In the next election, however, an antislavery candidate did become president. Shortly after Abraham Lincoln was elected, the Southern states made good on their threat to secede from the Union and form their own country that allowed slavery, called the Confederate States of America. But Northern leaders would not allow the Southern states to leave without a fight. In early 1861, the two sides went to war.
President Lincoln asked Fremont to rejoin the Union Army when the Civil War began. Fremont received the rank of major general and took command of the Department of the West. He was stationed in Missouri, a so-called "border state" that allowed slavery but decided to remain in the Union. Many people in Missouri still supported the South. Lincoln wanted Fremont to use diplomacy to gain the support of the state's residents.
Instead, Fremont immediately began instituting harsh measures to control Missourians who favored secession. In August 1861, he declared martial law (law enforced by military rather than civilian authorities) in Missouri and suspended many of the people's rights. He also announced his intention to confiscate (take away) the property of secessionists and free their slaves. At this point, however, the North's stated purpose in fighting the Civil War was to restore the Union. Lincoln worried that any talk about freeing slaves would drive Missouri and the other three border states into the Confederacy. In addition, Fremont did not have the authority to issue and en force this order. As a result, Lincoln removed Fremont from his command in September.
Fremont received another chance to contribute to the Union war effort in 1862. He took command of the Department of West Virginia, but lost several battles against Confederate general Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson (1824-1863; see entry) in the Shenandoah Valley. After being replaced once again, Fremont sat out the rest of the war in New York City.
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