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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Zebulon Montgomery Pike

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ZEBULON MONTGOMERY PIKE (1779-1813), American explorer and soldier, was born in Lamberton (now a part of Trenton), New Jersey, on the 5th of January 1779, son of Zebulon Pike (.1751-1834), an officer in the American army. He entered his father's company as a cadet about 1794, and became an ensign (or second lieutenant) in 1799 and first lieutenant in the same year. On the 9th of August 1805 he started with twenty men from St Louis to explore the head-waters of the Mississippi. At Prairie du Chien he met some Chippewa chiefs and induced them to expel the whisky-traders among them and to make peace with the Sioux; at the Falls of St Anthony (Sept. 23) he bought a tract 9 m. square at the mouth of the St Croix for a fort; and at Little Falls (in the middle of October) he built a stockade, where he left seven men. He reached Leech Lake ("Lake La Sang Sue"), which he called "the main source of the Mississippi," on the 1st of February 1806; went 30 m. farther to Cass Lake ("Red Cedar"); and, after working against British influences among the Indians, turned back, and went down the Mississippi from Dean Creek to St Louis, arriving on the 30th of April. In 1806 he was ordered to restore to their homes 50 Osages, redeemed by the United States government from Potawatami, and to explore the country. He started on the r 5th of July; and went north along the Missouri and the Osage into the present state of Kansas and probably to the Republican river in the south of the present Nebraska, where on the 29th of September he held a grand council of the Pawnees. Then (early in October), turning nearly south, he marched to the Arkansas river, which he reached on the r4th of October, and up which (after the 28th with only 16 men) he went to the Royal Gorge (Dec. 7), having first seen the mountain called in his honour Pike's Peak on the 23rd of November; and then went north-west, probably up Oil Creek from Canon City. In searching for the Red river he came to the South Platte, marched through South Park, left it by Trout Creek pass, struck over to the Arkansas, which he thought was the Red River for which he was searching, and, going south and south-west, came to the Rio Grande del Norte (about where Alamosa, Conejos county, Colorado, is now) on the 30th of January 1807. There on the 26th of February he and a small number of his men were taken prisoners by Spanish authorities, who sent him first to Santa Fe, then to Chihuahua to General Salcedo, and by a roundabout way to the American frontier, where he was released on the 1st of July 1807. He was promoted captain (August 1806), major (May 1808), lieutenant-colonel (Dec. 1809) and colonel (July 1812). In 1808 he tried in vain to get an appropriation from Congress for himself and his men. He was military agent in New Orleans in 1809-1810, was deputy quartermaster-general in April - July 1812, and was in active service in the War of 1812 as adjutant and inspector-general in the campaign against York (now Toronto), Canada, and in the attack on York on the 27th of April 1813 was in immediate command of the troops in action and was killed by a piece of rock which fell on him when the British garrison in its retreat set fire to the magazine.

His Account of an Expedition to the Sources of the Mississippi and through the Western Parts of Louisiana. and a Tour through the Interior Parts of New Spain was published at Philadelphia in 1810; was reprinted and rearranged in London in 1811; and was published in a French version in Paris in 1812, and a Dutch version at Amsterdam in 1812-1813. The standard edition with memoir and notes by Elliott Coues was published in three volumes in New York in 1895. Some of Pike's papers taken from him in Mexico are now in the Mexican archives (Seccion de Asuntos Internacionales caxa 1817-1824), and the more important were published by H. E. Bolton in the American Historical Review, (1907-1908), xiii. 798-827. See the sketch by Henry Whiting in vol. v., series of Jared Sparks's Library of American Biography.

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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Zebulon Montgomery Pike'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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