The First Expedition
PROBABLY there was no happier young man in the country on May 2, 1842, than John C. Frémont. We can imagine him taking leave of his wife of six months in the Benton home; kissing Mrs. Benton; receiving some pompous, fatherly admonitions from the Senator; and, spruce in his blue and gold uniform, running down the steps in the warm spring sunshine to the carriage that was to take him to the railway station. He was but twenty-nine years old. Yet he was at last in full command of his own expedition, with a long summer of outdoor life and adventure ahead of him, and an opportunity to achieve new distinction as an explorer. The poor half-orphan of the Charleston streets, the youth brought into the backdoor of the Army by Poinsett's influence, had achieved a position that any West Pointer might envy: the son-in-law of Senator Benton, the husband of the most charming girl in the capital, the successor of the famous Nicollet.
Could he have foreseen what a pleasant and profitable expedition lay before him, his feeling of elation would have been heightened. Frémont within the next decade was to pass through harrowing physical hardship, but this first expedition included few days that he could not remember with pleasure. It was a summer's tour in the kindliest of weather. It was not too ambitious; going only as far as the South Pass and Wind River Mountains, he penetrated no dangerous country. Yet it was sufficiently full of contacts with Indians, buffalo, and frontiersmen, of adventures on plain, mountain precipice, and river rapids. At the end he was to receive not only the congratulations of Lieutenant-Colonel Abert and Senator Benton,