Zebulon Montgomery Pike
by Johnny Walker

Zebulon Montgomery Pike was born in Somerset County, New Jersey in the villiage of Lamberton, on January 5, 1779. Born to a typical family, for the times, he was the second of eight children, and the only one to grow to healthy adulthood. Four of his siblings died in infancy, the other three contracted tuberculosis and were deemed invalids throughout their lives.

At the time he was born, Pike’s father, also named Zebulon Pike, was an officer in George Washington’s army, fighting the British for American Independence. Zebulon Pike senior continued to serve in the military at the conclusion of the revolutionary war, and young Zebulon grew up learning frontier skills on military posts as a result. The elder Pike survived Gen. Arthur St. Clair’s defeat in Ohio in 1791, during the French and Indian War(forest wars), and brought his family to live in Cincinnati while serving with “Mad Anthony” Wayne’s Legion.

Young Zebulon’s formal education was limited, although he enjoyed reading and learned French and some Spanish as well as the English language. At age 15, Pike entered his father’s regiment as a cadet, and was given the duty of supplying frontier posts in Ohio. Pike later claimed that he had taken part in the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, but no historical evidence supports this. It seems all most certain that he would have met Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who were fellow junior officers in the small American army. Pike later followed his father to posts further to the west, serving at Fort Massac in Illinois.

In 1799, when he was 20 years old, Pike was granted a commission as a first lieutenant in the First Infantry Regiment, stationed in western Pennsylvania. He was regarded as a zealous soldier, Pike was reported to have hidden in the bushes outside the fort to catch his men drinking and wenching, turning them in for harsh punishment. A fellow officer described him as having a military appearance, with the exception of a peculiar habit of cocking “his head to one side so that the tip of his chapeau touched the right shoulder on parade.” Pike stood 5’8″ tall, with a ruddy complexion, blue eyes and light hair. He liked outdoor sports, was a crack shot and had great physical endurance, probably due to the rigors of his childhood on the frontier.

Lt. Pike’s duties along the Ohio frontier consisted of service as a regimental paymaster. As a result he became familiar with many families who lived along the Ohio. One such family was that of Gen. John Brown of Kentucky, Pike’s maternal uncle. Pike fell in love with Clarissa Brown, the general’s daughter and his first cousin. When General Brown refused permission for them to marry, the two eloped to Cincinnati in 1801. General Brown cut off the young couple, and Pike’s father tried to mediate the affair, but to no avail. Young Zebulon wrote his father that he would “willingly receive the advise of those either my superior in rank, or age. . . but whilst I have the breath I will never be the slave of any man. . . ” This statement is quintessential Pike, he would seem to have been independent and headstrong, holding a lofty sense of honor and a healthy dose of self-righteousness. It seems that Pike’s mother fought with Gen. Brown over the marriage for many years afterwards, and that the father kept his daughter at arm’s length until he died in 1824. Although Zebulon and Clarissa Pike had several children, only one, a daughter, reached maturity. She married a son of frontier Governor and later President William Henry Harrison.

Pike took his bride from Cincinnati to Fort Vincennes (later re-named Fort Knox), Kentucky in 1802. A small frontier stockade housing 100 men, it was not a comfortable place to live for the young Mrs. Pike. In 1803 they traveled to a new post at Kaskaskia, Illinois, where Zebulon noted that his wife was “low in spirits and should cheer up and try to be lively and laugh at half the world’s folly and despise the envy of the balance.” In another letter Pike stated that “Clara is at present very nervous and her situation here is very lonesome as the ladies are by no means sociable.”

Up to this point in time Zebulon Pike was an efficient but unremarkable career officer. Pike was at Kaskaskia when Meriwether Lewis came through with his keelboat in 1803, and recruited several men from Pike’s own regiment to go on his westward voyage of discovery.

The turning point in Pike’s very ordinary career came when he became the protégé of James Wilkinson, the commanding general of the U.S. Army. Wilkinson, one of American history’s worst scoundrels, was not only an American officer but also secretly a double agent for Spain. It was Wilkinson who accepted the transfer of Louisiana from France in 1803 in the city of New Orleans.

At the expense of the U.S. Government, Wilkinson provided 600 gallons of fine wine, 258 bottles of ale, 40 gallons of hard liquor, and exactly 11,306 cigars to those who attended. For a fee of $12,000, he also sold the Spanish information about United States military arrangements. With the aid of Vice President Aaron Burr, Wilkinson was appointed governor of Upper Louisiana Territory, and he established his headquarters in St. Louis in 1805. He later conspired with Burr to separate the western half of the United States from the rest of the country by military force.

In the summer of 1805, while in the midst of conspiring with Aaron Burr at Fort Massac, Wilkinson gave Lt. Pike the difficult assignment of conducting a reconnaissance of the upper Mississippi River. While Lewis and Clark were at the headwaters of the Missouri River far to the West, Pike left Fort Bellefontaine on August 9, 1805, with orders to find the source of the Mississippi, purchase sites from American Indians for future military posts, and to bring a few important chiefs back to St. Louis for talks. He took a force of 20 men on a 70-foot keelboat up the Mississippi, but he had little time to prepare for his trip. There was no interpreter of Indian languages along, no physician or anyone with medical training, and scientific equipment was limited to a watch, a thermometer, and a theodolite (a device to determine latitude).

Pike and his men explored the river and met with Native American Indians, switching from their keelboat to two barges at Prairie du Chien. On September 23, 1805, they met with Dakota (Sioux) Indians at the junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers (the Minneapolis-St. Paul area in Minnesota). Pike purchased over 155,000 acres from the Indians for a military reservation on credit. He wrote to Wilkinson that the land was worth $200,000, but apparently Wilkinson did not agree. The general wrote to the secretary of war that Pike was “a much better soldier than a negotiator.” However, later army engineers thought Pike’s site the finest on the Mississippi for a fort, and this land purchase may have been the only successful result of his trip. Unfortunately the government was slow to act on Pike’s bargain with the Dakota. To the annoyance of the Indians, they were not paid until 1808 by Congress, and then only a paltry $2,000 and Fort Snelling, was not constructed until 1819.

Pike was some distance beyond the Falls of St. Anthony when the party was hit with the full force of winter weather. Pushing and pulling boats in freezing waters taxed the men greatly. A large amount of time was spent in hunting, as the men consumed 7 to 8 pounds of meat daily. The conditions on the trip were so arduous that Sergeant Henry Kennerman, who Pike called “one of the stoutest men I ever knew”, broke a blood-vessel and vomited nearly two quarts of blood. Four other men were severely disabled, and Pike was convinced “that even if I had no regard for my own health and constitution, I should have some for these poor fellows, who were killing themselves to obey my orders.”

Pike split his party, leaving some of the men in a stockade near present day Little Falls, Minnesota, and continued on with half the party hauling their supplies on sleds. Only the hospitality that the men received at scattered British trading posts saved them from severe frostbite and possible death. Despite this aid, it was Pike’s duty to inform the British, for whom he had no love, that they were no longer wanted in the upper Mississippi region. These British trading posts were technically on U.S. soil, yet they flew the British flag and paid no duties to the United States. Pike estimated that the activities of these traders cost the United States $26,000 per year in revenues. In addition, the British gave their flags and peace medals to the Indian leaders, through this form of bribery the British gained their allegiance and influenced them against the Americans. Pike’s concerns were well founded. Turns out that during the War of 1812, when British-led Indians ravaged much of the frontier, it was British propaganda and bribes that had swayed them. Pike’s dramatic confrontations in 1806 did little to counteract British influence in the region.

When Pike arrived at the Leech Lake Post, he insisted that British trader Hugh McGillis lower the British flag. He refused, and Pike ordered one of the American soldiers to drop the flag by shooting out the pin which fastened its halyard. Despite this hostile act, McGillis sent two of his voyageurs with Pike and one private to Cass Lake, which Pike identified (incorrectly) as the source of the Mississippi. The remainder of Pike’s men stayed behind at McGillis’ stockade.

On the return journey in the late winter of 1806, Pike discovered that Sgt. Kennerman had given away or consumed all the stored meat at the American stockade, along with the other foodstuffs and all of Pike’s personal belongings from his private trunk. Kennerman was broken to the rank of private for these misdeeds.

Pike held several parleys with Indian chiefs, but despite a good deal of bargaining, speechmaking and gift-giving he was unsuccessful in convincing them to visit St. Louis to meet with Wilkinson. Pike’s expedition returned to St. Louis on April 30, 1806, having traveled nearly 5,000 miles. The results of the trip have been called “disappointingly meager” by some western historians. Ordered to find the source of the Mississippi, Pike had failed, ordered to stop the illicit fur trade in the North, Pike had blustered but failed, ordered to bring back Indians to parley with Wilkinson, Pike once more failed. Pike had not located a single stream or lake which was previously unknown, his maps were poorly drawn and inaccurate. Pike’s only successes were in his purchase of land for Fort Snelling and in the fact that he called attention to the activities of British traders in American territory, which forced the issue of establishing the U.S. – Canadian boundary. Perhaps the greatest personal result for Pike was that the Mississippi journey prepared him for the command of another small party of men under more difficult conditions during his 1806 trip to the Southwest.

Pike expected and probably deserved a period of “R & R” after this arduous 5000 mile trip. Instead, Gen. Wilkinson immediately ordered him on a second, more fateful reconnaissance. The second expedition was ostensibly designed to accomplish several goals. Pike was to provide an escort for some Osage Indians who had been held as hostages by the Pottawatamies, and take them back to their home villages. Then negotiate a peace settlement between the Kansas and Pawnee tribes, and attempt to make contact with the Comanche people on the high plains.

Pike was also to explore the headwaters of the Arkansas River, then to proceed south, locate the source of the Red River, and descend it to the Mississippi. History has shown that his real mission was to find out what the Spanish were doing along the poorly defined southwestern border of the Louisiana Purchase. While in that area, it would be necessary, wrote Wilkinson, to “move with great circumspection, to keep clear of any hunting or reconnoitering parties from that province and to prevent alarm or offense.” In light of modern thinking it would seem that Pike’s real mission was that of a spy.

Pike’s expedition was launched by Gen. James Wilkinson without the authorization of President Jefferson or the War Department, although it was approved retroactively. Tensions with Spain were high on the frontier in 1806, and many Americans expected a war. Wilkinson, still Governor of Upper Louisiana during this period, was ordered to engage in intelligence operations against Spain, using army officers disguised as traders if necessary. Wilkinson was also a double agent and engaged in supplying information to the Spanish.

It appears that Wilkenson, in collaboration with Aaron Burr, he was planning a coup in the West. It has never been determined whether this was a traitorous movement designed to separate the western territories from the Union. Or a devious plot to conquer Spanish territory, specifically Texas, without officially involving the United States Government. At any rate, Pike’s expedition to the Spanish borderlands would serve the needs, both official and unofficial, of James Wilkinson. Wilkinson and Burr had little idea of the territory to the west of the river, and had just one chart of southeastern Texas prepared by Philip Nolan a few years earlier. Burr also had a copy of a map stolen from the great explorer Alexander von Humboldt. It was obvious that more information was needed, such as; Where were Spanish forts located, how hard was traveling in the wilderness, and how many enemy troops were garrisoned at each?

Spain had always jealously guarded the approaches to Texas and New Mexico from all outsiders. Beyond this border lay the all important silver mines of Zacatecas, a source of great wealth for Spain. France’s cession of Louisiana to Spain in 1762 had provided an even more extensive buffer zone, but now Louisiana had been ceded back to France and then sold to the United States, a land of Yankee merchants with a population bursting beyond the Alleghenies to the West. The Spanish felt that the Americans were like a growing cancer on the eastern border of New Spain. Spanish officials knew that they had to be stopped at all costs.

Nemesio Salcedo, commandant-general of the Internal Provinces of New Spain, understood it to be his duty to halt this westward expansion of the United States by any means necessary. It was Salcedo who blocked the Jefferson-inspired 1804 expedition of William Dunbar, and the 1806 expedition of Thomas Freeman, both were sent out along the Red River. It was Salcedo who attempted an interception of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and Salcedo who sent Spanish envoys to the Pawnee to influence them against the United States. He had positive results using the same tactic to rid himself of the French expedition of 1801 – 02 (see Treasure Mountain Salcedo mistrusted Wilkinson, and apparently, despite the fact that Wilkinson was a double agent working for the Spanish, put little stock in anything Wilkinson had to say.

The reasons are not known why Wilkinson tipped the Spanish off to the fact that Pike was going to be traveling in their territory, but he did. Perhaps, Wilkinson thought, whether or not Pike was captured, he would return with valuable information for the Burr conspirators. Perhaps it was the plan all along that Pike should be captured, in other words, as an agent provacatour Pike was trying to be captured to obtain a “free ticket” into Spanish territory. It has been considered that by 1806, Wilkinson no longer believed that Burr’s conspiracy could succeed, and so he abandoned Burr by sending out Pike. Pike’s men would be captured and remain hostages as a token of Wilkinson’s good faith. Dr. John H. Robinson, a physician, scientist, “gentleman volunteer”, accompanied Pike, and went along as an emissary from Wilkinson to the Spanish. This would have ensured them of the peaceful intentions of the U.S.

Pike’s correspondence reveals that he almost certainly knew nothing of the Wilkinson/Burr intrigues, but was aware that his service as a spy for his country was important. Pike seems to have had a naive faith in Wilkinson and did not suspect any of the general’s more sinister designs. A letter written by Wilkinson on July 22, 1806, however, leaves little doubt that Pike was supposed to scout as close as possible to Santa Fe, allowing for the possibility that he might be captured by Spanish authorities. If discovered, he would use the cover story that he had become lost while en route to Natchitoches, Louisiana.

Zebulon Pike set out on July 15, 1806, again from Fort Bellefontaine, where his family remained during most of his trip. His party was composed of an assortment of 17 enlisted men from his Mississippi River exploration; two new volunteer soldiers, his second-in-command, Lt. James Biddle Wilkinson, son of the general, a volunteer physician, Dr. John H. Robinson, and Baronet Vasquez, an interpreter from St. Louis. Pike called his soldiers a “Dam’d set of Rascels,” but they retained the confidence of their commander.

Unlike Meriwether Lewis’ meticulous plans for his expedition, Pike’s men were woefully unprepared for the ordeal which awaited them. They were dressed in summer uniforms because Pike believed that they would encounter no cold weather. They did not have enough horses, very little scientific equipment, and only the copy of the von Humboldt map to guide them. Probably the best and most useful piece of equipment that Pike brought along was a telescope.

The group of 23 men made their way west along the Missouri River, returning a group of 51 Osage people to their villages on the border of modern Kansas. The group stayed with the Osage for a short period, and Pike recorded ethnographic information about them. A runner brought Pike a letter from Wilkinson, which included a letter from his wife Clarissa which informed Pike that his little son was very ill (he died a month later). Putting this information in the back of his mind, Pike led his men out across the plains of Kansas, which he described as a “hunter’s paradise,” thick with game. It was here that the former sergeant, now Private Kennerman, dissapeared, never to be heard from again.

Pike, guided by several Osage warriors, next entered a Pawnee village on the Republican River near the border of the modern states of Kansas and Nebraska. Noticing the Spanish flag which flew above the Pawnee village, Pike talked the Indians into hauling it down. He replaced it with the Stars and Stripes, despite the fact that a troop of Spanish cavalry 300 strong had recently visited their earth lodges. The Spanish had been specifically looking for the Pike party. It is interesting that the recently-promoted Capt. Pike reported this fact with a note of pride, stating that the Spanish expedition was, “the most important ever carried on by the province of New Spain” and it was commanded by the respected Don Francisco Malgares. Unlike Lewis and Clark, who might have worried about their mission of exploration being compromised, Pike welcomed the news that his party was being hunted by a large force of Spanish soldiers. As they left the Pawnee village, Pike’s men followed the hoofprints of the Spanish cavalry down what later became known as the Santa Fe Trail.

The Pike expedition continued almost due south to the area of Great Bend, Kansas, where they reached the Arkansas River. Upon reaching the Arkansas, Lt. Wilkinson left the party, traveling eastward with five privates and the last of the Osage guides to explore the lower reaches of the river in canoes. Wilkinson returned successfully to St. Louis by paddling down the Arkansas River to its junction with the Mississippi, then going north. He achieved this goal despite three desertions and a lengthier trip than he expected. In all, it took him 73 days to reach St. Louis.

Pike and the 15 others started west up the Arkansas River on October 28, following the trail of a troop of Spanish cavalry. On November 11, Pike made a bold decision to press on; despite the fact that his party did not have the clothing, equipment or supplies for a winter expedition. Pike’s decision makes little sense for an experienced explorer. Other explorers might have turned back and begun a second expedition the following spring.

There is no doubt that he was a hardy, driven man, but he certainly did not always consider the abilities and health of his men when taking them, so woefully unprepared into a winter campaign. Another danger upon which Pike had not reckoned was Indians. While making their way across the Great Plains, a hunting party of Pawnee who outnumbered his men two to one suddenly came upon the little group of Americans, surrounded them, and began to parley with them. Pike’s relief that the Pawnee had no hostile intentions soon turned to dismay as the Indians, unhappy that they were not receiving enough presents, began to forcibly take supplies and equipment from his men. Finally, Pike made a bold stand, signaling the leader of the party that he would shoot down the next Indian who attempted to take anything. The Pawnee withdrew after a tense scene, which might have resulted in the deaths of the entire party.

Proceeding nearly due west, following the Arkansas River, Pike and his men reached the site of modern-day Pueblo, Colorado on November 23. Fascinated with a blue peak in the Rocky Mountains to the west, Pike set out to explore it with two soldiers and Dr. Robinson, leaving the bulk of the men at a base camp. Pike spent several days in trying to reach the famous Colorado peak which would later bear his name. He made it to the top of a mountain within a few miles of what he called the “Grand Peak”. Many historians have claimed that this was most likely the 9,000 foot Cheyenne Peak. Recent research by John Patrick Murphy of Colorado Springs, seems to indicate 11,409 foot Mount Rosa as the most likely contender. Pike realized that the “Grand Peak” was “as high again as what we had ascended (Pike’s Peak is 14,110 feetabove sea level), and it would have taken a whole day’s march to arrive at its base, when I believe no human being could have ascended to its pinical.” Up to his waist in snow at the top of the mountain, dressed in inadequate summer clothing in 28 degree Fahrenheit weather, Pike decided to return to the base camp. Zebulon Pike never set foot on Pike’s Peak, which he did not name. A map created in 1818 by Lt. Robinson the mountain is called Pike’s Peak, although the explorer Stephen H. Long called it James’ Peak. John C. Fremont was responsible for popularizing the name Pike’s Peak after his expedition in 1844.

Pike next turned his men toward an investigation of the Arkansas River. The river split in the mountains, and, Pike noted, since the “geography of the country had turned out to be so different from our expectation that we were some what at a loss which course to pursue, unless we attempted to cross the sno cap’d mountains…” Food was running out and the men were desperately cold. Pike once more decided to follow the trail of the Spanish cavalry and head up the north fork of the Arkansas, which is called Four-Mile Creek. This branch soon dwindled, as did the Spanish trail, so Pike turned overland due northward across present day South Park in Colorado, discovering a river on December 12 which he correctly determined was the south fork of the South Platte.

Crossing over a mountain pass, he came to another river which he thought was the Red. In reality, the expedition was back on the Arkansas, 70 miles upstream from where they had left it two weeks earlier. Snow began to fall and drifts to deepen, and Pike was disappointed that he could not reach the source of the river. The men spent Christmas eating buffalo meat near the modern-day city of Poncha Springs, Colorado. They had no blankets by this point, for, their socks having worn out, their blankets had been cut up to improvise socks. Having no cover in the freezing weather, they crowded round huge bonfires at night. During the day they worked their way down the river, the ice solid enough to support their horses, the huge vertical walls of the Royal Gorge towering above them on both sides. When they returned to their camp of a few weeks earlier, Pike was frustrated to find that they had traveled in a big circle. In order to get off the Arkansas River and reach the Red River, the mountains would have to be crossed on foot.

The interpreter Baronet Vasquez and Pvt. Patrick Smith were detailed to stay with the horses in a small, crude and hastily-constructed wooden stockade, while Pike set out with the others to find the Red River on January 17, 1807, through a howling blizzard in Wet Mountain Valley. Nine of the 14 men soon suffered from frostbitten feet, including Pike’s best hunters. Pressing on, wading through sometimes waist-deep snow, Pike left three men behind who, exhausted, could not continue. The remaining men were so cold that even the best hunters, even Pike himself, could not steady his shaking hands enough to shoot buffalo for food. Pike finally got one when it ran within point-blank range of his position. Leaving the meat for the sick men, Pike set out with the ten remaining men who could still walk.

Crossing the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the soldiers began to complain. One in particular, John Brown, griped that it was “more than human nature could bear, to march three days without sustenance through snow three feet deep, to carry burdens only fit for horses.” A short time later, Pike was able to kill a buffalo to alleviate the hunger of the party. As the men became satiated with the meat, Pike took the opportunity to upbraid Brown, telling him that if he or anyone else ever dared to voice such an opinion again, they would be executed by firing squad.

Pike found the area of present-day Great Sand Dunes National Monument in Colorado and the headwaters of the Rio Grande, which he mistakenly thought was the Red River. On February 1, 1807, a small square stockade of cottonwood logs, 36 feet long on each side with a small 8 foot by 8 foot bastion, was built on the Rio Conejos, near modern Alamosa, Colorado.

When the fort was completed, Dr. Robinson begged leave to contact the Spanish officials in Santa Fe, as he had authority to collect a debt there for William Morrison, a merchant in Kaskaskia, Illinois. Pike gave his permission, and Robinson hiked overland to reach his objective, telling Spanish Gov. Alencaster on his arrival that he had recently left a party of hunters. Suspicious, Alencaster reported the incident to his superiors and sent out patrols in the hope of apprehending some of the doctor’s companions.

Pike sent back two relief parties to bring up the horses and his three scattered men with frostbite. Only one of these men returned. The others, too sick to move, actually sent bits of their own gangrenous toe bones to Pike in a macabre appeal not to be abandoned.

On February 26, 1807, a troop of 50 Spanish cavalrymen, supported by 50 mounted militiamen, rode up to Pike’s stockade. Five of the Americans were still out on relief parties. The Spanish officers were surprised to learn that there was no gate to the little fort, and in order to attend the parley they had to crawl on their bellies on a log placed over a water-filled moat and then through a small hole sunk under one wall. During the meeting Pike stuck to his cover story, feigning surprise when questioned by the Spaniards about being in Spanish territory and exclaiming, “What! Is this not the Red River?” The Spanish officers informed Pike and his five remaining soldiers that he was in Spanish territory. “I immediately ordered my flag to be taken down and rolled up,” Pike wrote. It is ironic that Pike, who had been so sensitive about British and Spanish flags flying within American territory, had now committed the same indiscretion. Pike’s behavior all along had been that of a man who wanted to be found.

Pike’s men had only the equipment they carried on their backs. Their summer uniforms had been long ago discarded, and they wore whatever clothing and skins they had been able to fashion for themselves. Their hair was long and unruly, and they were bearded, looking more like classic mountainmen than a military expedition. Even Capt. Pike had only his blue army trousers and his sword remaining to mark him as an officer of the United States. The explorer Zebulon Pike was lost and unable to fulfill his stated mission of exploration because of the condition of his men. His Spanish captors were probably, in reality, his rescuers. On the other hand, the spy Zebulon Pike had placed himself at the disposal of the Spanish so that he might enter their forbidden territories. It would seem that it was on the Rio Conejos that Pike’s mission really began.

The Spanish patrol rounded up Pike’s frostbitten stragglers, escorting them separately to Santa Fe. When Pike reached Santa Fe, his papers were confiscated by the Spanish authorities, and they were not rediscovered until the early 20 th century by the distinguished American historian Herbert E. Bolton. Pike’s papers are in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Remarkably, neither Pike or his men were mistreated by the Spanish. Two of the privates talked freely, giving the Spanish valuable information and causing suspicion that an American rescue party might attempt to liberate Pike. It is recorded fact that the Spanish sent militiamen and regular troops out on extended border patrols for several months as a result.

Meanwhile, Zebulon Pike fulfilled the dictates of his mission. He observed the pueblos and missions along the route of their march, and met with priests at each. Pike was an excellent observer, and was able to make mental notes of the placement of forts, the size of their garrisons, the locations of communities, and to prepare biographical sketches of their officers. Pike and his men were led further south to Chihuahua (in modern-day Mexico), and once more Pike had long meetings with priests along the way, gathering information. No effort was made to deny Pike access to priests, officials, or anyone else he wished to talk to. On the march south, each community held barbecues and dances for the men, and according to Pike, the Spanish people possessed “heaven-like qualities of hospitality and kindness.”

Their route took them through Albuquerque, El Paso, and then south 260 miles to Chihuahua. Along the way Pike was able to observe Apache Indians, and actually began openly to take written notes. In Chihuahua, Pike met a handful of Americans who had been captured by the Spanish years earlier who begged him to intercede for their release. Pike demurred, since he had no power to do so and felt that he was in no position to ask for favors.

Once Pike’s papers were translated by the Spanish authorities, there was no doubt that his expedition had ulterior motives. But Spanish governor Salcedo could do little as he did not wish to antagonize the Americans. He decided to have Pike and his men escorted to the United States border in what is today Louisiana and released.


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