We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. — Winston Churchill

With Lieutenant Pike - Edwin Sabin




Brigadier-General Zebulon Montgomery Pike

A noble young American soldier and explorer, whose guiding purpose was: Honor, Country, Duty.

Born January 5, 1779, at Lamberton, near Trenton, New Jersey.

His father was Captain Zebulon Pike, of the Fourth Continental Dragoons, in the War of the Revolution; later major in the Third and the First Regiments of Infantry, U. S. A., and brevet lieutenant-colonel.

The boy Zebulon was brought up as a soldier.

At fifteen he was a cadet in his father's infantry regiment of the United States Third Sub-Legion.

At twenty, or in March, 1999, he was commissioned second lieutenant in the Second Regiment of Infantry, U. S. A.

Commissioned first lieutenant, November, the same year.

Transferred to the First Infantry, of which his father was major, in April, 1802. In this regiment Meriwether Lewis, of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition to the mouth of the Columbia River, was then a captain.

At the age of twenty-six, while Captains Lewis and Clark are exploring through the far northwest of the new Louisiana Territory purchase, he receives orders, July 30, 1805, from General James Wilkinson, Chief of the Army, to ascend the Mississippi River from St. Louis to its source. He is to report upon the country, the Indians and the fur trade of this, the eastern border of Upper Louisiana.

Starts from St. Louis, August 9, 1805, with twenty enlisted men of the regular army, in a keel-boat seventy feet long, provisioned for four months. Suffers many hardships by storm, cold and hunger, but returns successful on the last day of April, 1806, after an absence of almost nine months.

In less than two months, or on June 24, 1806, he is directed to ascend the Missouri and Osage Rivers, and restore forty-six Osage Indians, rescued by the Government from the Potawatomi Indians, to their people of the Osage towns in western Missouri. He is to make peace, by order of their American father, between the Osage and the Kansas nations. He is then to continue to the Pawnees of present northern Kansas, and ask them to help him on to make peace with the Comanches in the southwest on the borders of New Mexico. While with the Comanches he is to explore the headwaters of the Arkansas and Red (Canadian) Rivers, but he must avoid trespassing upon the Spanish territory of New Mexico. Spanish territory is supposed to extend south from the Red River, although the Spanish claim that it extends much farther north, even through Kansas.

Again he leaves his family, and embarks, July 15, 1806, with First Lieutenant James B. Wilkinson, First Infantry, the son of General Wilkinson; Civilian Surgeon John H. Robinson, an interpreter, and eighteen enlisted men, in two boats. The majority of the enlisted men had been with him up the Mississippi.

He visits the Osages, who welcome the return of their relatives, and agree to peace with the Kansas. The Pawnees try to stop him, by order of the Spanish, but he defies them. He fails to find the Comanches. His march by horse and foot takes him along the Arkansas River clear to the Rocky Mountains, where he sights the great Pike's Peak (later named for him) of Colorado, and attempts to climb it. Searching for the head of the Red River, that he may follow down to the military posts of the United States frontier, he loses his way completely. In the bitter cold and deep snows of a terrible winter he crosses the front range of the Rockies, and builds a stockade upon a stream of the Upper Rio Grande River in the lower end of the Saes Luis Valley, southern Colorado.

Here in mid-winter Spanish soldiers from Santa Fe come upon him and inform him that he is in Spanish territory. They take him down to Santa Fe, the capital of the Province of New Mexico. He is sent on down to the military headquarters at Chihuahua, Mexico. From there he is sent to the United States, and arrives at the American post of Natchitoches, western Louisiana, on July 1, 1807, after travels of a year.

As the first Government explorer through far southwestern Louisiana Territory he brings back much valuable information upon the country and Indians, and upon the people, military forces and customs of Mexico. Captains Lewis and Clark have brought back also their information upon the far Northwest.

Meanwhile, as a reward for his services, he had been promoted to captain, August 12, 1806.

Commissioned major, in the Sixth U. S. Infantry, May, 1808. Commissioned lieutenant-colonel, Fourth U. S. Infantry, December, 1809.

Commissioned colonel, Fifteenth U. S. Infantry, July, 1812. Appointed brigadier-general, adjutant-general and inspector-general, U. S. A., March, 1813.

Killed in action, April 27, 1813, while commanding the assault by the American troops upon York, at Toronto, Canada. The retreating British garrison blew up a powder magazine, and a fragment of rock crushed his back. He died wrapped in the Flag, amidst victory, at the age of only thirty-four.