Pike’s Reputation as One of the Best Army Officers

Pike and Pike’s Advancements in Rank, by Allan Vainley. (Painting: Glory, Battle of York, by retired Disney artist, Ed French) In the 5.7 years following Pike’s return from his Southwest Expedition, Pike was advanced in rank four times from Captain to Brigadier General: Second Lieutenant March 3, 1799 – 2nd Infantry Regiment First Lieutenant November...

Glory, Battle of York, painting byRetired Disney artist, Ed French

Pike and Pike’s Advancements in Rank, by Allan Vainley.

(Painting: Glory, Battle of York, by retired Disney artist, Ed French)

In the 5.7 years following Pike’s return from his Southwest Expedition, Pike was advanced in rank four times from Captain to Brigadier General:

  • Second Lieutenant March 3, 1799 – 2nd Infantry Regiment
  • First Lieutenant November 1, 1799
  • Captain August 12, 1806
  • Major May 2, 1808 – 6th Infantry Regiment
  • Lieutenant Colonel December 31, 1809- 4th Infantry Regiment (after training men for the victorious Battle of Tippecanoe.)
  • Deputy Quartermaster General April 3, 1812 to July 3,1812
  • Colonel July 6, 1812 – 15th Infantry Regiment
  • Brigadier General and Inspector General and Adjutant General March 12, 1813

Legacy and Accolades

Zebulon Pike was an American hero, a patriot who lived and died for his country. Thomas Jefferson

Know Ye, That reposing special Trust and Confidence in the Patriotism, Valor, Fidelity and Abilities of Zebulon M Pike, … I do appoint him to Lieutenant Colonel… James Madison

Pike’s death, military accomplishments and heroic demise in battle were widely remembered. Songs, poems, biographies, even paintings of his likeness outside pubs. Some opine that Pike may have become President of the United States had he lived. Similar to Dwight David Eisenhower, he was a war hero, only one of two to win a battle on British soil during the War of 1812.

Towns, counties, locations and ships were named in his memory. During the centennial of his Southwest Expedition in 1906, men, women, and children focused on his exploration, His name appeared on natural features, such as dams, islands, lakes, and parks. In 1901,General William Jackson Palmer honored Pike with a marble statue in Colorado Springs, CO. In 1926, Palmer remembered Pike and Pike’s Sioux friend Tahama with a bronze medallion portraits in the pavilion at Tahama Spring in Monument Valley Park, Colorado Springs.

The Pike National Forest in Colorado was named for him. The best known namesake is the 11,400 foot Pikes Peak- America’s Mountain’ in Colorado Springs. One wonders if Katharine Lee Bates as she wrote “America the Beautiful” in 1893 from the summit was mindful of Zebulon Montgomery Pike.

The Military Remembers

  • Fort Pike – Fort Pike, New Orleans, was named after Brigadier General Zebulon Pike It was built following the War of 1812 to guard the strait of the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Camp Pike, Arkansas.
  • USS General Pike – was a US Navy corvette launched in June 1813.
  • A building at Fort Knox and in Madison Barracks at Sackets Harbor, New York is named in his honor
  • Liberty Ship – SS Zebulon Pike (appears in Episode 1 of Victory At Sea, and also in footage at the end of the film ‘Action in the North Atlantic’ )

Four Landforms Named for Pike

  • Pike Bay on Cass Lake (Minnesota).
  • Pike Creek (Mississippi River tributary- Minnesota).
  • Pike Island [St. Paul, MN] at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers in Fort Snelling State Park- Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  • Zebulon Pike Lake Reservoir [Little Falls, MN] in Morrison County, Minnesota.

Ten Pike Counties in:

Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and its county seat Zebulon, Illinois on the Mississippi, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri on the Mississippi, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Five Communities

  • Pike, NY
  • Piketon, OH
  • Pikeville, KY
  • Pikesville, KY (historic)
  • Pikeville, TN
  • Pikesville, MD

Five Townships

  • Pike Bay Township, Cass Co., MN.
  • Pike Creek Township, Morrison Co., MN.
  • Pike Township, Marion Co, IN.
  • Pike Township, Wyoming Co, NY.
  • Pike Township, Stark Co, OH.


  • Pikes Peak State Park in Clayton County, IA.
  • Pike Trail League, Kansas high school activities league
  • Pike Valley School District, Kansas School District, U.S.D. 426
  • General Zebulon Pike Lock and Dam No. 11 in Dubuque, IA- Mississippi River
  • Zebulon Ice, a Colorado Department of Transportation snowplow, in a winning name submitted by a Colorado child as part of a 2021 contest
  • Many plaques, monuments and roadside panels including DAR, state and city memorials in states like Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, New York, and Texas

Pike’s Profile

Captain Pike by Ed French

Captain Pike by Ed French

Zebulon Montgomery Pike (1779–1813), United States army officer and Western explorer, was born on January 5, 1779, at Lamberton, now a part of Trenton, New Jersey, the son of Isabella (Brown) and Zebulon Pike, a veteran of the American Revolution and a lieutenant colonel in the United States army. After receiving some education in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, young Pike entered his father’s regiment, the Third United States Infantry, as a cadet.

He was killed during the Battle of York on April 27, 1813 (aged 34), which the United States won.

  • General Zebulon Montgomery Pike began his military career by joining the US Army, following in his father’s footsteps.
  • In 1796, Pike shadowed the French General Georges Henri Victor Collot’s expedition drawing maps for France. Pike arrested Collot at Fort Massac [near today’s Metropolis, IL.], but had no legal grounds to detain him.2
  • Pike worked on logistics and payroll at a series of frontier posts, including Fort Kaskaskia & Fort Belle Fontaine near St. Louis.
  • He was commissioned as a second lieutenant of infantry in 1799 and promoted to first lieutenant later that same year.
  • Pike was promoted to captain in 1806 while on the Southwestern Expedition.
  • Nov. 7, 1811, he served under General William Henry Harrison as Lt. Col. Zebulon M. Pike – 4th Infantry Regiment winning the Battle of Tippecanoe against the Shawnee Indians. The troops were largely trained under Pike. 3
  • He was promoted to Colonel of the 15th Infantry Regiment in July 1812.4
  • During the War of 1812, Pike served as deputy quartermaster-general in New Orleans and inspector general.
  • In November 1812, the poor planning by Pike’s Commanding General Henry Dearborn led to Pike losing the first Battle of Lacolle Mills. Pike was commanding the advance guard of the American force. 5
  • Pike was promoted to Brigadier General on March 12, 1813. 6
  • Pike commanded troops in 1812 to determine British strength in Montreal from a fort they built in Plattsburgh NY on the NW shore of Lake Champlain.7
  • April 27, 1813 General Pike and General Jacob Brown departed Sackets Harbor, New York – Lake Ontario, for his last military campaign. Pike commanded combat troops in the successful attack on York (now Toronto) on April 27, 1813. Although the Americans won a clear victory, the battle did not have decisive strategic results as York was a less important objective in military terms than Kingston, where the British armed vessels on Lake Ontario were based.
  • Pike and a number of other American troops were killed by flying rocks and other debris when withdrawing, as the British garrison blew up its ammunition magazine. His body was brought by ship back to Sackets Harbor, where his remains were eventually buried at the military cemetery.
  • On the downside, regarding the Burr Conspiracy, General James Wilkinson, Pike’s commanding officer, claimed that “Lt Pike himself was as yet ignorant of the nature of his journey.”8


1 Zebulon Montgomery Pike, Pathfinder and Patriot by Harvey L Carter.

2 Eblen, Tom (2017-03-19). Kentucky invasion? Rare spy map shows French plans for frontier America.

Kentucky Herald-Leader. Maysville, Kentucky.

3 Cushing, Thomas H. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/biographies/zebulon-pike

4 Zebulon Pike Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zebulon_Pike .

5 Ibid.

6 Valkenburg, Samuel Van (1976). “Pike, Zebulon Montgomery”. In William D. Halsey (ed.). Collier’s Encyclopedia. 19. New York: Macmillan Educational Corporation. p 46.

7 Conversations with Dr. Tim Abel, Plattsburgh NY conducting archeological research of the fort Pike’s men built.

8 Statement and Affidavit of Timothy Kibby, July 6, 1807, in Territorial Papers of the United States, ed. Clarence Edwin Carter (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1949), 14:133-36.