Zebulon Montgomery Pike (Dictionary of World Biography: The 17th and 18th Centuries)
Article abstract: Pike helped to open the American Southwest to U.S. interests, and he gave his name to the famous Pikes Peak in the state of Colorado.
Zebulon Pike was born to a U.S. Army major and the former Isabella Brown. Pike was primarily raised on army posts in western Pennsylvania and Fort Washington, Ohio (now Cincinnati), while his father served under General James Wilkinson. Wilkinson, known to be wily, unscrupulous, and ambitious, would prove to be the predominant figure in the younger Pike’s military and exploratory career.
Pike, a crack shot and expert outdoorsman, entered his father’s company as a cadet when he turned twenty years of age but found himself relegated to the job of quartermastering supplies. Pike served on posts in Indiana and Illinois in essentially a peacetime army with no prospects for distinction until Wilkinson decided to use Pike in two expeditions exploring the opening American West. It is possible that Pike found favor with his father’s former commander when he eloped with Clarissa Brown, a cousin on Pike’s mother’s side and the daughter of a Wilkinson family friend.
In 1805, after President Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase and the commission of the Meriwether Lewis and William Clark expedition, the newly appointed Governor Wilkinson set up his headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. There he prepared several expeditions to explore the...
(The entire section is 2039 words.)
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