IN 1926, when a young newspaperman on the editorial staff of the New York World, I met Major Frank P. Frémont, who possessed a fragmentary collection of his parents' papers, the larger part of which had been destroyed in the burning of a warehouse. As a friendship with William J. Ghent had aroused my interest in Trans-Mississippi history, I gladly embraced the opportunity of using these papers for a long overdue life (no biography having appeared since 1856) of John C. Frémont.
This was published in 1928 under the title of Frémont, the West's Greatest Adventurer. It emphasized the romantic aspects of Frémont's career; probably overemphasized them, though no less a person than Willa Cather wrote me that the color and adventure of the story had delighted her. Eleven years later, the book, chastened in style and much enlarged in content, was reissued as Frémont: Pathmarker of the West. I am now happy in the opportunity of a third edition. Needless to say, if I were to write the biography completely anew, it would be with a marked difference of approach. A careful restudy of the edition of 1939, however, has revealed remarkably little which demands change. With a number of corrections, which I have duly made, and a few textual alterations, it can well stand. I have added a long final chapter containing such additional information on Frémont as I could gain over the years, and a bibliography of his writings.
Fremont, as I hope this book shows, is a singularly interesting subject; he had a personality brilliant, versatile, and adventurous, and his career abounded in almost melodramatic alternations of good and bad fortune. Topographer, explorer, writer, political leader, general, railroad planner, he touched history at many points; controversy sprang up all along his path; he aroused enthusiastic loyalty and violent antagonism.