July 15, 1806: Zebulon Pike begins his famous expedition
Have you ever heard of Zebulon Pike? While the answer is most likely “no,” he was actually a very important figure in the settlement of Kansas and Colorado. As a U.S. brigadier general, Pike charted previously unseen territory throughout the nation. Take a look at what took place on the day that Zebulon Pike began his famous expedition.
Army soldier Zebulon Pike first gained national attention in 1805. Back then, Pike served as the leader of a group of explorers who were searching for the mouth of the Mississippi River. On July 15, 1806, Zebulon led his men on a new journey: to survey the Southwestern United States. At that time, it was Pike’s mission to explore the sources of Arkansas River and Red River. Pike was also deadset on scoping out Spanish territories in New Mexico.
As Zebulon and his crew departed Missouri, they traveled through modern-day Kansas and Nebraska. That’s when they arrived in Colorado, and Pike laid his eyes on the mountainside that would eventually be called Pikes Peak. From then on, Zebulon and his fellow travelers journeyed to New Mexico. Once there, they were arrested by the Spaniards for entering their land without permission. It gets worse: Pike’s party was forced to venture through Santa Fe, Chihuahua, Texas, and Louisiana before they were set free.
Things got even crazier when Pike and his crew returned to the East Coast. Somehow, Zebulon got involved in a mysterious scheme to take over the American Southwest with ex-Vice President Aaron Burr. The plot was investigated by James Madison, the Secretary of State at the time. Luckily, Pike was let off the hook. Unfortunately, Zebulon met his end during the War of 1812 when he was the victim of a gunpowder bomb explosion.