Zebulon Pike bigraphy, stories - United States military officer and explorer

Zebulon Pike : biography

05 January 1779 - 27 April 1813

Zebulon Montgomery Pike (January 5, 1779 – April 27, 1813) was an American brigadier general and explorer for whom Pikes Peak in Colorado is named. As a United States Army captain in 1806–1807, he led the Pike Expedition to explore and document the southern portion of the Louisiana territory and to find the headwaters of the Red River, during which he recorded the discovery of what later was called Pikes Peak. Captured by the Spanish while wandering in present-day Colorado after his party got confused in its travels, Pike and his men were taken to Chihuahua, present-day Mexico and questioned by the governor. They were released later in 1807 at the border of Louisiana.

In 1810 Pike published an account of his expeditions, a book so popular that it was translated into French, German and Dutch for publication in Europe. He later achieved the rank of brigadier general in the Army, serving during the War of 1812. He was killed during the Battle of York, which the United States won.


As Olsen (2006) shows, after his death in battle Pike's military accomplishments were widely celebrated in terms of mourning memorials, paintings, poems and songs, as well as biographies. He became the namesake for dozens of towns, counties, and ships. His memory faded after the Civil War, but recovered in 1906 at the centennial of his Southwest Expedition. His 20th century reputation focused on his exploration, and his name appeared often on natural features, such as parks, islands, lakes, and dams.Michael L. Olsen, "Zebulon Pike and American Popular Culture--or--Has Pike Peaked?," Kansas History, Spring 2006, Vol. 29 Issue 1, pp 48-59

Many places and two ships were named for the explorer:

  • Federal:
    • USS General Pike
    • Fort Pike
    • Pikes Peak
    • Pike National Forest
    • Liberty ship SS Zebulon Pike (appears in Episode 1 of Victory At Sea)
    • General Zebulon Pike Lock and Dam No. 11 in Dubuque, Iowa
  • State and local:
    • Pikesville, Maryland
    • Pike County
      • Alabama
      • Arkansas
      • Georgia and its county seat Zebulon
      • Illinois
      • Indiana
      • Kentucky
      • Mississippi
      • Missouri
      • Ohio
      • Pennsylvania
    • Pikes Peak (Iowa)
    • Piketon, Ohio
    • Pikeville, Kentucky
    • Pike Island in Fort Snelling State Park, Minnesota
    • Pike Creek Township in Morrison County, Minnesota
    • Pike Township, Marion County, Indiana
    • Pike Township, Stark County, Ohio
    • Pike Trail League, Kansas high school activities league
    • Pike Valley School District, Kansas School District, U.S.D. 426


Pike was descended from John Pike, who immigrated from England as a child in 1635, and was a founder of Woodbridge, New Jersey in 1665. Later in his life, Zebulon Pike had a wife named Clarissa Harlow Brown and a child named Clarissa Brown Pike.

Early life and education

Zebulon M. Pike was born during the Revolutionary War on January 5, 1779 near Lamberton (derived from the Indian pronunciation "Alamatunk"),Washington Irving, “Biographical Memoir of the Late Brigadier General Zebulon Montgomery Pike,” The Analectic Magazine Volume 4 (November, 1814): 380.Thomas Wilson,The Biography of the Principal American Military and Naval Heroes; Comprehending Details of Their Achievements During the Revolutionary and Late Wars (Vol. II). Second ed. (New-York: John Low, 1822), 9. now called Lamington, William J. Backes,"General Zebulon M. Pike, Somerset-Born," Somerset County Historical Quarterly; Vol. 8, No. 4 (October, 1919): 241-251. in Somerset county, New Jersey. Pike would follow in the footsteps of his father, also named Zebulon, who had begun his own career in the military service of the United States beginning in 1775, at the outset of the American Revolutionary War. To avoid confusion, son Zebulon Pike is referred to with the middle initial of M, while father Zebulon Pike is not.

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