Stephen Kearny: Father of the cavalry
The Lewis and Clark expedition is one of the best-known historical events in American history, a daunting journey through unexplored land to the Pacific coast. John C. Fremont followed, mapping and chronicling his tours through the American frontier. Although less well-known, Stephen Watts Kearny was their equal; maps of his travels through the American wilderness during three decades beginning in 1820 reveal an astonishing number of expeditions from Canada to Mexico and from East to West. In the late 18th century it was not uncommon for women to bear a litter of children, since few survived to adulthood. Kearny was the 15th child, born Aug. 30, 1794, in Newark, N.J. His father, a wealthy landholder in New York and New Jersey, died when Kearny was just shy of 4. Remarkably, Kearny's hardy mother lived on to 1823. Although his family had wealth, Kearny attended common schools in Newark and in 1808 entered King's College (later to become Columbia University). One classmate described Kearny as someone who would not hurt the feelings of others, "a young man of equal temper, modest, cool and resolute."