1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Chapter 5 Part 1

CHAPTER V

PIKE


Col. Zebulon M. Pike
[Copy by Willard of Portrait
in Library of Kansas
State Historical Society]

The next exploration of the country which was to become Kansas was in 1806. In 1805 Lieutenant Zebulon M. Pike was sent on a voyage of exploration and discovery up the Mississippi from St. Louis by General James Wilkinson. From that voyage he returned on the 30th of April, 1806. General Wilkinson was Military Commandant of the Territory of Louisiana, and it was in his military capacity that he directed Lieutenant Pike to undertake the voyage up the Mississippi. Upon his return from the river expedition General Wilkinson, who was also Governor of the Territory of Louisiana, ordered Lieutenant Pike to explore Louisiana by the way of the Great Plains. That was also a military exploration. It was governmental only incidentally, and different from that of Lewis and Clark, which had been ordered by the President of the United States. General Wilkinson was implicated in the schemes of Aaron Burr, and he had been in the intrigues of the Spanish authorities against the United States. There is reason to believe that he hoped to forward his treasonable designs through the expeditions of Lieutenant Pike. Mr. Coues, the editor of the Journals of these explorations, was convinced that Pike was not altogether ignorant of the plans of General Wilkinson. But the evidence upon which he based that conclusion is not sufficient. Something more will have to be adduced before it can be certainly said that Lieutenant Pike had guilty knowledge of the machinations of his superior. Pike was a good soldier, and he met a glorious death in the service of his country.

The expedition of Lieutenant Pike over the Great Plains to the Spanish frontiers was of more immediate benefit to the country than that of Lewis and Clark. As an enterprise it was inferior, and in ultimate results it did not approach those flowing from the exploration to the Pacific. But accounts of it reached the people long before the publication of the Journals of Lewis and Clark, and immediate trade and settlement developed because of this information.

The instructions to Lieutenant Pike are comprised in two letters written to him by General Wilkinson. One was dated June 24, 1806, and the other July 12, 1806. As this is the most important early exploration of the country which became Kansas, these letters are set out here:

LETTER, WILKINSON'S INSTRUCTIONS TO PIKE

ST. LOUIS, June 24th, 1806.
Sir: You are to proceed without delay to the cantonment on the Missouri [at Belle Fontaine], where you are to embark the late Osage captives and the deputation recently returned from Washington, with their presents and baggage, and are to transport the whole up the Missouri and Osage rivers to the town of Grand Osage.

The safe delivery of this charge at the point of destination constitutes the primary object of your expedition; therefore you are to move with such caution as may prevent surprise from any hostile band, and are to repel with your utmost force any outrage which may be attempted.

Having safely deposited your passengers and their property, you are to turn your attention to the accomplishment of a permanent peace between the Kansas and Osage nations; for which purpose you must effect a meeting between the head chiefs of those nations, and are to employ such arguments, deduced from their own obvious interests, as well as the inclinations, desires, and commands of the president of the United States, as may facilitate your purpose and accomplish the end.

A third object of considerable magnitude will then claim your consideration. It is to effect an interview and establish a good understanding with the Yanctons, Tetaus, or Camanches.

For this purpose you must interest White Hair, of the Grand Osage, with whom and a suitable deputation you will visit the Panis republic, where you may find interpreters, and inform yourself of the most feasible plan by which to bring the Camanches to a conference. Should you succeed in this attempt - and no pains must be spared to effect it - you will endeavor to make peace between that distant powerful nation and the nations which inhabit the country between us and them, particularly the Osage; finally, you will endeavor to induce eight or ten of their distinguished chiefs to make a visit to the seat of government next September, and you may attach to this deputation four or five Panis and the same number of Kansas chiefs.

As your interview with the Camanches will probably lead you to the head branches of the Arkansaw and Red rivers, you may find yourself approximated to the settlements of New Mexico. There it will be necessary you should move with great circumspection, to keep clear of any hunting or reconnoitering parties from that province, and to prevent alarm or offense; because the affairs of Spain and the United States appear to be on the point of amicable adjustment, and moreover it is the desire of the president to cultivate the friendship and harmonious intercourse of all the nations, of the earth, particularly our neighbors the Spaniards.

In the course of your tour, you are to remark particularly upon the geographical structure, the natural history, and population of the country through which you may pass, taking particular care to collect and preserve specimens of everything curious in the mineral or botanical worlds, which can be preserved and are portable. Let your courses be regulated by your compass, and your distances by your watch, to be noted in a field-book; and I would advise you, when circumstances permit, to protract and lay down in a separate book the march of the day at every evening's halt.

The instruments which I have furnished you will enable you to ascertain the variation of the magnetic needle and the latitude with exactitude; and at every remarkable point I wish you to employ your telescope in observing the eclipse of Jupiter's satellites, having previously regulated and adjusted your watch by your quadrant, taking care to note with great nicety the periods of immersions and emersions of the eclipsed satellites. These observations may enable us, after your return, by application to the appropriate tables, which I cannot now furnish you, to ascertain the longitude.

It is an object of much interest with the executive to ascertain the direction, extent, and navigation of the Arkansaw and Red rivers; as far, therefore, as may be compatible with these instructions and practicable to the means you may command, I wish you to carry your views to those subjects; and should circumstances conspire to favor the enterprise, that you may detach a party with a few Osage to descend the Arkansaw under the orders of Lieutenant Wilkinson, or Sergeant Ballinger, properly instructed and equipped to take the courses and distances, to remark on the soil, timber, etc., and to note the tributary streams. This party will, after reaching our post on the Arkansaw, descend to Fort Adams and there wait further orders; and you yourself may descend the Red River, accompanied by a party of the most respectable Camanches, to the post of Nachitoches, and there receive further orders.

To disburse your necessary expenses and to aid your negotiations, you are herewith furnished six hundred dollars worth of goods, for the appropriation of which you are to render a strict account, vouched by documents to be attested by one of your party.

Wishing you a safe and successful expedition,
I am, Sir,
With much respect and esteem,
Your obedient servant,
Lieutenant Z. M. Pike.[Signed] JAMES WILKINSON.

LETTER, WILKINSON'S ADDITIONAL INSTRUCTIONS TO PIKE

CANTONMENT [BELLE FONTAINE], MISSOURI, July 12th, 1806.
Sir: The health of the Osages being now generally restored and all hopes of the speedy recovery of their prisoners from the hands of the Potowatomies being at an end, they have become desirous to commence their journey for their villages; you are therefore to proceed to-morrow.

In addition to the instructions given you on the 24th ultimo, I must request you to have the talks under cover delivered to White Hair and Grand Peste, the chief of the Osage band which is settled on the waters of the Arkansaw, together with the belts which accompany them. You will also receive herewith a small belt for the Panis and a large one for the Tetaus or Camanches.

Should you find it necessary, you are to give orders to Maugraine, the resident interpreter at the Grand Osage, to attend you.

I beg you to take measures for the security and safe return of your boats from the Grand Osage to this place.

Dr. Robinson will accompany you as a volunteer. He will be furnished medicines, and for the accommodations which you give him he is bound to attend your sick.

Should you discover any unlicensed traders in your route, or any person from this territory, or from the United States, without a proper license or passport, you are to arrest such person or persons and dispose of their property as the law directs.

My confidence in your caution and discretion has prevented my urging you to vigilance in guarding against the strategy and treachery of the Indians; holding yourself above alarm or surprise, the composition of your party, though it be small, will secure to you the respect of a host of untutored savages.

You are to communicate, from the Grand Osage and from every other practicable point, directly to the secretary of war, transmitting your letters to this place under cover, to the commanding officer, or by any more convenient route.

I wish you health and a successful and honorable enterprise, and am,

Yours with friendship,
[Signed]JAMES WILKINSON.
Lieutenant Z. M. Pike.

The expedition was composed of Lieutenant Pike, Commanding; Lieutenant James B. Wilkinson; three non-commissioned officers; sixteen private soldiers; and two civilians, one of whom, John H. Robinson, was the surgeon, and the other, A. F. Baronet Vasquez, was the interpreter. There were some Indians, and the official record runs: "Our party consisted of two lieutenants, one surgeon, one sergeant, two corporals, 16 privates and one interpreter. We had also under our charge chiefs of the Osage and Pawnees, who with a number of women and children, had been to Washington. These Indians had been redeemed from captivity among the Pottawatomies, and were now to be returned to their friends at the Osage towns. The whole number of Indians amounted to 51."

The start was made on the 15th of July, 1806, from Belle Fontaine, on the south bank of the Missouri, fourteen miles from St. Louis, then the military post of that city. The party were embarked in two boats, and the Indians marched along the bank of the river. The mouth of the Osage was reached on the 28th of July. The exploration ascended the Osage. On the 12th of August it was at the mouth of Grand River, above the present town of Warsaw, Mo. There the Indians expressed a desire to strike across the country to their towns, and avoid the winding and tedious ascent of the river. They were then in their own country, at no great distance from their towns, and familiar with the trails of the region. It seems that these Indians had been captured there at the mouth of the Grand River, a year before, by the Pottawatomies. Lieutenant Wilkinson, Dr. Robinson, and the interpreter volunteered to go with the Indians overland. After a march of six days over the prairies the party arrived at the Osage towns, and the captives were delivered to their relatives.

The Osage towns were in what is now Vernon County, Mo., on the south side of the Little Osage River. The tribe was then divided, one division being the "Big" or "Grand" Osages, and the other the "Little" Osages. The town of the Big Osages was on the south side of the Little Osage below the mouth of the Marmaton. About six miles further up was the Little Osage town. Pike was halted on the 19th of August by a drift across the Little Osage, and there established Camp Independence, where he remained until the first of September. The time was spent in visiting the Osage towns, and in consultation with the Indian chiefs. Pike made a census of the Osage tribe, finding that the Big Osages had 214 lodges, 502 warriors, 852 women, and 341 children - a total of 1,695 souls. The Little Osages numbered 824, all told.

At the Osage towns one stage of Pike's itinerary ended, and another stage began. He was obliged to abandon his boats, one of which he sold for $100 in merchandise. He experienced trouble in securing horses to carry his baggage, for he was to set out overland to visit the great Pawnee town on the Republican. The gratitude of the Osages for the return of their captive people rapidly waned. Finally, on the first of September, arrangements were completed, and the journey to the Pawnee town commenced. Circumstances were not favorable, however, and the difficulties of the situation are well described in Pike's Journal:

Sept. 1st. Struck our tents early in the morning, and commenced loading our horses. We now discovered that an Indian had stolen a large black horse which Cheveux Blanche had presented to Lieutenant Wilkinson. I mounted a horse to pursue him; but the interpreter sent to town, and the chief's wife sent another in its place. We left the place about twelve o'clock with 15 loaded horses, our party consisting of two lieutenants, one doctor, two sergeants, one corporal, 15 privates, two interpreters, three Pawnees, and four chiefs of the Grand Osage. amounting in all to 30 warriors and one woman. We crossed the Grand Osage fork and a prairie N. 80 W. five miles to the fork of the Little Osage. Joined by Sans Oreille and seven Little Osage, all of whom I equipped for the march. Distance eight miles.

Sept. 2d. Marched at six o'clock. Halted at ten o'clock and two o'clock on the side of the creek [Little Osage river], our route having been all the time on its borders. Whilst there I was informed by a young Indian that Mr. Chouteau had arrived at the towns. I conceived it proper for me to return, which I did, accompanied by Baroney, first to the Little Village; whence we were accompanied by Wind to the Big Village, where we remained all night at the lodge of Cheveux Blanche. Mr. Chouteau gave us all the news, after which I scrawled a letter to the general and my friends.

Sept. 3rd. Rose early, and went to the Little Village to breakfast. After giving my letters to Mr. Henry, and arranging my affairs, we proceeded, and overtook our party at two o'clock. They had left their first camp about four miles. Our horses being much fatigued, we concluded to remain all night. Sent out our red and white hunters, all of whom only killed two turkeys. Distance four miles.

Sept. 4th. When about to march in the morning one of our horses was missing; we left Sans Oreille, with the two Pawnees, to search for him, and proceeded till about nine o'clock; stopped until twelve o'clock, and then marched. In about half an hour I was overtaken and informed that Sans Oreille had not been able to find our horse; on which we encamped, and sent two horses back for the load. One of the Indians, being jealous of his wife, sent her back to the village. After making the necessary notes, Dr. Robinson and myself took our horses and followed the course of a little stream until we arrived at the Grand river, which was distant about six miles. We here found a most delightful basin of water, of 25 paces' diameter and about 100 in circumference, in which we bathed; found it deep and delightfully pleasant. Nature scarcely ever formed a more beautiful place for a farm. We returned to camp about dusk, when I was informed that some of the Indians had been dreaming and wished to return. Killed one deer, one turkey, one raccoon. Distance [made by the main party] 13 miles.

Sept. 5th. In the morning our Little Osage all came to a determination to return, and, much to my surprise, Sans Oreille among the rest. I had given an order on the chiefs for the lost horse to be delivered to Sans Oreille's wife, previously to my knowing that he was going back; but took from him his gun, and the guns from all the others also.

In about five miles we struck a beautiful hill, which bears south on the prairies; its elevation I suppose to be 100 feet. From its summit the view is sublime to the east and southeast. We waited on this hill to breakfast, and had to send two miles for water. Killed a deer on the rise, which was soon roasting before the fire. Here another Indian wished to return and take his horse with him; which, as we had so few, I could not allow, for he had already received a gun for the use of his horse. I told him he might return, but his horse would go to the Pawnees.

We marched, leaving the Osage trace, which we had hitherto followed, and crossed the hills to a creek that was almost dry. Descended it to the main [Little Osage] river, where we dined [vicinity of Harding]. The discontented Indian came up, and put on an air of satisfaction and content.

We again marched about six miles further, and encamped at the head of a small creek, about a half a mile from the water. Distance 19 miles [approaching Xenia, Bourbon Co., Kas.]

On the 6th of September Pike reached a point in Allen County, Kansas, and camped on the head of Elm Creek, near the present town of LaHarpe. He arrived at the Neosho, which he called White River, early on the 8th, and crossed it somewhere between Iola and Neosho Falls. On the 7th he marched twelve miles and camped on Eagle Creek near the east line of Lyon County. The head branches of the Verdigris were crossed on the 10th and 11th, the camp on the night of the 11th being on a tributary of the Cottonwood. The 12th brought the party to hunting-grounds of the Kansas Indians, on the Upper Cottonwood, and six buffaloes were killed. The Indians of the party said they would destroy all the game they could, being enemies of the Kansas. Large herds of buffalo were encountered on the 14th, in what is now Marion County. Pike would permit the slaughter of only enough of them to furnish food for his party, thinking the laws of morality against the wanton destruction of those noble game animals. On the 15th the expedition crossed the divide to the waters of the Smoky Hill, not far from the present Tampa, in Marion County. The Osage Indian objected to going into camp at one o'clock. From the manner in which the buffalo ran he supposed they were being chased by the Kansas Indians, of whom, it seems, he was afraid. The Smoky Hill was reached on the 17th, and crossed, at nine o'clock, at or near the town of Bridgeport, in Saline County. Pike expected the Pawnees to meet him on the 18th, but they did not come. Tile party made twenty-five miles and camped on Covert Creek, near the present town of Minneapolis. They remained here until the 21st, reading the Bible and Pope's Essays, and tattooing their arms with characters to remind them of their experiences in life. They were constantly expecting to see the Pawnees, under direction of Dr. Robinson, but they did not appear until the 24th. On the 25th Pike led his party up to the Republican Pawnee town. In his journey he had traversed Bourbon, Allen, Woodson, Coffey, Lyon, Chase, Marion, McPherson, Saline, Ottawa, Cloud, and Republic counties. The account of his reception there is very interesting:

When we arrived within about three miles of the village, we were requested to remain, as the ceremony of receiving the Osage into the towns was to be performed here. There was a small circular spot, clear of grass, before which the Osage sat down. We were a small distance in advance of the Indians. The Pawnees then advanced within a mile of us, halted, divided into two troops, and came on each flank at full charge, making all the gestures and performing the maneuvers of a real war charge. They then encircled us around, and the chief advanced in the center and gave us his hand; his name was Caracterish. He was accompanied by his two sons and a chief by the name of Iskatappe. The Osage were still seated; but Belle Oiseau then rose, came forward with a pipe, and presented it to the chief, who took a whiff or two from it. We then proceeded; the chief, Lieutenant Wilkinson, and myself in front; my sergeant, on a white horse, next with the colors; then our horses and baggage, escorted by our men, with the Pawnees on each side running races, etc. When we arrived on the hill over the town we were again halted, and the Osage seated in a row; when each Pawnee who intended so to do presented them with a horse and gave a pipe to smoke to the Osage to whom he had made the present. In this manner were eight horses given. Lieutenant Wilkinson then proceeded with the party to the [Republican] river above the town, and encamped. I went up to our camp in the evening, having a young Pawnee with me loaded with corn for my men. Distance 12 miles. As the chief had invited us to his lodge to eat, we thought it proper for one to go. At the lodge he gave me many particulars, which were interesting to us, relative to the late visit of the Spaniards.

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A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans , written and compiled by William E. Connelley, transcribed by Carolyn Ward, 1998.

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