Western Hero

Overrated

It’s hard to choose the most overrated of the West’s many overrated heroes. It’s a fool’s congeries that has to include George Armstrong Custer, who made the biggest mistake of his short, vainglorious life when he decided to attack an Indian encampment down on the Little Bighorn. It has to give a nod to Zebulon Pike, father of a half-century misconception that the Great Plains was fundamentally uninhabitable, and to “the Pathfinder,” John C. Frémont, who without Kit Carson to lead him around by the nose could not have found his bum with either hand.Read more »

A Record Filled With Sunlight

John Charles Frémont never succeeded in living up to his fame, yet he was one of America’s great explorers

Rolling plains covered with dry bunch grass stretch for miles on every side. Far on the northern horizon lifts an enormous square-topped butte, giving individuality to that quarter of the landscape. Westward, faint in the distance but brought into hard relief as the sun sets, are penciled the snowy peaks of an isolated mountain chain; and close inspection shows that near their base the country dips into a narrow valley, with cottonwoods indicating a stream whose waters are fed by these distant summits.

 
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