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What is The Report?
One of the most exciting travelogues ever written.
But also pregnant with scientific observation and applied science.
government editions
commercial editions
buncomb dept.

During our stay in Monterey Captain Frémont and his party arrived...Here were true trappers, the class that produced the heroes of Fennimore Cooper's best works. These men had passed years in the wilds, living upon their own resources; they were a curious set. Lieutenant Frederick Walpole, H.M.S. Collingwood

go An excerpt of a few days travel with annotations from The Crossing.

"The spirit of contemporary science was present of every page of his final Report." William H. Goetzmann, Army Exploration in the American West

While true to Lt. Walpole's description, likening Frémont's expeditionary forces to "the heroes of Fennimore Cooper's best works," this was the real deal. Frémont's Report of his first expedition to the Rocky Mountains in 1842, and his conquest of what was considered the highest peak in the Rockies, was published by Congress, and appeared in newspapers all over the country.

And what a cast of characters. A young 2nd Lieutenant of the Topographical Corps leading mapping expeditions and exploratory reconnaissances made up of hunters and trappers including Tom Broken Hand Fitzpatrick, Alex Godey, Basil Lajeunesse, Kit Carson, Raphael Proue, Joe Walker, Dick Owens, and Delaware Indian chiefs. Not a story, but the day by day events.

Frémont, J.C., Lieutenant, A Report on an Exploration of the Country Lying Between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains, on the Line of the Kansas and Great Platte Rivers, Senate Document 243, Washington, 1843. Contains the 1843 Frémont/Preuss map.
go See the title page of the first expedition report.

The Congressional Report of Frémont's second expedition in 1843-44, and of his winter crossing of the ten thousand foot Sierra Nevada Mountains into California, received even wider notice. Combined with a reprinting of the first expedition report, it was also published in Europe in several languages, which led to many honors presented by European societies, including Founders Medalist of the British Royal Geographical Society, the Prussian Orden Pour le Mérite für Wissenschaften und Künste, and the Société de Géographia, Paris.

Frémont has particularly touched my imagination.
What a wild life, and what a fresh kind of existence!
But, ah, the discomforts!
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The complete title of the first edition of the combined 1st and 2nd expeditions reports is Report Of The Exploring Expedition To The Rocky Mountains In The Year 1842, And To Oregon And North California In The Years 1843-44. By Brevet Captain J.C. Fremont, Of The Topographical Engineers, Under The Orders Of Col. J.J. Abert, Chief Of The Topographical Bureau. Printed By Order Of The Senate Of The United States. (Senate Doc. 174; 28th Congress, 2nd session) Gales and Seaton, (or US House of Representatives; Blair and Rives) Washington, DC. 1845. 8vo, 693 p. numerous tables, 22 plates, one folding map in text, large hand colored folding map (1845 Frémont/Preuss) in pocket inside rear board. It is one of the most important works on the opening of the west. Some 10,000 copies were printed.

Because there was no copyright taken, the Report was immediately published commercially by many publishers in many editions, making the Fremont Report more widely read than any other account of the West before the gold rush. The exact number printed are not known, but Appleton's edition had sold over 21,000 copies by 1849, Upham's more than 45,000; and Derby's over 16,000.

One of the three larger Frémont biographies published for the 1856 presidential campaignis by Samuel M. Smucker, A. M.,The Life of Col. John Charles Frémont and His Narrative of Explorations and Adventures in Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon and California, Miller, Orton & Mulligan, New York, 1856, contains all of the narrative of the official government Reports of Frémont's 1st (1842) and 2nd (1843-44) expeditions.
go The entire text available online.
And, it is searchable, and is editable text!

Frémont was both a naturalist and a poet;
his notes on the fields of wild flowers,
on the icy lakes of the Rockies,
the beauties of the forest at night,
would have done credit to Thoreau.
Irving Stone, They Also Ran
"I write more easily by dictation, and therefore the labor of amanuensis, commencing at this early time, has remained with Mrs. Frémont ." Memoirs of my Life, John Charles Frémont, 1887, p.163.
BUNCOMBE DEPARTMENT
"Jessie really wrote the Report."

This particular bit of sniggering calumniation dates from charges by the Know Nothing Party and the pro-slavery elements of the Democratic Party during the 3-party 1856 presidential campaign--Free Soil--Free men--Free Speech--Free Kansas--Frémont!

But it lingers on even today.
go This link is to one of the surviving examples at Idaho State University:

The above website is by Idaho State University Professor Mike Trinklein and Steve Boettcher, creators of The Story of the Oregon Trail which aired nationally on PBS.
Under their website header Discoverers & Explorers: Who really found the Oregon Trail; Fremont, we are told in no uncertain terms, that (tee, hee):

"...even though the reports bear his name, Fremont didn't write them. He gave up and left the work to his wife--the intelligent and articulate Jesse [sic] Benton Fremont."

A portrait of Jessie accompanies, along with a further caveat regarding the authorship on their link to the online text of the Report hosted on a University of Michigan website:

"...John Frémont's masterwork--actually written by his wife Jesse [sic]."

The misspelling of Jessie's name as Jesse is consistent throughout the page and the links. Jessie had been named for her uncle, Jesse Benton.

To the right is a page from the manuscript draft of Frémont's 1842 expedition from the National Archives in Frémont's hand. Here is what some modern scholars have to say in the matter:

Donald Jackson, editor of The Papers of George Washington at the University of Virginia, and
Mary Lee Spence, professor of history at Pennsylvania State University:
"We have already noted that Jessie did indeed produce a great number of the documents attributed to her husband. There is, however, a surviving manuscript draft of this report in the National Archives (DNA-77) which is much less a joint effort than JCF's comment would indicate. The first nineteen sheets are in Jessie's hand, and the remainder in JCFs with some corrections and refinements in Jessie's."
The Expeditions of John Charles Frémont,
University of Illinois Press, 1970.

Whereas Frémont credits Jessie's valuable assistance as an amanuensis (one who writes from dictation), this role has been rendered as "ghost writer" by some modern critics.

William H. Goetzmann, Jack S. Blanton, Sr. Chair in History and American Studies; F.R.G.S.; Ph.D. in American Studies, Yale University, 1957; Fulbright Lecturer, Cambridge University, 1967-68; Guggenheim Fellow, 1978; Fellow, Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, 1980-81 :
"[Frémont's] reports were representative examples of the nineteenth-century scientific report written in the style of literary romanticism. The style has been generally attributed to Jessie Benton Frémont, but later Topographical Engineer reports use this style often enough to indicate that it may well be merely typical of the time. The spirit of contemporary science was present of every page of his final Report." William H. Goetzmann, Army Exploration in the American West

Tom Chaffin, Professor of American History and Journalism at Emory University:
"The accusation of false authorship , which persists to this day, arose from two factors: Jessie's acknowledged role on editing and shaping the writings after the trips were concluded and her own later success as a professional author. No physical evidence, however, has come to light supporting such claims."
Pathfinder: John C. Fremont and the Course of American Empire, Hill & Wang, 2002.

Note: Alan H. Hartley, a researcher for the Oxford English Dictionary, from Duluth, Minnesota, tells us at longcamp.com that Frémont's Reports (The Expeditions of John Charles Frémont, Jackson & Spence edition), Geographical Memoir upon Upper California, and Memoirs of My Life, and Torry's Plantae Frémontianae have yielded nearly 600 citations for possible inclusion in the OED.

But, Jessie surely drew out of John the vivid descriptions of scenery and events.

Allan Nevins, Dewitt Clinton Professor of American history, Columbia University and Pulitzer Prize winner:
"But while [Jessie's] collaboration was invaluable, no one who reads the document carefully can doubt that it is nine tenths his. Beyond question she added elegant touches and gave variety to his vocabulary, but the reports are close-knit transcripts of his own ideas and experience, and resemble nothing that Jessie ever wrote. He had a natural command of natural English, and even documents which he later produced under unfavorable conditions...show force and lucidity."
Frémont; Pathmarker of the West, Appleton, 1939.

Andrew Rolle, Clevland professor Emeritus of History Occidental College; Research Scholar the Huntington Library:
"Some have promoted Jessie to the status of ghost writer and reduced her husband to a mouthpiece of Senator Benton. Both extremes are unfortunate. Each partner contributed to and took great pride in the 1843 report. Instead of the tedium and duress of such [scientific] observations, Jessie saw to it that Frémont's reports strongly featured adventure."
John Charles Frémont; Character as Destiny, University of Oklahoma Press, 1991.

Gerald F. Kreyche, "Fremont dictated notes to Jessie, his indispensable chief helper, and sent the report to Congress. (Jessie had her hands full as she just had given birth to a daughter, the Frémont's' first child.) Unlike the legalese of other Congressional documents, one of the merits of the report was the readability of its prose. This was especially helpful to those planning to journey to the Far West. Although Jessie's writing talents are evident, Fremont also wrote well. The document read like an adventure story and, in perusing it, many a reader traveled west vicariously."
USA Today Magazine, September, 2003.

Pamela Herr, historian, former managing editor of The American West, and author of articles and reviews on women and western topics:
"While John's observations and experiences formed its [the Report's] solid core, Jessie's hand can be seen in the graceful style, the skillful pacing, and the vivid scenes and vignettes that make it so readable."
Jessie Benton Frémont: American Woman of the 19th Century, Franklin Watts, New York, 1987.

Those in doubt over the authorship of the Frémont Reports should read some of Jessie Benton Frémont's many published writings, and compare the style with that of the Reports. Here is one available online: Frémont, Jesse Benton, Far West Sketches, D. Lathrop & Co, Boston, 1890.

But to fully appreciate the Report, it is necessary to get out the walking shoes and follow along on some part of the narrative's geographical, geological, and botanical descriptions.
go Follow a day of Frémont's travel narrative and see the route and the places he describes.

The nervous, rocky West is intruding a new and continental element into the National Mind,
and we shall yet have an American.
Emerson, The Young American, February, 1844

Some of the editions, 1843-2002

Government editions:

  • Frémont, J.C., Lieutenant, A Report on an Exploration of the Country Lying Between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains, on the Line of The Kansas and Great Platte Rivers, Senate Doucument 243, Washington, 1843. Contains the 1843 Frémont (Frémont/Preuss) map. (first expedition only)
  • Frémont, Brevet Captain J. C., Report of The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842, and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-'44, Printed by order of the Senate of the United States, Gales and Seaton, Washington, 1845. Contain the 1845 Frémont/Preuss map in rear pocket.
  • Frémont, Brevet Captain J. C., Report of The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842, and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-'44, Printed by order of the House of Representatives of the United States, Blair and Rives, Washington, 1845. As above, except does not contain the Astronomical Observations from the 1842 Expedition, often retains the plates of the 1843 Report in the reprint of the 1842 Expedition, and often does not have the rear pocket which contains the 1845 Frémont/Preuss map in the Senate edition.
  • Frémont, John Charles, Geographical Memoir Upon Upper California, Senate. 30th Congress, Misc. No.148, Wendell and Van Benthuysen, Washington, 1848. The 1848 Frémont/Preuss map separate.
  • Frémont, John Charles, Geographical Memoir Upon Upper California, Ho. of Reps.. 30th Congress, Misc. No.5, Tippin & Streeper, Washington, 1849. The 1848 Frémont/Preuss map separate.
  • Frémont, John Charles, Letter of J. C. Frémont to the National Intelligencer, Communicating some general results of a winter expedition across the Rocky Mountains, for the survey of a route for a railroad tothe Pacific, 33rd Congress, Senate, Misc. Doc. No. 67, June 13, 1854.

Note: These first 6 are the actual expedition reports published by the Congress of the United States. In addition to the narrative, they have the very great advantage of containing not only the original drawings by Charles Preuss, and the plates of plants and fossils, but also the tables of Astronomical Observations and Tables of Latitude and Longitude (right), Meteorological Observations and Barometric Register, and Tables of Distances Traveled. These items account for half the total pages of the reports, and are not included in the commercial editions.
The tables are also included in the 1848 Senate edition of the Geographical Memoir--the only report from the third expedition 1845-46. Frémont, John Charles, Geographical Memoir Upon Upper California, Senate. 30th Congress, Misc. No.148, Wendell and Van Benthuysen, Washington, 1848. Some copies contain the 1848 Frémont/Preuss map.

These government publications were in the Public Domain; i.e., Frémont held no copyright; therefore, in addition to serialization in many newspapers, many commercial editions were brought out almost immediately by many publishes in the United States and in Europe. Frémont's Report was a commercial Best Seller for two decades, and is still in print today.

Some commercial editions
Readers please report additional editions

  • The National Intelligencer, Washington DC, four newspaper editions containing the complete narrative of Frémont's second expedition, dated August 19, 21, 26, and 28, 1845.
  • Frémont, Brevet Captain J. C., Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842, and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-'44, London: Wiley and Putnam, 6 Waterloo Place, London, Dec. 29, 1845. Plates re-engraved. Sometimes includes Robert Greenhow map (after Frémont/Preuss).
  • Frémont, John C. Narrative of the Expedition to the Rocky mountains in the Year 1842 and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-1844, Henry Polkinhorn, Washington, DC, 1845.
  • Frémont, John C. Narrative of the Expedition to the Rocky mountains in the Year 1842 and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-1844, Taylor and Wilde, Washington, DC, 1845.
  • Frémont, Brevet Captain J.C. Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842; and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-44, Appleton, New York, 1846 and 1849.
  • Frémont, J. C. Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842, and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-44, H. & E. Phinney, Cooperstown, NY, 1846.
  • Frémont ,John C. Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains,in the Year 1842; and to Oregon and North California,in the Years 1843-44, L.W. Hall, Syracuse, NY., 1846.

At the age of forty, General Frémont was probably more widely known, throughout the world, than any man not of royal birth.
John S. C. Abbot, Civil War in America.

  • Frémont ,John C. Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains,in the Year 1842; and to Oregon and North California, in the Years 1843-44, Syracuse: Hall & Dickson; New York: A. S. Barnes & Co., 1847. Plus two plates and (SCARCE!) the Rufus Sage map
  • Frémont ,John C. Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains,in the Year 1842; and to Oregon and North California,in the Years 1843-44, Baltimore., 1848
  • Frémont ,John C. Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains,in the Year 1842; and to Oregon and North California,in the Years 1843-44, Hall & Dickson, Syracuse, N.Y.,1847.
  • Frémont, Kapitän John Charles, Die Felsengebirge Oregon und Nordkalifornien, Die Vereinigten Staaten von Nordamerika, A. Weichart, Leipsic, 1848.
    (translated from the English by Dr. Kottenkamp)
  • Frémont, Brevet Col. J . C., The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, Oregon and California, Geo. H Derby, Buffalo: 1849. Also 1852 and 1854.
  • Frémont John C., Notes of Travel in California, Appleton & C0, New York, 1849. A reprint of Geographical Memoir Upon Upper California and Narrative of The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842 and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-44, combined withMajor Emory's Report.
  • Frémont, John C., The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains Oregon and California; To Which is added a Description of the Physical Geography of California with Recent Notice of the Gold Region from the Most Authentic Sources, George H. Derby and Company, Boston, and Smith Knight and Co., Cleveland, 1850.

Down [House], Kent, 31 March 1846.
Dear Mr. Appleton,
I was much surprised a few days since by receiving your kind present of Fremont's Expedition, a work of which I had seen extracts & had been for some time wishing to read & so that it is a most desirable present in itself & I feel very much gratified at your kind remembrance of us.
Charles Darwin

  • Frémont, Kapitän John Charles, Die Felsengebirge Oregon und Nordkalifornien, Franckh'che Berlagspuchandlung, Stuttgart, 1851.
    (stated 2nd printing, translated from the English by Dr. Kottenkamp)
  • Brevet Col. J. C. Frémont,, Exploring Expedition to Rocky Mountains, Oregon & California, Derby & Miller, Auburn, Maine, 1854.
  • Frémont,, Brevet Col. J . C., The Exploring expedition to the Rocky Mountains, Oregon and California, Auburn and Buffalo Derby, Miller, Orton, Mulligan, Buffalo, 1854.
    States "Nineteenth Thousand" printed.
  • Frémont,, Brevet Col. J . C., The Exploring expedition to the Rocky Mountains, Oregon and California, Miller, Orton, Mulligan, New York, 1856 (For Presidential Campaign).
  • Bigelow, John, Memoir of the Life and Public Services of John Charles Frémont, Derby & Jackson, New York, 1856. (excerpts)
  • Upham, Charles Wentworth, Life, Exploration and Public Services of John Charles Frémont, Ticknor and Fields, Boston, 1856. Extensive excerpts--(For Presidential Campaign) Over 45,000 printed!
  • Smucker, Samuel M, A. M., The Life of Col. John Charles Frémont and His Narrative of Explorations and Adventures in Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon and California, Miller, Orton & Mulligan, New York, 1856 (For Presidential Campaign).
    go View complete text on-line
  • Smucker, Samuel M., A.M. The Life of General John C. Frémont, and his narrative of Explorations and Adventures in Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon and California, Hurst & Co., 122 Nassau Street, New York.  Copyright 1881 (For Presidential Campaign).
  • Frémont, John Charles, Memoirs of My Life, Bedford, Clark & Co, Chicago, 1886/1887. Parts of the Report are included. Published in parts 1886-87, and complete thereafter.
  • Frémont, John Charles, Carson, Cristopher H., The Daring Adventures of Kit Carson and Frémont Among Buffaloes, Grizzlies and Indians Being a Spirited Diary of the Most Difficult and Wonderful Explorations Ever Made, Opening, Through Yawing Chasms and Over Perilous Peaks, the Great Pathway to the Pacific, Hurst and Company, New York, 1885.
  • Frémont, John Charles, (ed. Allan Nevins) Narratives of Exploration and Adventure, Longmans, Green & Co., New York, 1956.
  • Frémont, John Charles, Narrative's of Exploration and Adventure, Eyre and Spottiswoode, London,1958.

The narrative of the Report is pregnant with valuable observational data.
"The characteristic growths of arid regions are mentioned by [Frémont] in this connection, and the statement that cacti have become rare, and mosses begin to dispute the hills with them, at the South Pass is strongly expressive of this general distinction. This is remarked at a point where the rains are at least more equally distributed than in the lower plains and basins."
Lorin Blodget, Climatology of the United States, J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1857

  • Frémont, John Charles, Geographical Memoir Upon Upper California, The Book Club of California, San Francisco, 1964, a facsimile of Senate. 30th Congress, Misc. No.148, Wendell and Van Benthuysen, Washington, 1848.Contains a facsimile of the 1848 Frémont/Preuss map.
  • Frémont, John Charles, Report of The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842, and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-'44, University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Mich. / Readex Microprint, 1966.
  • Jackson, Donald, and Mary Lee Spence, The Expeditions of John Charles Frémont: Vol. I, Travels from 1838 to 1844; Vol. II, The Bear Flag Revolt and the Court-Martial, University of Illinois Press, 1970.
  • Jackson, Donald, The Expeditions of John Charles Frémont: Map Portfolio, University of Illinois Press, 1970. Full size facsimiles of the 1839-40, 1843, 1845, 1848, and 7-section map of the road to Oregon.
  • Fremont, John C. The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains (Exploring the American West Ser.) Washington, DC, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988.
  • Frémont, Charles John A Report On An Exploration Of The Country Lying Between The Missouri River And The Rocky Mountains, On The Line Of The Kansas And Great Platte Rivers, Fairfield, Washington: Ye Galleon Press, 1996.
  • Frémont, John Charles, Geographical Memoir Upon Upper California, , Fairfield, Washington: Ye Galleon Press, 1996. A reprint of Senate. 30th Congress, Misc. No.148, Wendell and Van Benthuysen, Washington, 1848. The 1848 Frémont/Preuss map separate.
  • Frémont, John Charles, Memoirs of My Life, Cooper Square Press, New York, 2001. Parts of the Report are included.

I had in my hand half a dozen squibs, which I had made one day when encamped upon Laramie Creek with gunpowder and charcoal, and the leaves of Frémont's Expedition, rolled round a stout lead pencil. I waited till I could get hold of the large piece of burning bois de vache [wood of the cow, ie., buffalo chips] which the Indians kept by them on the ground for lighting their pipes. With this I lighted all the fireworks at once, and tossed them whizzing and sputtering into the air, over the heads of the company.
Francis Parkman, The Oregon Trail, 1846.

  • FFrémont, John Charles, Report of The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842, and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-'44, The Narrative Press, Santa Barbara, CA, 2002. In print at Narrative Press.
  • Frémont, John Charles, Report of The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842, and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-'44, Lightning Source, Inc., LaVergne, TN, 2002.
  • Frémont, Brevet Col. J. C., Report of The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842, and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-'44, Indypublish.com, 2004.
  • Frémont, John Charles, Report of The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842, and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-'44, Lightning Source, Inc. [UK], 2005.
  • Frémont, Brevet Col. J. C., Report of The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842, and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-'44, Kessinger Publishing, 2005.
  • Frémont, Brevet Col. J. C., Report of The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842, and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-'44, Book-On-Demand, current.
  • Frémont, Brevet Col. J. C., Oregon & California (Report of The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842, and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-'44), Bibliographical Center for Research, University of California, Riverside, 2009
  • Frémont, John Charles, Oregon and California, Bibliolife, Llc., 2009.
  • [Frémont, John Charles,] Frémont's First Impressions: The Original Report of His Exploring Expeditions of 1842-1844, introduction by Anne F. Hyde. Bison Books, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln & London, 2012.


©1999, 2007
Bob Graham