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Publisher's Summary

The career of John Charles Frémont (1813-90) ties together the full breadth of American expansionism from its 18th-century origins through its culmination in the Gilded Age. Tom Chaffin's biography demonstrates Frémont's vital importance to the history of American empire and illuminates his role in shattering long-held myths about the ecology and habitability of the American West.

As the most celebrated American explorer and mapper of his time, Frémont stood at the center of the vast federal project of Western exploration and conquest. His expeditions between 1838 and 1854 captured the public's imagination, inspired Americans to accept their nation's destiny as a vast continental empire, and earned him his enduring sobriquet, the Pathfinder.

But Frémont was more than an explorer. Chaffin's dramatic narrative includes Frémont's varied experiences as an entrepreneur, abolitionist, Civil War general, husband to the remarkable Jessie Benton Frémont, two-time Republican presidential candidate, and Gilded Age aristocrat.

“Pathfinder is the most eloquent, understanding, and yet very candid biography of Frémont that has appeared to date. A major contribution to American historical writing.” (Howard R. Lamar, Yale University)

“In his mesmerizing biography, Tom Chaffin brings to life not only Frémont but the amazing personalities who populated his world.” (Landon Jones, former managing editor, People magazine)

“In clear and vivid language, Tom Chaffin's Pathfinder re-creates the life of John C. Frémont...” (Elliott J. Gorn, Purdue University)

©2002 Tom Chaffin (P)2018 Redwood Audiobooks

Critic Reviews

“Pathfinder is the most eloquent, understanding, and yet very candid biography of Frémont that has appeared to date. A major contribution to American historical writing.” (Howard R. Lamar, Yale University)

“In his mesmerizing biography, Tom Chaffin brings to life not only Frémont but the amazing personalities who populated his world.” (Landon Jones, former managing editor, People magazine) 

“In clear and vivid language, Tom Chaffin's Pathfinder re-creates the life of John C. Frémont....” (Elliott J. Gorn, Purdue University) 

What listeners say about Pathfinder: John Charles Fremont and the Course of American Empire

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The More You Think About Him the More He Pops Up

When I bought this book I knew NOTHING about John C. Fremont. I started the audiobook during a camping trip in southern Colorado a few hours away from me. And I was in Fremont County which I learned after is named after John C. Fremont. I was on Hardscrabble Creek in the Wet Mountains which I came to learn was part of his last exploring expeditions. I've always been a fan of Fremont Culture in Utah and didn't know that was named after a river named after him. He became like Mr. Poopybutthole on Rick and Morty the more I looked the more I realized his name is everywhere, his mark on American history seems to be everywhere! Quite a fascinating character and story. I didn't know anything about how California was 'obtained' from Mexico, nor would I have cared in the past. But in the context of the book it is made interesting. The narrator didn't do a bad job but wasn't as lively as I would have hoped. He mispronounced Cairo, Illinois like Cairo, Egypt (instead of Kay-Row which is how it's pronounced). Overall a great book if you like history, exploration, etc.

1 person found this helpful

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Comprehensive but balanced

For good and/or bad John C. Fremont was a man who had a significant impact in the course of United States history. Chaffin gives us a.balanced and honest perspective of who this man was by organizing details from a vast number of primary sources. Loved this book!

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Delightful book

The first chapters are brutally slow and excruciatingly detailed about his life before exploring. Once his adventures start you will be mesmerized with his courage and endurance. A great American story.

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Great story, terrible narrator

Or-y-Gun not Or-e-GONE

Cairo is CIRO not CARO

Willamette is Will-aaa-MIT not Will-uh-METTE

Dalles is Dalls not Dall-es

Benicia is Ben-eesha not Ben-iksia

Very little voice inflection and need to learn key pronunciations.

The biography is fantastic.