This book tells the story of a boy, kidnapped by Indians as a youth, who joins the expedition of Lieutenant Pike as he travels down the Arkansas river towards the rocky mountains. During the expedition they travel to Colorado and discovered Pike's peak before becoming lost, and ending up in Spanish territory. Although the main character is fictional, most of the events depicted in the story are faithful to the real history of the Pike expedition.
IT'S THE WRONG PEAK, MEN—YES, THE WRONG PEAK!
COUNTLESS OTHER AMERICANS
WHO IN 1917 AND 1918 BRAVELY FOLLOWED, LIKE YOUNG
LIEUTENANT PIKE, THE TRAIL OF HONOR, FLAG AND DUTY.
I. Always preserve your honor free from blemish.
II. Be ready at all times to die for your country.
—General Pike's rules for his little son.
This story takes the adventure trail of that young soldier-explorer Zebulon Montgomery Pike, who was lost in the mountains of southern Colorado one hundred years ago. Another story in the Trail Blazers Series has told of Captains Lewis and Clark, who explored the northwestern part of the new Louisiana Territory. They, also, were young. Captain Lewis had just turned thirty. But Lieutenant and Captain Zebulon Pike was younger yet. He was only twenty-seven when, while Lewis and Clark were still out, he was sent to lead a handful of men into the unknown Southwest.
The vast Province of Louisiana, bought by the United States from France three years before, for $15,000,000, was thought by the United States to extend, in the north, from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains; in the south it tapered off to the Gulf of Mexico at New Orleans.
The southwestern boundary was uncertain. The United States claimed clear to the lower Rio Grande River, across Texas; Spain, which had owned Louisiana Territory before the United States bought it from France, claimed north even to the Missouri River. Some said that the Arkansas River of south ern Colorado should be the boundary, there; some said the Red River, further south—which was con fused with the Canadian River. And when Lieutenant Pike was started out, the United States soldiers and the Spanish soldiers of Mexico faced each other across the Sabine River of the western border of Louisiana State.
So the trail of young Pike and his handful of men pointed into a debated land. If the Indians did not get them, the Spanish might. He had been instructed not to offend the Spanish, and to keep away from their settlements of New Mexico; but he was resolved to stand his ground when he deemed that he was in the right, and to defend the Flag. The Spanish had sent six hundred soldiers, with over two thousand horses and mules, to look for him. He would certainly have fought them all, with his twenty men, had they tried to stop him anywhere outside of New Mexico.
No braver soldiers ever marched than Lieutenant Pike and his little platoon. They lost their way; they struggled with cold below zero and snow to their waists, in the bleak high mountains. They had left home with only summer clothing; they were ragged and lean, and their feet froze until the bones came out. They went days at a time without food. And they were utterly lost, in a winter country; alone, one thousand miles from home.
But only once did a single man complain aloud. Their wonderful leader sternly silenced him, by reminding him that they all were sharing and suffering alike.
When their lieutenant had been gone from them two days, seeking meat to relieve a famine, at his return he writes in his journal: "On the countenances of the men was not a frown, nor was there a desponding eye; all seemed happy to hail their officer and companions; yet not a mouthful had they eaten for four days." Indeed, they were planning to send out and rescue him.
It was this same spirit which made the American soldiers in France press forward, ever forward, and yield not an inch of ground.
Lieutenant Pike was an officer to love as well as to respect. He asked no favors; only obedience, and willingness to endure what he had to endure. He never spared himself. While others might stay in camp, he it was that went out into the cold and snow, hunting for meat. He made it plain that his honor, his country and his duty were more to him than his life. These were the three ideals that in spired him to go on when he might have been excused for camping in safety and giving up his search for the Red River.
The name of Pike lives in history. We have a famous mountain named for him, and we know that he died—"killed in action"—as a brigadier-general, aged thirty-four. The names of his brave men have vanished. What became of John Sparks, Pat Smith, Jacob Carter, and the rest, we do not know. We do not know that the Government even rescued from the Spaniards those whom their lieutenant had been obliged to leave. We do not know that any of them received gifts of land and extra pay, such as the Lewis and Clark men received. But heroes they were, every one, who did not fail their leader nor their flag.
So their company roll is printed in this book, that they also may live again.
Editor's Note: In this version of the book the chronological listings of the events in the life of Zubulon Montgomery Pike has been removed from the front of the book, to the final chapter. It is a valuable reference, but does not immediately pertain to the primary story line.
The Pike Parties
Into The Southwest (1806-1807)
THE TRAIL OF LIEUTENANT PIKE