A Famous Court-Martial
THE Benton family had been ready to take up arms the moment it had first heard of the clash between Fré mont and Kearny. On June 7, 1847, the precise, methodical President Polk, having finished his morning's work at his desk and risen from his lunch, told the secretaries at one o'clock to open the doors of his public office. Among the first callers, richly dressed, was Jessie Frémont, and with her the short, sturdy figure of Kit Carson, weather-beaten, swarthy from the southwestern sun, and awkward in his soot-black new broadcloth. The famous scout had made the overland trip from the Pacific Coast in a little more than three months, and brought the Los Angeles news of February 25th with him. He was enjoying the hospitality of the Benton home in Washington, where his modesty and gentleness had already won him the warmest regard. Polk greeted the pair cordially.
Kit Carson, Jessie told the President, had been waiting several days for an opportunity to talk with him and tender his services as despatch-bearer to California. Carson then came forward and delivered Polk a long letter from Frémont, which had been addressed originally to Benton, and which Benton had sent on from St. Louis. It related in part to the quarrel over the governorship:
Mrs. Frémont seemed anxious [wrote the tactful Polk in his diary] to elicit from me some expression of approbation for her husband's conduct, but I evaded [making any]. In truth, I consider that Colonel Frémont was greatly in the wrong when he refused to obey the orders issued to him by General Kearny. I think General Kearny was right also in his controversy with Commodore Stockton.