Zebulon Pike was born on January 5, 1779, near present-day Lamington, New Jersey. At the age of twenty, Pike chose to follow in his father’s footsteps and was commissioned in the Army. Pike served in the Northwest Territory, managing logistics for the scattered elements of the Army.
Much like the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Pike explored the newly acquired Louisiana Territory. Pike first led twenty men in a keelboat up the Mississippi River into present-day Minnesota in 1805, scouting for potential sites for future Army posts.
The following year Pike and nineteen others of the First Regiment of Infantry traveled west using the Arkansas and Red Rivers as their paths. It was during this expedition that the famous Pike’s Peak would be sighted and named. Pike and his party never reached the summit of Pike’s Peak, having been deterred by waist-high snow and going two days without food. The expedition was eventually captured by the Spanish after straying beyond the US border in 1807. Most of the group was escorted back to US lands, but others remained Spanish captives for years.
Pike continued to serve in the Army up the outbreak of the War of 1812, having rose to the rank of colonel. Having successfully managed greater responsibility, he was made a brigadier general in 1813. Pike and several others would be killed at the Battle of York (present-day Toronto, Canada) on April 23, 1813, when British troops blew up a munitions magazine as they withdrew from the York.