Zebulon PikeZebulon Pike was a successful explorer. But, it seems he was successful in spite of miscalculations. He started his exploration at the age of 26 when, as a soldier, he led 20 men on an expedition up the Mississippi River. They left in August, expecting to get back before the winter freeze. Unfortunately, he miscalculated and the waterways froze, so the small band had to spend the winter in Minnesota.  
 
Less than three months later Pike was ordered on another venture. This time he and his men were sent to explore the headwaters of the Arkansas River. When they arrived in Colorado, Pike saw a towering peak. He decided to climb it. It was another miscalculation. He grossly underestimated the height of the mountain. Dressed only in thin cotton clothes, they struggled in deep snow and freezing temperatures, without making it to the top. Incidentally, although this mountain came to be known as Pike’s Peak, it was not something that Pike himself promoted.     
 
During this second expedition Pike miscalculated his location, and wandered into Spanish territory, where they were captured. He and his men were moved from Santa Fe, to Chihuahua, before being released. The whole time Pike was gathering information on the Spanish territory to be later given to his commanders.     
 
The army was impressed with his daring, and they promoted him to brigadier general. Unfortunately, on April 27, 1813 Zebulon Pike made another miscalculation by standing too close to an abandoned British powder magazine that was exploded. A rock from the explosion hit him in the back and killed him.  
 
Zebulon Pike was only 34 years of age. Another great man from American history who packed a lifetime in a few short years. 

Filed under: Old West History

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