1843-44 - Fremont's second and third expeditions

Thomas Fitzpatrick

       Fitzpatrick was Freemont's guide for these expeditions, and Freemont's reports were widely publicized by his father-in-law, Thomas Hart Benton, the bombastic booster of expansionism from Missouri.

         Like Benton, the future president James Polk was a committed expansionist who pledged to both secure for the United States exclusive title to Oregon and Texas, and to acquire California from Mexico.  Polk, a man who had never been west of the Mississippi river, was as determined as Benton to settle the West with Americans and to 'bring the entire continent under the wings of the eagle.'

         The expansionists' top priority was a passageway for safe migration through Indian country.  In December 1845,  Polk recommended to Congress that "a suitable number of stockades and block house forts be erected along the usual route between our frontier settlement on the Missouri and the Rocky Mountains, and that an adequate force of mounted riflemen be raised to guard and protect them on their journey."

            On May 19, 1846, Congress authorized the Oregon Trail Act to fund the building for the forts, a decision strongly opposed by Thomas Fitzpatrick, who believed such forts could only provoke hostilities while accomplishing little in the way of protecting citizens.