Jump to Navigation

Kansas History - Spring 2006

(Vol. 29, No. 1)
Special Issue

Kansas History, Spring 2006

The Pike Expedition: A Bicentennial Reflection

Stephen G. Hyslop, "One Nation Among Many: The Origins and Objectives of Pike's Southwest Expedition."

Read this article online

In a fine essay that serves as the introduction to this bicentennial issue, historian Stephen G. Hyslop provides an overview of the 1806 Southwest expedition of a twenty-seven-year-old army lieutenant, Zebulon Montgomery Pike. As the author effectively demonstrates, "For all the difficulties Pike and company encountered, their journey provided as much impetus for westward expansion as the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Indeed, Pike's pitfalls offered Americans a more instructive view of the obstacles they might face on the way west than the good fortune of Lewis and Clark, who luckily eluded Spanish parties sent to intercept them. As demonstrated by the taxing Southwest Expedition, the fifteen million dollars Jefferson offered for Louisiana was merely a down payment. To make good on that purchase-to secure for the United States a vast area to which other nations had enduring claims-would cost Americans dearly in years to come." Hyslop also recaps the seventeenth and eighteenth century activities of the Spanish and the French on the Plains prior to American entry early in the nineteenth.

Leo E. Oliva, ed., "'Sent Out By Our Great Father': Zebulon Montgomery Pike's Journal and Route Across Kansas, 1806."

Read this article online

Accompanied by maps of the expedition drawn by Hal Jackson, historian Leo Oliva's edited version of the Pike journal faithfully reproduces that portion of most relevance to students of Kansas history. Pike entered present-day Kansas on September 3, eventually reached the site of a Pawnee village just north of what is now the Kansas-Nebraska border, and from there traveled south and west through Kansas, reaching to present Colorado on November 11, 1806. "Pike's journals and reports from his two expeditions, 1805-1807, were first printed in 1810," reports Oliva. "The journal of his second expedition was especially of interest to enterprising merchants in the Mississippi and Missouri valleys because of Pike's observations about the potential for trade with northern Mexico. Pike's journal and reports, including the maps published with them, could guide merchants across present Kansas to New Mexico, and his descriptions of the economy and culture there would help them to open trade and, in fact, encouraged them to do so. As early as 1812, trading expeditions inspired by Pike's publication were outfitted to attempt to open trade with New Mexico."

Leo E. Oliva, "Enemies and Friends: Zebulon Montgomery Pike and Facundo Melgares in the Competition for the Great Plains, 1806-1807."

Read this article online

The history of Zebulon Pike's "remarkable" 1806 expedition existed then, as it does now, in the large shadow of the Corps of Discovery-the storied expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark that ended soon after Pike commenced his journey through the southern reaches of the Louisiana Purchase territory. Western historian Dr. Leo E. Oliva castes new light on this "outstanding record of exploration for the United States" and on the "remarkable" if "much less known and understood" expedition of Pike's Spanish counterpart, Lieutenant Facundo Melgares. These rival representatives of competing governments had similar short-term objectives (to secure "friendship, trade relations, and alliances with several Indian tribes of the region"), but the long-range implications of their missions and ultimate friendship is most important. "It is safe to declare that everyone who ventured forth from the United States to establish contact with northern Mexico after 1811 benefited directly or indirectly from Pike's expedition and journal," including information provided by Melgares whose command preceded Pike's on the Plains by several weeks. Melgares, who developed a genuine friendship with Pike in early 1807, actually governed New Mexico by1818 and "welcomed the first successful U.S. trade expedition to Santa Fe in 1821."

Michael L. Olsen, "Zebulon Pike and American Popular Culture, or Has Pike Peaked?"

Read this article online

Few Americans today give much thought to Zebulon Pike, the great nineteenth-century American explorer and hero of the War of 1812. As historian Michael Olsen writes, "His western expedition in 1806-1807 should be known as one of the most arduous yet productive in the annals of American exploration, but even at the time it was overshadowed by the feats of Lewis and Clark." Olsen surveys the ways in which Pike has been remembered over the years in this fascinating article that examines place names, monuments, historic sites, biographical works, and novels and juvenile literature. "As the 200th anniversary of Pike's Southwest Expedition is celebrated," concludes Olsen, "it is evident that Pike's place in American popular culture is secure. . . . For most Americans today, Pike's memory and reputation are irrevocably tied to the mountain bearing his name. Somewhat ironically, Pike secured his fame not with his heroic death but when, on November 15, 1806, he spotted a 'small blue cloud'- Pikes Peak - on the western horizon. For the tens of thousands of tourists who ascend Pikes Peak annually and who gaze east to the Great Plains and west to the serrated ranks of the Rockies, Pike is and remains one of the great explorers of the American West."


Read these online

Civil War on the Missouri-Kansas Border
by Donald L. Gilmore
384 pages, photographs, notes, bibliography, index.
Gretna, La.: Pelican Publishing Co., 2006, cloth $29.95.
Reviewed by Nicole Etcheson, Alexander M. Bracken professor of history, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana.

Outrage, Passion & Uncommon Sense: How Editorial Writers Have Taken on the Great American Issues of the Past 150 Years
edited by Michael Gartner and the Newseum
224 pages, photographs, illustrations, bibliography, index.
Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2005, cloth $30.00.
Reviewed by Sally Foreman Griffith, independent historian, Havertown, Pennsylvania.

America's Historic Stockyards: Livestock Hotels
by J'Nell L. Pate
xiv + 225 pages, appendices, notes, glossary, bibliography, index.
Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 2005, cloth $29.95.
Reviewed by Jim Hoy, professor of English, Emporia State University.

While in the Hands of the Enemy: Military Prisons of the Civil War
by Charles W. Sanders Jr.
x +390 pages, photographs, notes, bibliography, index.
Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2005, cloth $44.95.
Reviewed by Christopher M. Paine, instructor of history, Lake Michigan College, Benton Harbor, Michigan.

A Nation of Statesmen: The Political Culture of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohicans, 1815-1972
by James W. Obery
xv + 336 pages, maps, tables, notes, bibliography, index.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2005, cloth $34.95.
Reviewed by Bradley J. Birzer, Russell Amos Kirk Chair in History and director of American studies, Hillsdale College, Michigan.

Captain Jack and the Dalton Gang: The Life and Times of a Railroad Detective
by John J. Kinney
270 pages, illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, index.
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2005, cloth $35.00; paper $17.95.
Reviewed by Joseph G. Rosa, The English Westerners' Society, London.

Book Notes

Read these online

Groundwater Foundation. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005. 95 pages, cloth $34.95.)
With a foreword by Congressman Tom Osborne, the legendary Cornhusker football coach, and a brief essay by David Howe, Rainmakers contains ninety-five mostly full-color photographs of center pivot irrigation systems, the people who operate them, and the crops they make possible. It champions the value of this type of agriculture, praises its "efficient" use of the aquifer's water, and seeks "to convey the history and complexity of center pivots and how such technology has become an integral part of nourishing our world."

Dry Bones on the March: The Great Winfield Anti-Saloon Uprising of February 1901. By Jerry L. Wallace. (Winfield, Kans.: Cowley County Historical Society, 2006. 73 pages, paper $7.00.)
Like many Kansas towns and cities, Winfield was rocked during the first weeks and months of 1901 by antisaloon violence inspired by Carry Nation's passionate prohibition campaign. In Dry Bones on the March, an article-length essay with extensive notes, appendixes, and bibliography, historian Jerry Wallace recounts the events and implications of the Winfield uprising, which, among the many such Kansas episodes, "stands out . . . because of its scope and intensity."

Hard Knocks: A Life Story of the Vanishing West. By Harry "Sam" Young. (Pierre: South Dakota State Historical Society Press, 2005. xxvii + 249 pages, paper $17.95.)
Originally published in 1915, Hard Knocks is Sam Young's "gritty memoir" of his life and travels throughout the late-nineteenth-century American West, mostly on or near the plains of Kansas and the Dakotas, and of his encounters with such legends of the Old West as Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Although portions of his personal account are no doubt true, according to historian James D. McLaird who contributes a new introduction for this edition, "Young's fanciful tales about Hickok's shootings in Kansas . . . are demonstrably false," and much of the rest "contains exaggerations and errors." Nevertheless, "Young's contemporaries believed his stories were authentic," and they include "much information of value to historians."

Kansas Cemeteries in History. Edited by Albert N. Hamscher. (Manhattan, Kans.: KS Publishing, Inc., 2005. vvi + 115 pages, paper $13.95.)
Cemeteries are "outdoor museum[s] fashioned in stone and bronze," observed Kansas State University professor Al Hamscher in the introduction to his collection of four previously published articles. "As is the case with any museum, the artifacts it contains provide insights into the collective attitudes and values of generations past." Kansas Cemeteries in History contains four fine examples of how these artifacts can be expertly interpreted-three of the four were first published in Kansas History. In addition to Professor Hamscher, whose "'Scant Excuse for the Headstone': The Memorial-Park Cemetery in Kansas" appeared in our journal's summer 2002 issue, contributors are Jerry Moore, Cynthia Blaker, and Grant Smith, "Cherished are the Dead: Changing Social Dimensions in a Kansas Cemetery"; Cathy Ambler, "A Place Not Entirely of Sadness and Gloom: Oak Hill Cemetery and the Rural Cemetery Movement"; and Nancy J. Volkman, "Landscape Architecture on the Prairie: The Work of H. W. S. Cleveland."

The Diaries of John Gregory Bourke: Vol. Two, July 29, 1876-April 7, 1878. Edited and annotated by Charles M. Robinson III. (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2005. xi + 530 pages, cloth $55.00.)
Readers interested in military history will no doubt be eager to see this second in a planned six-volume set of John Gregory Bourke diaries. As aide-de-camp to Brigadier General George Crook, Bourke writes of the infamous Horse Meat March, the Powder River Expedition, the Dull Knife Fight, and more in the portions of his diaries reprinted and expertly annotated in this volume.

No One Ever Asked Me: The World War II Memoirs of an Omaha Indian Soldier. By Hollis D. Stabler, edited by Victoria Smith. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005. xvii + 185 pages, cloth $24.95.)
In the introduction to No One Ever Asked Me, "editor-collector" Victoria Smith, an assistant professor of history and Native American studies at the University of Nebraska, introduces the reader to Hollis Stabler, a "much beloved and popular elder of the Omaha Nation" and veteran of the Second World War, who spent part of his youth in Lawrence and Wichita, Kansas. What follows is primarily Stabler's wartime memoir; "as to whether this collabortative biography is the story of an Indian who was a soldier, or of a soldier who was an Indian," writes Professor Smith, "I will let the reader decide. Hollis would probably say he was both."

General James G. Blunt: Tarnished Glory. By Robert Collins. (Gretna, La.: Pelican Publishing Co., 2005. 192 pages, cloth $23.00.)
Of limited value to professional historians due to its brevity and lack of source citations (it does contain a brief bibliography), author Robert Collins's "popular" biography of James G. Blunt, a truly fascinating and significant early Kansas character, will be of interest to some of the journal's readers and to Kansas Civil War buffs. Military historians especially may take exception with some of the author's characterizations of Blunt's martial activities, but few books are error free and perhaps this one will inspire scholarly studies of the fascinating life and times of the state's first (and only Civil War era) major general.