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John C. Fremont for President, 1856
S.C.V. Exonumia


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Campaign medal: John C. Fremont for President, 1856. Medal shows typical weakness around the nose; strong doubling on back.

"Jessie's Choice" refers to Fremont's popular wife, Jessie Benton Fremont, daughter of Ohio Sen. Thomas Hart Benton (of Manifest Destiny fame). Idea being: She picked him; so should you.

Fremont (1813-1890), alias The Pathfinder, passed through the Santa Clarita Valley on mapping expeditions in the early 1840s and returned in January 1847 en route to accepting Mexican Gen. Andres Pico's unconditional surrender during the war of 1846-1848. (Pico Canyon bears the latter's name.)

A decade later, Fremont, who took up residency in California, was the first presidential candidate of a brand-new political party in 1856: The Republican Party. His vice presidential running mate was William Dayton. Fremont finished second behind the Democratic nominee, James Buchanan of Pennsylvania — but both Buchanan (45.3 percent) and Fremont (33.1 percent) finished ahead of the incumbent president from New York, Millard Fillmore (21.5 percent), who ran as the American Party standard bearer.

Electoral votes: Buchanan 174, Fremont 114, Fillmore 8. States carried: Buchanan 19, Fremont 11, Fillmore 1. Popular vote: Buchanan 1,836,072, Fremont 1,342,345, Fillmore 873,053.

Medal is JF 1856-12 (Sullivan): Brass, 28mm. Front: COL. JOHN C. FREMONT. / JESSIE'S. CHOICE. / around bust of Fremont, quarter-turn to left. Back: FREMONT & DAYTON. / THE PEOPLES CHOICE. / around heraldic eagle facing left; olive branch in right talons, 3 arrows in left talons.


About the 1856 presidential campaign medals.

Excerpt from "United States History as Illustrated by Its Political Medals" by Andrew C. Zabriskie, published in "Proceedings of the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society of New York City: Fortieth Annual Meeting," March 21, 1898 (now called the American Numismatic Society).

In 1856 the newly born Republican party put forward its first presidential candidate, in the person of John C. Fremont. The United Democracy nominated James Buchanan and his election seems to have been assured from the first. Among the Buchanan campaign medals, is one where on the field are thirty one stars, a buck is seen in the attitude of running, and a cannon, (being a play upon the name of the presidential candidate) "and Breckinridge 1856," completes the inscription. Another campaign medal has a legend, "The Union one and indivisible, Buchanan, the crisis demands his election;" while still another has the inscription, "James Buchanan, no sectionalism."

John C. Fremont was a distinctly picturesque candidate; while well known in the West, he was scarcely known in New York City at the time of his nomination. A beautiful campaign medal of this candidate is inscribed, "The Rocky Mountains echo back Fremont the people's choice for 1856, constitutional freedom;" on another one is a representation of three surveyors engaged in measuring land, with the inscription, "Honor to whom honor is due," being an allusion to John C. Fremont's well known explorations in the far west, at that time a region veiled in much mystery and romance. Another little Fremont campaign medal has the inscription, "Colonel John C. Fremont, Jessie's choice," and on the reverse an American eagle, "Fremont and Dayton, the people's choice." The allusion on the obverse of this medal was to the wife of the General, as you will have readily imagined.


About John C. Fremont:

The name John Charles Frémont (Fremont) is synonymous with President James K. Polk's policy of "Manifest Destiny" — the westward expansion of the United States in the 1840s.

Born Jan. 21, 1813 in Savannah, Ga., Fremont studied excelled in math at Charleston (S.C.) College but was expelled in 1831 for bad attendance. He joined the U.S. Navy and taught math on a warship before joining the U.S. Topographical Corps (later renamed the Army Corps of Engineers) as an explorer in about 1838. A skilled surveyor who could draw accurate maps useful for push west, Frémont was heading his own expeditions by 1841, surveying the Missouri River, the Oregon Trail and the Sierra Nevada. In that same year (1841) Frémont married Jessie Benton, the 17-year-old daughter of Sen. Thomas Hart Benton, the architect of the Manifest Destiny movement. Frémont, whom the press would dub "The Pathfinder" (even though Kit Carson did most of the "path finding" for him), led three major expeditions to the Far West — in 1842, 1843-44 and 1845-47.

War broke out between the U.S. and Mexico in 1846 and Frémont, with knowledge of the territory, was sent to California. Frémont led much of the Bear Flag Revolt at Sutter's Fort in the Sacramento Valley while Mexican Gen. Andrés Pico was fighting — and defeating — U.S. Gen. Stephen Kearny at the Battle of San Pasqual near San Diego.

On Jan. 9, 1847, Frémont and his 100-man "buckskin battalion" arrived at Castaic Junction from the north, on their way to meeting Pico, and probably stopped overnight at the Del Valle ranch home. The following night, the troops camped at the Newhall Pass, somewhere in the vicinity of today's Eternal Valley Cemetery (according to Perkins, at the intersection of Highway 6 and San Fernando Road, now known as Sierra Highway and Newhall Avenue). The next morning Frémont and his company departed on foot, crossing the San Gabriels through Frémont Pass (later confused with Beale's Cut, which was about a quarter-mile to the west) as they marched on to face Pico in the San Fernando Valley.

It was a bloodless victory. Pico handed over his sword to Frémont in what is known as the Capitulation of Cahuenga.

General peace came a year later, on Feb. 2, 1848. Following the war, which added California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to the Union, Frémont led another expedition in 1848-49, was court-martialed for mutiny and retired to his ranch in Mariposa, Calif., where he found gold and got rich. Voted into the U.S. Senate in California's first election following statehood in 1850, Frémont served a two-year term and became the Republican Party's first presidential candidate in 1856, running on an anti-slavery platform.

Frémont was appointed Major General in the (regular) U.S. Army in 1861 and commanded the Western Department of the Union Army during the Civil War, but President Abraham Lincoln relieved him of his duties after Frémont issued an emancipation proclamation freeing slaves in Missouri — prior to Lincoln's own Emancipation Proclamation.

Frémont lost the fortune he had made in California gold when he dabbled in railroad investments after the Civil War. He got a job as Territorial Governor of Arizona, a post he held from 1878-83. In 1887 he returned to his Mariposa ranch and lived just long enough to see the U.S. Army restore his rank of Major General. He died July 13, 1890 in New York City.


LW2696: 19200 dpi jpeg from original medal purchased 2014 by Leon Worden.
JOHN C. FREMONT

See Also:
• Mexican-American War 1846-1848
• Kit Carson
• About Fremont Pass (Perkins)
• The Pathfinder (Reynolds)
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Fremont for President 1856 "Jessie's Choice"

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Fremont for President 1864

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Circle of Friends Medal 1913

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