Frémont, Pathmarker of the West

By Allan Nevins | Go to book overview

XXII
Starvation and Cannibalism

PASSENGERS on the lake steamboat Saratoga, bound from Buffalo westward in the early fall of 1848, saw on its shelter deck an interesting family group: Fré- mont, in civilian clothes, with close-cropped beard, long mustache, and heavy curling dark hair, slightly grizzled in places; his still girlish wife, carrying a baby in her arms; the little girl of six, Lilly; and a servant. They kept to themselves and invited no approaches. But to one or two fellow travelers who won their confidence they spoke freely. They were on their way to California, with the intention of making it their future home. They frankly admitted that they were poor; they had nothing but Frémont's savings from his small army salary, and they faced the possibility that, if Congress refused to pay the debts he had contracted in his California operations, he would be held responsible for them. However, they hoped quickly to gain a footing in that rich land. Frémont had placed in the hands of Larkin, before leaving to undergo his courtmartial, a small sum--$3,000--for the purchase of a ranch; and friends in the East had furnished him credit to send around Cape Horn the agricultural implements and milling machinery he would need there. They had health and courage. It was plain that Frémont was depressed by the verdict of the courtmartial, which he regarded as a deep injustice, but Jessie assiduously comforted him. "And it was very pleasant," later wrote a passenger,1 "to see how he was cheered on and encouraged by the vast prospect of doing good which was opened

____________________
1
Letter of T. C. Rogers, Buffalo Republic, reprinted in New York Tribune, July 8, 1856.

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