In February 2001 I received an unexpected e-mail titled, “My ancestor, Lt. Col. Fremantle.” It was from Thomas Fremantle in England, who tracked me down from an interview I gave Vanity Fair, at Gettysburg.
Thus began an exchange of letters, culminating in my meeting the Fremantles, on a gorgeous spring day, (very unusual in itself), at their ancestral home in Buckinghamshire, in the heart of England's green and
usually very wet land. Read the family history, reprinted by kind permission of Charles Fremantle, the family historian, from a book entitled “A Fremantle Chronicle.” by David R Fremantle.
And what an auspicious history it is, dating from Norman times, through the Napoleonic wars, when Fremantles fought the French, (ironically their
forebearers), on land and sea. John William Fremantle, (Lt.Col. Fremantle’s father, and a General in The Coldstream), was Aid-de-camp to The Duke of Wellington in the peninsular campaign and at Waterloo.
Thomas Francis Fremantle was one of Nelson's "Band of Brothers," who also served his country but at sea, being with the British fleet at The Battles of Copenhagen and Trafalgar. He was also wounded in the same
engagement at Tenerife, when Nelson lost his arm
For those interested in the navel side of the Fremantle family, read “The Wynne Diaries” written by Thomas Fremantle’s wife Betsey, and a major
source of social and naval history of the Napoleonic era. They were edited by Anne, mother of the US branch of the Fremantles and published in paperback in 1982.
Thomas' son became 1st Lord Cottesloe and Fremantle's have served in the Royal Navy to the present day, contributing four admirals.
That first e-mail from Thomas was to tell me of his plans to retrace, (starting in September), the journey of Lt.Col. Fremantle from Texas, through The South in 1863.
Unlike Arthur Fremantle, who travelled mostly by train, Tom plans to walk , in aid of two worthy British and American charities, assisted
only by a pack-mule…..And for those who might scoff, they should be aware that in 1997 Tom rode a bicycle from Buckinghamshire to Fremantle, Australia, (literally half way round the world), in honour of
another ancestor, Charles Fremantle, (son of Betsey and Thomas), who claimed all of Western Australia for the British Crown, (over 1m squre miles) and established the first settlement which bares his name, near
Perth. Tom’s mammoth journey raised £43,000 ($65,000) for Stoke Mandeville Hospital in England. His account, in this modern day Fremantle Diary, called,"Johnny Ginger's last ride," is well worth reading.
UPDATE 21st March 2002
Tom is now nearing the end of his epic walk from Brownsville, Texas, to New York. He passed through
Gettysburg on 17th March (his birthday), where this author met him and showed him the battlefield. Read a report of this historic event and follow Tom’s route on his web page at www.mini-mule.co.uk