Zebulon Pike: Wikis


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Zebulon Pike

Zebulon Pike Jr. (1778 - 1813)
Born January 5, 1778
Lamberton, New Jersey
Died April 27, 1813 (aged 35)
York, Upper Canada
Nationality American
Occupation General, Explorer
Spouse(s) Clarissa Harlow Brown
Children Clarissa Brown Pike

Zebulon Montgomery Pike Jr. (January 5, 1778 – April 27, 1813) was an American soldier and explorer for whom Pikes Peak in Colorado is named. His Pike expedition, often compared to the Lewis and Clark Expedition, mapped much of the southern portion of the Louisiana Purchase.


Early life

Pike was born in Lamberton, New Jersey, now a part of Trenton.[1][2] His father, also named Zebulon Pike, was an officer in the Continental Army under General George Washington and served in the United States Army after the end of the Revolutionary War. The younger Pike grew to adulthood in a series of Midwestern outposts — the frontier of the United States at the time — in Ohio and Illinois. He joined his father's regiment as a cadet in 1794, earned a commission as ensign in 1799 and a first lieutenancy later that year. Pike married Clarissa Harlow Brown in 1801 and continued his military career in logistics and payroll at a series of frontier posts. His career was taken up by General James Wilkinson, who had been appointed Governor of the Upper Louisiana Territory. In 1805, Wilkinson ordered Pike to find the source of the Mississippi River.

Southwest expedition

Nearly immediately upon his return Pike was ordered out once again to lead an exploratory expedition to find the headwaters of the Arkansas River and Red River. Near St. Louis on July 15, 1806, Pike led what is now known as "the Pike expedition" from Fort Bellefontaine to explore the southwest.

Pike never successfully reached the summit of the famous peak that bears his name (Pikes Peak.) He attempted it in November 1806, made it as far as Mt. Rosa to the southeast of Pikes Peak, and gave up the ascent in waist-deep snow after having gone almost two days without food.

This journey, which he is most remembered for, ended with his capture on February 26, 1807 by Spanish authorities in northern New Mexico, now part of Colorado. Pike and his men were taken to Santa Fe, then to Chihuahua where he appeared before the Commandant General Salcedo. Salcedo housed Pike with Juan Pedro Walker, a cartographer, who also acted as an interpreter and as a transcriber/translator for Pike's confiscated documents. It was while with Walker that Pike had access to various maps of the southwest and learned of Mexican discontent with Spanish rule. Pike and his men were released, under protest, to the United States at the Louisiana border on July 1, 1807.

Subsequent military duty

Pike was promoted to captain without his knowledge while on the southwestern expedition. In 1811, he was listed as Lt. Col. Zebulon M. Pike with the 4th Infantry Regiment at the Battle of Tippecanoe. He was promoted to colonel in 1812. He continued his role as a military functionary, serving as deputy quartermaster-general in New Orleans and inspector-general during the War of 1812.

Pike was promoted to brigadier general in 1813.[1] Along with General Jacob Brown, Pike departed from a rural military outpost, Sackets Harbor, on the New York shore of Lake Ontario, for 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 by flying rocks and other debris when the retreating British garrison blew up its ammunition without warning as the town's surrender negotiations were going on. His body was brought by ship back to Sackets Harbor, where his remains were buried.


Although his actual journals were confiscated by the Spanish authorities, and not recovered from Mexico until the 1900s, Pike's account of his southwest expedition 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[3] and later published in French, German, and Dutch. His account became required reading for all American explorers that followed him in the 19th century. Pike's account had a dramatic effect on the exploration of the southwest. He described the politics in Chihuahua that led to the Mexican independence movement, as well as the trade conditions in New Mexico and Chihuahua, which descriptions helped promote the development of the Santa Fe Trail.[citation needed]

Named for Zebulon Pike

Ancestry and family

Pike is descended from John Pike, an early immigrant settler and founder of Woodbridge, New Jersey.

Zebulon married Clarissa Harlow Brown in 1801. Their daughter Clarissa Brown Pike married John Cleves Symmes Harrison, a son of President William Henry Harrison. Zebulon died without a son to carry on his family name, so there are no Pikes who are direct descendants. However there is an active DNA effort to document relatives and there are a large number of Pikes that are related to Zebulon.[1] He is also a relative of Albert Pike, a Confederate brigadier general and a prominent Freemason; and of Lt. Colonel Emory Jenison Pike, a World War One Medal of Honor recipient.

See also


  1. ^ a b Valkenburg, Samuel Van (1976). "Pike, Zebulon Montgomery". in William D. Halsey. Collier's Encyclopedia. 19. New York: Macmillan Educational Corporation. p. 46. 
  2. ^ Baldwin, Tom. "Where did Pike peak? Colo. explorer got start in New Jersey", Courier-Post, August 25, 2008. Accessed September 19, 2008. "Nineteenth century Jersey explorer Zebulon Pike was born in Jamaica, now a part of south Trenton, but gave his name to Colorado's 14,000-foot Pikes Peak."
  3. ^ Zebulon Montgomery Pike (1965), Elliott Coues, ed., 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, Ross & Haines, 1895, http://books.google.com/books?id=XrMlAAAAMAAJ 
  • Hollon, W. Eugene (1949) The lost pathfinder, Zebulon Montgomery Pike Univ. of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Thomas H. Cushing
Adjutant Generals of the U. S. Army
March 12, 1813-April 27, 1813
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Alexander Smyth
Inspector General of the U. S. Army
March 12, 1813-April 27, 1813
Succeeded by

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