A Civil War Biography

Albert Pike

Pike was born 29 December 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. His family moved to Newburyport, Massachusetts when he was young and that is where he was educated. He taught at various schools in Newburyport, Gloucester, and Fairhaven, all in his home state, until 1831 when he decided to head west. Arriving in Independence, Missouri he joined a hunting and trading expedition headed for Santa Fe, New Mexico. From Sante Fe he joined another expedition which traveled through the Staked Plains of New Mexico and Texas. By 1833 he had arrived at Fort Smith, Arkansas where he worked as a school teacher. Eventually moving to Little Rock, Arkansas he became associate editor of the "Advocate", a local paper. He published an account of his adventures in the Advocate and then in 1834 his works were published under the title of "Prose Sketches and Poems Written in the Western Country". By 1835 he became the sole editor of the Advocate but sold his interest in 1837 and began a law practice. Within a few years he was regarded as one of the most capable lawyers in the Southwest and became the first reporter of the Arkansas Supreme Court. He was a staunch Whig then Know Nothing and championed his party's cause against the Democratic majority. During the war with Mexico he commanded a troop of volunteer cavalry and performed well. After returning from Mexico he returned to the practice of law and made many favorable contacts with the Indian leaders, including during a case against the federal government winning a $800, 000 settlement for the Creeks.

Although opposed to slavery and secession, Pike followed his adopted state into the Confederacy. As the Confederate envoy to the Indian nations he convinced many tribes to side with the South. On 7 October 1861 he signed a treaty with Chief John Ross of the Cherokee Nation representing the "Five Civilized Tribes": Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole. Pike was commissioned a brigadier general on 22 November 1861 to rank from 15 August 1861. He helped organize three regiments of Indians which he commanded at Elkhorn Tavern. Criticized for the Indian's actions at Elkhorn Tavern, including allegations of scalping, Pike offered his resignation on 12 July 1862 but it was refused. Counter charges of improper handling of money and materials between Pike and Thomas C. Hindman, commander of the Trans-Mississippi District would lead to the end of Pike's military career. Hindman ordered Pike arrested. After hiding in the hills of Arkansas Pike was arrested on 3 November 1862 and confined in Warren, Texas. Instead of facing court marshal he resigned, hsi resignation being accepted on 11 November 1862. He spent the remainder of the war practicing law in Arkansas rising to an associate justice of Arkansas Supreme Court.

After the war Pike first moved to New York but fearing he would be charged with inciting the Indians against the federal government fled to Canada. President Andrew Johnson pardoned Pike on 30 August 1865. Pike returned to Arkansas but was charged with treason. After beating these charges he moved to Memphis, Tennessee where he practiced law and edited a local newspaper, the "Patriot". A Freemason for many years Pike became the society's national spokesperson. He helped rewrite the rituals of the society. The man with the huge frame and beard that reached his waist died on 2 April 1891 while visiting the house of the Scottish Rite Temple in Washington, DC.

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