Monday, July 13, 2015

Zebulon Pike: Explorer and Soldier

Doak, Robin S. Zebulon Pike: Explorer and Soldier. Minneapolis: Compass Point Books, 2006. Print.
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My Thoughts
With only 95 pages of text, this was a super quick read, exactly what I wanted to learn more about Zebulon Pike. I'm heading to Colorado this summer, so I wanted to refresh why Pike's Peak was named. The book only spends a few sentences on this topic. The rest of the book gave me more information about Zebulon Pike's life.

Pike's Peak
Pike was an explorer. On one trip, he was sent to the western mountains to explore and find the source of the Arkansas and Red rivers (Doak 45). In November of 1806, he found a very large mountain that "in his journal, Pike named the mountain Grand Peak. He was convinced it would never be scaled or climbed" (Doak 60). Many years later, in 1842, John Charles Fremont recorded "in his journal that he had spotted 'Pike's Peak.' The name stuck, even though Pike never made it to the top" (Doak 60).

Other interesting facts about this mountain that Doak records:
  • it is more than 14,100 feet high
  • in 1820, four Americans climbed to the top
  • motto for many miners was "Pike's Peak or Bust!"
  • in 1893, Katharine Lee Bates "was so impressed by her trip to the top...she wrote the lyrics to the song 'America the Beautiful'" (60).
While on this same expedition, conditions became very harsh for Pike and his fellow travelers. In fact, the group had to be split. When Pike sent relief parties back, some of the men "spent along pieces of their gangrene-ridden toes, begging Pike not to abandon them" (Doak 69). These men would be later rescued by Spanish troops. 

As I really didn't know about Pike, I found out that on one exploration, he was captured by the Spanish and held prisoner. "Pike was housed  with Juan Pedro Walker, a New Orleans native who spoke Spanish, French and English" (Doak 80). I found it humorous that Walker asked Pike to pay rent while living there.

The Spanish thought Pike was a spy. Even after they released him, his reputation was tainted by his association with others. He did write a book about his explorations, but it caused the publisher to go bankrupt.

My objective was met with this book's content, and I learned a little more than I expected.


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