Wednesday, February 23, 2011
General Albert Pike
Fort Smith Military History Examiner
To a large number of people that live in the Fort Smith area, the name Albert Pike is simply a road that is one of the main roads in Fort Smith. Albert Pike lived what can be described mildly as an interesting life. Pike recently has been connected through movies such as National Treasure: Book of Secrets as being one of the major ringleaders of the Knights of the Golden Circle. The purpose of this article is not to look at the Freemason ties or the possible Knights of the Golden Circle ties that Pike may have had. Pikes military career is the central focus of what will be examined in this article.
Pike before the Mexican-American War started was a fairly successful lawyer up until war broke out with Mexico. Pike was not thrilled about going to war with Mexico mainly because he did not want to give up his law practice but also because he did not agree with President James K. Polk's decision to go to war with Mexico. Pike after finding out how enthusiastic his men were about going to war converted his unit to cavalry. Pike was elected a captain by his men serving under him. Pike and his cavalry was present at the Battle of Buena Vista. Problems developed after the battle with Pike and then Colonel John S. Roane. Roane had labeled the Arkansas men as having performed cowardly during the Battle of Buena Vista. Pike and Roane would later fight a duel over he remarks Roane had said but neither wounded the other and both changed their minds about the duel. Pike after the duel would return to Little Rock and from there would move to practice law in Louisiana
Pike in the years leading up to the Civil War started his practice back up in Arkansas and became the chief legal counsel to Choctaw Indians. Pike being an allies of the Indians that were in the Indian Territory would have an impact albeit a small one at the Battle of Pea Ridge. Pike was made Brigadier General in the Confederate Army and at the Battle of Pea Ridge would have a chance to prove himself as a soldier. When Generals Benjamin McCulloch and James McIntosh fell early in the battle Pike was never able to reorganize the troops and it gave the Union the advantage that was needed to defeat the Confederates. Pike's Indian troops also was reported to have committed atrocities on the battlefield. Now whether those were Union propaganda or actual events is still an open debate for historians. Pike after the events at Pea Ridge was depressed and chose to resign his commission on July 12, 1862. Pike for the remainder of his life would not be trusted by either former Confederates or the newly reformed government of the United States. Pike then chose to expand his Freemason knowledge and continue to practice law but even to this day his name comes up in conspiracy theories. Historian and history buffs can be the judge of Pike but remember to look at all sides of the argument.
For more information on Albert Pike please look at this website and this book:
Brown, Walter Lee. A Life of Albert Pike The Univeristy of Arkansas Press Fayetteville, Arkansas 1997
By Tommy Tabler
Fort Smith Military History Examiner
Thomas Tabler is a regular guy that has received a BA in History from the University of Arkansas Fayetteville. Thomas is also working on a Master's Degree from the American Military University with an emphasis in Military History. Thomas' Master's Thesis is over the Fort Smith Civil War Campaign. Thomas' family lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas and he is not working on finishing his Master's Thomas is enjoying a college basketball game or watching the remainder of the NFL season.