choice. Williams won’t go. So then Fremont offers Williams $5 dollars a day to lead the expedition. Now Williams is leading the expedition.

Up in the mountain the men are soon fighting the heavy snows. Williams is having trouble finding even one of the three passes through the mountains. The men start believing that their guide is lost.

Williams comes back and says he’s found the pass to Carnera. Fremont is dubious about following Williams, but he decides to let the man lead the way. The snow is now really deep and the horses are having trouble getting through it.

Williams leads them to the top of a mountain peak, but the men see that a vast mountain range still stands in their way. After following Williams some more Fremont concludes that Williams is lost.

And still it snows. The men become very discouraged. Alex reports to Fremont that four more mules have died. The men want to turn back and Fremont agrees to go back. The men then remind Fremont that Taos, New Mexico is some 130 miles east of them. They won’t be able to make it. Karl Preuss says they’re trapped here. Fremont refuses to acknowledge that. He says they are going back to the river to make a good camp. From there they will set out a relief party.

At home the baby boy Bent dies. The maid says the boy’s poor little heart just stopped beating. Jessie replies: "No, Sally, his heart was broken before he was born."

From the camp by the river, Zindale, Williams and four other men set out as a relief force.

Gen. Kearney is dying. He asks that Mrs. Fremont visit him. When Jessie comes he asks her to forgive him for his feud with her husband. Jessie has to tell him that she simply cannot forgive him: "You see General a small grave lies between us." She leaves the house.

An avalanche stops the progress of the relief force. Back at the camp, the men have not been gone 18 days. They start thinking that the relief force didn’t make it. Marty went out this morning looking for the relief force. Fremont says he has to go after Marty. He finds Marty alive, but in the process of dying. Marty says it costs too much to ride with Fremont. He dies.

Walking back, Fremont runs into Williams. He asks the guide where is the relief party, but Williams can only say that they were stopped by an avalanche. They ran out of meat and then started starving. It’s not long before Fremont realize that Williams has turned to cannibalism. He says Williams killed Zindale in order to eat him.

Fremont leaves Williams behind. Alex finds Fremont, who lies to him that the relief force got this far, but couldn’t make it. As they head back they find some mules still alive and Fremont believes that now they can make it out.

San Francisco. 1849. Fremont comes looking for the Victor Hotel where his wife and daughter Lilly are waiting for him. The three are joyfully reunited. Lilly says that daddy limps now.

Now Fremont learns that his son has died. Fremont then says he lost 10 men in the mountains to starvation and cold. He says the expedition was a disaster and he had failed. Nevertheless, Fremont has good news. Their land in the mountains is called Mariposa (butterfly in Spanish) and the rivers there run yellow with gold. He has Lilly hold a handkerchief in her hands and pours the gold onto the material. They’re going to be wealthy people.

Mariposa. Four years later. Fremont has put his own money into the next expedition. He says this time he will find the winter pass through the mountains.

In the heavy snows on the expedition the expedition struggles forward. The men are soon walking through the mountains. This time they make it through to California.

The first Republican convention – the convention of 1856. Fremont is chosen as the nominee. Senator Lincoln of Illinois cast his state for the great American pathfinder.

In the campaign, a lot of nasty charges are brought up against Fremont. Many says he takes too much credit for the opening of the West as the great American pathfinder. And they bring up the man is a bastard.

Fremont loses the election and he declares he is just going home to take care of Mariposa and his family.

Jessie visits her father on his deathbed. He dies right in mid-sentence while talking to his daughter. She cries.

In 1860 Abraham Lincoln is elected President. In 1861 Charleston takes Fort Sumter from the federal government. It’s civil war now.

Lincoln puts Fremont in charge of the army in the West, but Lincoln wants him to concentrate on Missouri, a divided area. He gives Fremont carte-blanche.

Jessie and Fremont arrive in St. Louis. The dominant sentiment is for the Confederacy. There is no Union flag flying over St. Louis and Fremont is definitely going to change all that. He goes to army headquarters and meets Captain Jeeter. Fremont demands to know why isn’t their flag flying over the headquarters' building? Jeeter says the flag stirs up the local subversive elements. He gives an officer a command to set up their flag on the headquarters' building.

The local judge has the Confederate flag waving in front of his house, which the Confederates use as a recruiting center for the Confederacy. Fremont takes an office and 20 men and marches them up the street to the Judge’s house.

Fremont walks over to a group of southerners talking together sitting in chairs arranged in a circle. Fremont comes up to one of the men and asks him who the hell is he? Is he a civilian or a soldier? He’s a soldier of the Confederacy, so Fremont puts the man under arrest as a prisoner of war. He tries to knock Fremont out, but Fremont sends him flying through the home fence and down onto the sidewalk below. He then gives the order to take down the Confederate flag and fly the Union flag.

The southern sympathizes try to stop the army, but they are quickly dissuaded by force from doing anything much more than talking.

The town residents are very angry when they read that no one will be allowed to bear arms in the town on pain of being executed by a firing squad. Furthermore, anyone who fights for the confederacy will have his property confiscated.

Missouri General Nathaniel Lyon’s calling for reinforcements from Fremont. He has 6,000 men but he’s fighting the Missouri rebels and McCullough’s army. Lyon is outnumbered two to one. Fremont gives the order for Lyon to pull back his troops immediately.

Meanwhile, Fremont is visited by a land agent who tells Fremont that his land is going to be taken from him by his many creditors. Fremont tells him to do what he thinks is right because he’s too busy fighting a war right now.

Word arrives that Gen. Lyon has attacked the enemy at Wilson’s Creek. Fremont is furious with the general. A little later, word arrives that Lyon is now retreating. Fremont mobilizes his troops. Then word arrives that Lyon’s dead and his army in full retreat to Springfield. Fremont says: "Disaster! Our own Bull Run!"

Jessie goes to see President Lincoln. She wants to explain Fremont’s side of the story. Lincoln is disappointed with Fremont. It’s been eight weeks since his arrival back in Missouri, an yet, the man has done no fighting. He just continues to ask for more support from Washington. Moreover, Fremont has misused martial law in Missouri. He says the man went too far when he issued a proclamation to free the slaves of Missouri people fighting for the Confederacy. Lincoln’s fighting for the Union, not to free the slaves. He accuses Fremont of trying to play politics by freeing the slaves. The President tells her: "Good evening!"

Osage Valley, November 1861. Fremont is planning an attack on the Confederates tomorrow morning, but Sergeant Reardon tells him that the Confederates have left the area. A local says the Confederates are headed for Pineville. Fremont decides to follow them. But this is not to happen.

Fremont is replaced by Major General David Hunter. Fremont is shocked, but he does tell Hunter that the Confederate Price is on his way to Pineville. Hunter says he will not pursue Price. It would just be a wild goose chase.

Fremont says he will go to St. Louis now. The men feel like rebelling against Hunter, but Fremont asks them to support their new general. Prove to him that they are the best fighting force in the United States. Do that for him and he will be eternally grateful to them. The men concede.

Staten Island, New York, September 1887. A newspaperman Tim Donovan comes to see General Fremont. Jessie says her husband is not here right now. Donovan says then he would like to talk to her. She’s 63 and Fremont is74 years old. They came to New York to look over some business ventures. And his publishers are here. His memoirs were published this year.

Fremont lost a lot of money on the Kansas Pacific railway. And then he didn’t earn much money being the governor of Arizona Territory. And he came close to being the President of the United States. And now the Fremonts live in a modest row house on Staten Island because it was the only thing they afford in New York.

Jessie says being the wife of John Charles Fremont she has been in many unpleasant places, such as the jungles of Panama. Surely, the reporter doesn’t think that she holds any fears of living in a nice comfortable house on Staten Island?

The reporters starts to leave when the General returns home. Charles welcomes him and starts rolling out with stories of his life, including his wife being the wonderful writer of his expedition journals. Jessie is so moved by his praise that she starts crying and asks to be excused from the room.

Charles has bronchitis and will develop pneumonia during the winter. He tells Jessie to take Charles back to southern California.

Jessie starts writing for the New York Ledger. She will write stories about her and her husband’s lives. She needs the money to take her husband back to California.

The Fremonts are now on their way on a train back to California. He confesses to Jessie that he made a lot of mistakes in his life. And he talks of the big visions of what needed to be done for the West and the country.

At one of the railway depots the Fremonts stand on the platform to stretch their legs. A man with his son recognizes Charles. He says in 1854 he came out to California and his Journal gave them all the courage and knowledge they need to get to California. He asks if his son could shake the General’s hand. Charles shakes hands with the boy saying to him: "Son, nothing in the whole world I’d rather hear than what your father just told me."

The Fremonts get back on the train and off they go. He tells his wife: "That’s the last thing I’d like to see is stars. I’d like that."

A little later, Charles says: "California." Jessie replies: "Yes, darling, we’re going home." Charles says: "Home."

 

Good story about John Charles Fremont who mapped much of the West in the USA.  He also helped grab California from the Mexicans and was in charge of the Department of the West during the Civil War.  You have to use the Historical Background section to see more of what he did.  Because of limited space some of the expeditions were collapsed into other expeditions.  The moral indignation at Gen. Kearney the Secretary of the Navy and President was very much exaggerated because they had to do some things in secret and Fremont basically agreed to that because he didn't rat on the Secretary and the President.  And the nature of Fremont was to be a risk taker and a bad politician.  What else could you expect from Fremont?  And Fremont even admitted in the movie that he made a lot of mistakes in his life.  Overall, the acting was good.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 


Historical Background:

 

At age 17, Anne Beverley Whiting marries Major John Pryor, a wealthy Richmond resident in his early 60s.

1810  -- Pryor hires Charles Fremon, a French-Canadian immigrant who had escaped from a British prison, to tutor his wife.

1811  --  Pryor learns that his wife and Fremon were having an affair.  The lovers leave Richmond to Norfolk.  Later, they move to Savannah, Georgia.  The couple could not marry because Anne was still married to Pryor. 

1813  --  Anne gives birth to John Charles Fremon.

1818  --  Frémont's father dies.  The family moves to Charleston, South Carolina.  Lawyer John W. Mitchell provides for Frémont's education.

1829 --  Frémont attends Charleston College.

1831 --  he is expelled from the college for irregular attendance.

1838  --   at the age of 25, Fremon changes his surname to Frémont.  It is said that John's father Fremon's original name was Frémont. 

1838 (July)  --  Frémont is appointed a second lieutenant in the Corps of Topographical Engineers.  He assisted and led many surveying expeditions through the American west.  

1838-1839   he assists Joseph Nicollet in exploring the lands between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

1841  --  Frémont maps portions of the Des Moines River.

1841  --  at age 28, Frémont marries Jessie Benton, daughter of US Senator Thomas Hart Benton from Missouri.  Benton was a great believer and promoter of the nation's Manifest Destiny to extend the USA to the Pacific.  Benton pushed to get a number of explorations going and each of the explorations were led by his son-in-law Frémont.

1842  -  Frémont meets Kit Carson on a steamboat in St. Louis.  He gets Carson to be the guide for a trip to South Pass, in present-day Wyoming.  The trip takes five months.  When Frémont writes a report on the trip and it makes him a national celebrity. 

1843  -- Frémont goes on a second expedition, this one to map and the second half of the Oregon Trail, from South Pass to the Oregon Country. Kit Carson lead the group through a new pass through the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  (Frémont names the past Carson Pass in Kit's honor.  From there the expedition descended the American River valley to Sutter's Fort at present-day Sacramento.

1844  --  he receives a brevet promotion to captain.

1845-1849  --  Frémont's maps guided thousands of overland immigrants to Oregon and California.

1845 (May)  --  after conferring with President Polk, Frémont raises a group of 62 volunteers in Saint Louis.

1845 (June)  --  Frémont's third expedition, again led by Kit Carson, searches for the source of the Arkansas River, but suddenly the famous leader heads straight for California. 

1845 (December 10)  --  Frémont arrives at Sutter's Fort.

1846  --  Frémont starts stirring up rebellion among the Americans.  Later he takes the men to Klamath Lake, Oregon.  Indians attack the expedition and in revenge Frémont completely destroys an Indian village. 

1846 (May)  --  President Polk makes Fremont a Lt. Colonel. 

1846 (June)   --  Frémont is appointed Major in command of the California Battalion

1846 (December 24)  --  Fremont conquers Santa Barbara, in the Mexican-American War. 

1847 (January 13)  --  Frémont leads his men southeast toward Los Angeles, accepts the surrender of the leader Andres Pico and signing the Treaty of Cahuenga that terminated the war in upper California.

1847 (January 16)  --  Commodore Stockton appoints Frémont military governor of California.  There's a big problem, however.  U.S. Army Brigadier General Stephen Watts Kearny had orders from President Polk and secretary of war William L. Marcy to serve as military governor.

1847 (August 22)  --Frémont is arrested.  He has to go to Washington for his court-martial.  Frémont is convicted of mutiny, disobedience of a superior officer and military misconduct.  Because of Fremont's services to the nation, President Polk commuted his sentence to one of dishonorable discharge.  Fremont settles in California near Yosemite. 

1848 (October) --  Frémont secured private funding for a fourth expedition.  He goes up the Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas rivers.  The expedition gets trapped in heavy snows. 

1849 (February)  --  Fremont loses 10 men on the expedition by the time they reach the safety of Taos, New Mexico.   

1849  --  discovery of gold in California leads to a gold rush to California.  Fremont becomes very rich from the gold found on his property. 

1850-1851  --  Fremont is elected US Senator for California.  He served for only 175 days.  The voters didn't like his strong stance against slavery. 

1856  --  at age 43, Frémont is the first presidential candidate of the new Republican party.  He loses to Democrat James Buchanan. 

1860  --  Lincoln wins the election to be the President of the United States. 

1861 (July 1)  --  President promotes Frémont to Major General and Commander of the Department of the West.

1861 (November 2)  --  Lincoln dismisses Fremont for insubordination and corruption charges in his supply line.

1864  --  Fremont is backed by the radical Republican faction against the more conservative Lincoln.  Fremont gives up the run for the presidency in September. 

1878-1881  --  President Hayes appoints Frémont the Governor of Arizona Territory.

July 13, 1890 (July 13)  --  at age 77 Frémont dies of peritonitis at his residence at 49 West Twenty-fifth Street in New York.

 

 

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