The formative years of the American West were teeming with treachery and provocative national and international politics—facts unmistakably voiced in this book by editors Matthew L. Harris and Jay H. Buckley.
The naive, yet eager patriot Zebulon Montgomery Pike played a key role in the sometimes unbelievable, yet unexaggerated drama recounted in these essays by some of the 21st century’s leading Western historians.
Following the Louisiana Purchase, President Thomas Jefferson’s nation expanded into a fragile republic of undetermined boundaries. At Jefferson’s behest, Congress funded scientific expeditions to assess the resources of the new acquisition. His commander of the U.S. Army, the ambitious scoundrel Gen. James Wilkinson, used military funds to finance his own expeditions. Wilkinson, who was thrice acquitted in as many courts-martial, found an obedient protégé in Pike.
Unlike his mentor, Pike is revealed as a brave American soldier—a loyal man of character and honorable motives. Despite his imperfections as a leader, diplomat, peace broker and navigator, the scholars’ analysis of Pike’s career determines that he really was a success. How fitting, as we approach the bicentennial of Pike’s April 1813 death, that he be recognized for his heroism and contributions to opening the American West.
—Tim Blevins, coeditor of “To Spare No Pains”: Zebulon Montgomery Pike and His 1806–1807 Southwest Expedition