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“The most eloquent, understanding, and yet very candid biography of Frémont that has appeared to date”—Howard R. Lamar, Yale University

The career of John Charles Frémont (1813–90) ties together the full breadth of American expansionism from its eighteenth-century origins through its culmination in the Gilded Age. Tom Chaffin's biography demonstrates Frémont's vital importance to the history of American empire, and illuminates his role in shattering long-held myths about the ecology and habitability of the American West.

As the most celebrated American explorer and mapper of his time, Frémont stood at the center of the vast federal project of western exploration and conquest. His expeditions between 1838 and 1854 captured the public's imagination, inspired Americans to accept their nation's destiny as a vast continental empire, and earned him his enduring sobriquet, the Pathfinder.

But Frémont was more than an explorer. Chaffin's dramatic narrative includes Frémont's varied experiences as an entrepreneur, abolitionist, Civil War general, husband to the remarkable Jessie Benton Frémont, two-time Republican presidential candidate, and Gilded Age aristocrat.

This new paperback edition of Pathfinder features a new, additional, updated introduction by the author.

About The Author
Tom Chaffin is Research Professor of History at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he also directs and edits the series Correspondence of James K. Polk. Among his numerous publications, he has written articles for the New York Times, Harper's, and Time, and his books include Sea of Gray: The Around-the-World Odyssey of the Confederate Raider Shenandoah and Giant's Causeway: Frederick Douglass's Irish Odyssey and the Making of an American Visionary.

Reviews & Praise

“More than any other American John C. Fremont 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


Pathfinder is the most eloquent, understanding, and yet very candid biography of Frémont that has appeared to date. A major contribution to American historical writing.”—Howard R. Lamar, Yale University


“Throughout the nineteenth 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.”—Landon Jones, former managing editor, People magazine


“John Charles Frémont was a man—some would say the man—who epitomized mid-nineteenth century America’s driven, supremely confident spirit. Tom Chaffin has brought his remarkable character back into our midst, and by doing so he has shown us something of the heroism and blindness of that pivotal time in the nation’s history.”—Elliott West, University of Arkansas


“A masterful storyteller, 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.”—David J. Weber, Southern Methodist University


“In clear and vivid language, Tom Chaffin’s Pathfinder re-creates the life of John C. Frémont, allowing us to see this extraordinary man, warts and all.”—Elliott J. Gorn, Purdue University


Book Information
24 b&w illus., 4 maps
612 Pages
Paperback 978-0-8061-4474-0
Kindle 978-0-8061-4606-5
e-pub 978-0-8061-4607-2
Published April 2014
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