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Zebulon Montgomery Pike

Pike, Zebulon Montgomery, 1779–1813, American explorer, an army officer, b. Lamberton (now part of Trenton), N.J. He joined the army (c.1793) and was commissioned second lieutenant in 1799. In 1805 he led an exploring party to search for the source of the Mississippi River; although he mistakenly identified Red Cedar Lake (now Cass Lake) in Minnesota as the source, he was not far wrong. After his return he was sent on an expedition (1806–7) to explore the headwaters of the Arkansas and Red rivers and to reconnoiter Spanish settlements in New Mexico. Pike and his men went up the Arkansas River to the site of Pueblo, Colo., and explored much of the country, sighting the peak that is named after him, Pikes Peak. When he and a small party went to the Rio Grande, they were taken into custody by the Spanish who brought them to Santa Fe and then to Chihuahua and finally released them at the border of the Louisiana Territory. Upon his return, Pike was accused of complicity in the plot of Aaron Burr and James Wilkinson to detach Western territory from the United States, but he was exonerated by the Secretary of War. Pike was promoted to the rank of brigadier general during the War of 1812. He was killed while commanding his troops during the successful assault on York (now Toronto).

See his journals (2 vol., 1987) and biography by W. E. Hollon (1949, repr. 1981).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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