Zebulon Montgomery Pike (January 5, 1779 – April 27, 1813) was
an American brigadier general and explorer for whom
Pikes Peak in
Colorado was renamed (from El Capitan). As a U.S. Army officer he led
two expeditions under authority of third President Thomas Jefferson
through the new
Louisiana Purchase territory, first in 1805-06 to
reconnoiter the upper northern reaches of the Mississippi River, and
then in 1806-07 to explore the Southwest to the fringes of the
northern Spanish-colonial settlements of
New Mexico and Texas. Pike's
expeditions coincided with other Jeffersonian expeditions, including
Lewis and Clark Expedition
Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–1806) and the Thomas Freeman
and Peter Custis expedition up the Red River (1806).
Pike's second expedition crossed the
Rocky Mountains into what became
later as southern Colorado, which led to his capture by the Spanish
colonial authorities near Santa Fe, who sent Pike and his men to
Chihuahua (present-day Mexico), for interrogation. Later in 1807, Pike
and some of his men were escorted by the Spanish through
released near American territory in Louisiana.
In 1810, Pike published an account of his expeditions, a book so
popular that it was translated into Dutch, French, and German
languages, for publication in Europe. He later achieved the rank of
brigadier general in the American Army and served during the War of
1812, until he was killed during the Battle of York, in April 1813,
outside the then British colonial capital of
Upper Canada (later
1 Early and family life
1.1 Early life and education
1.2 Marriage and family
2 Military career
2.1 Pike Expedition
2.2 War of 1812
4.2 State and local
5 See also
7 Further reading
8 External links
Early and family life
Early life and education
Pike was born during the Revolutionary War, on January 5, 1779, near
Lamberton, now called Lamington, in Somerset County, New
Jersey. He would follow in the footsteps of his father, also named
Zebulon, who had begun his own career in the military service of the
United States beginning in 1775, at the outset of the American
The younger Pike grew to adulthood with his family at a series of
Ohio and Illinois – the United States' northwestern
frontier at the time. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant of
infantry in 1799 and promoted to first lieutenant later that same
Marriage and family
Zebulon Pike, Jr. married Clarissa Harlow Brown in 1801. They had
one child who survived to adulthood, Clarissa Brown Pike, who later
married President William Henry Harrison's son, John Cleves Symmes
Pike's military career included working on logistics and payroll at a
series of frontier posts, including
Fort Bellefontaine near St. Louis.
General James Wilkinson, appointed Governor of the Upper Louisiana
Territory and headquartered there, became his mentor.
In 1805, Wilkinson ordered Pike to find the source of the Mississippi
River, so Pike traveled into the northern
Louisiana Territory, newly
purchased from France. Over 100 years later, France released official
records showing General Wilkinson received personal trade concessions
and thus could be labeled a spy for
Spain at the time.
Main article: Pike Expedition
Pikes Peak, central Colorado
After Pike returned from this first expedition, General Wilkinson
almost immediately ordered him to mount a second expedition, this time
to explore, map, and find the headwaters of the Arkansas and Red
rivers. Additional objectives of this exploratory expedition into the
southwestern part of the
Louisiana Territory were to evaluate natural
resources and establish friendly relations with Native americans.
Beginning July 15, 1806, Pike led what became known as the "Pike
Expedition". General Wilkinson's son James served as one of his
lieutenants, although it now seems that Wilkinson planned that the
Spanish who controlled
Mexico would capture him and his men.[citation
In early November 1806, Pike and his team sighted and tried to climb
to the summit of the peak later named after him (Pikes Peak). They
made it as far as Mt. Rosa, located southeast of Pikes Peak, before
giving up the ascent in waist-deep snow. They had already gone almost
two days without food.
They then continued south, searching for the Red River's headwaters,
and built a fort for shelter during the winter. However, they had
crossed the border, whether through confusion or deliberation. Spanish
authorities captured Pike and some of his party in what was then
New Mexico (now part of southern Colorado) on February 26,
Pike and his men were taken to Santa Fe then to the capital of
Chihuahua province, and presented to Commandant General Salcedo, who
was governor of the state. Pike was treated well and invited to
formal social dinners, but still not quite given the treatment of a
visiting dignitary, and his men were kept prisoner. Salcedo housed
Pike with Juan Pedro Walker, a cartographer who also acted as an
interpreter. Walker transcribed and translated Pike's confiscated
documents, including his journal. Mexican authorities feared the
spread of both democracy and Protestant Christian sects that might
undermine their rule.
During this time, Pike had access to various maps of the southwest and
learned about Mexico's discontent with Spanish rule.
official protests with the
United States about Pike's expedition, but
since the nations were not at war (and
Spain was rebelling against
Napoleon's brother, who was fighting England in the Peninsular War),
Commandant Salcedo released the military men. The Spanish escorted
Pike and most of his men north, releasing them at the
on July 1, 1807. However, some of Pike's soldiers were held for years
in Mexico.
The Red River, which later separated
Oklahoma Territory from Texas,
was next explored by the ill-fated  expedition of 1815, named for
the Colonel who died; only two sick men returned, one of whom died
soon thereafter. He also ended up in the Spanish territory.
War of 1812
Pike was promoted to captain during the southwestern expedition. In
1811, Lt. Col. Zebulon M. Pike with the 4th Infantry Regiment fought
at the Battle of Tippecanoe. He was promoted to colonel in 1812.
Pike's military career also included service as deputy
New Orleans and inspector-general during the
War of 1812.
Pike was promoted to brigadier general in 1813. Along with General
Jacob Brown, Pike departed from the newly fortified rural military
outpost of Sackets Harbor, on the New York shore of Lake Ontario, for
what became his last military campaign. On this expedition, Pike
commanded combat troops in the successful attack on York (now
Toronto), on April 27, 1813. Pike was killed, along with numerous
other American troops, by flying rocks and other debris when the
withdrawing British garrison blew up its ammunition magazine as Pike's
troops approached Fort York. His body was brought by ship back to
Sackets Harbor, where his remains were buried at the military
The Spanish authorities confiscated Pike's journals, which were not
recovered by the
United States from
Mexico until the 1900s. Pike wrote
an account from memory of his expeditions, which was published in 1810
as The expeditions of Zebulon Montgomery Pike to Headwaters of the
Mississippi River, through
Louisiana Territory, and in New Spain,
during the Years 1805-6-7. It was popular; was later translated
into Dutch, French, and German editions; and became required reading
for all American explorers who followed him in the 19th century.
Pike's capture by the Spanish and travel through the Southwest gave
Pike insight into the region. For example, he described the politics
in Chihuahua, which led to the
Mexican independence movement, and
described trade conditions in the Spanish territories of New Mexico
and Chihuahua, which contributed to development of the Santa Fe
As Olsen (2006) shows, after Pike's death in battle, his military
accomplishments were widely celebrated in terms of biographies,
mourning memorials, paintings, poems, and songs, and he became the
namesake for dozens of towns, counties, and ships. His memory faded
after the Civil War but rebounded in 1906, at the centennial of his
Southwest Expedition. His 20th century reputation focused on his
exploration, and his name appeared often on natural features, such as
dams, islands, lakes, and parks.
Liberty ship SS
Zebulon Pike (appears in Episode 1 of Victory At Sea)
Lock and Dam No. 11
Lock and Dam No. 11 in Dubuque, Iowa
Pike National Forest
USS General Pike
State and local
Pike County in:
Georgia and its county seat Zebulon
Pikes Peak (Iowa)
Pike (hamlet), New York
Pike Island in Fort Snelling State Park, Minnesota
Pike Creek Township in Morrison County, Minnesota
Pike Township, Marion County, Indiana
Pike Township, Wyoming County, New York
Pike Township, Stark County, Ohio
Pike Trail League, Kansas high school activities league
Pike Valley School District, Kansas School District, U.S.D. 426
^ Berry, Trey; Beasley, Pam; Clements, Jeanne, eds. (2006). The
Forgotten Expedition, 1804–1805: The
Louisiana Purchase Journals of
Dunbar and Hunter.
Louisiana State University Press. p. xi.
^ Irving, Washington (November 1814). "Biographical Memoir of the Late
Brigadier General Zebulon Montgomery Pike". Analectic Magazine.
Vol. 4. p. 380.
^ Wilson, Thomas (1822). The Biography of the Principal American
Military and Naval Heroes; Comprehending Details of Their Achievements
During the Revolutionary and Late Wars. II (Second ed.). New York:
John Low. p. 9.
^ Backes, William J. (October 1919). "General Zebulon M. Pike,
Somerset-Born". Somerset County Historical Quarterly. 8 (4):
^ Buckley, Jay H.; Harris, Matthew L., eds. (2012). Zebulon Pike,
Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West. Norman,
Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press.
^ "The Duel – People & Events: James Wilkinson". PBS. Archived
from the original on February 18, 2015. Retrieved February 18,
^ Buescher, John. "Trailing Lewis and Clark". TeachingHistory.org.
Retrieved July 12, 2011.
^ Valkenburg, Samuel Van (1976). "Pike, Zebulon Montgomery". In
William D. Halsey. Collier's Encyclopedia. 19. New York: Macmillan
Educational Corporation. p. 46.
^ Peppiatt, Liam. "Chapter 31B: Fort York". Robertson's Landmarks of
^ Zebulon Montgomery Pike at Find a Grave
^ Pike, Zebulon Montgomery (1965). Elliott Coues, ed. The expeditions
of Zebulon Montgomery Pike to headwaters of the Mississippi River,
Louisiana Territory, and in New Spain, during the years
1805-6-7. Ross & Haines (published 1895).
^ Olsen, Michael L. (Spring 2006). "
Zebulon Pike and American Popular
Culture – or – Has Pike Peaked?" (PDF). Kansas History. 29 (1):
^ Upham, Warren (1920).
Minnesota Geographic Names: Their Origin and
Minnesota Historical Society.
^ Garman-Schlaefli, Gloria (31 Jan 2008). "Pike Trail League formed 60
years ago". Jewell County Record (5). Retrieved 8 February 2016.
Harris and Jay H. Buckley, Matthew L. (2012). Zebulon Pike, Thomas
Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West. Norman, Oklahoma:
University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-4243-2.
Hollon, W. Eugene (1949). The Lost Pathfinder, Zebulon Montgomery
Pike. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press.
Orsi, Jared (2014). Citizen Explorer: The Life of Zebulon Pike.
Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Zebulon Pike at Project Gutenberg
Works by or about
Zebulon Pike at Internet Archive
Zebulon Pike at Open Library
Zebulon Pike at Goodreads
National Park Service biography
Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe Trail Research
"Butler County connections to the Mexican War" Hamilton Journal-News
Pike's Explorations - related to Pike's journey to find the source of
Mississippi River and the building of his fort in what is now
Morrison County, Minnesota
Pike's Menagerie - the animals Pike and his men encountered in central
Was Pike a Failure? - an examination of the often-heard critique of
Mississippi River expedition
Zebulon Pike and the Blue Mountain - award-winning film produced with
the help of Pike Historian W. Eugene Hollon, the U.S. Army, the
Smithsonian and the National Archives about the explorer's time in
what is now Colorado
Thomas H. Cushing
Adjutant Generals of the U. S. Army
March 12, 1813 – April 27, 1813
Inspector General of the U. S. Army
March 12, 1813 – April 27, 1813
ISNI: 0000 0000 8391 1416
BNF: cb10607246r (da