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Zebulon Montgomery Pike (January 5, 1779 - March 17, 1854) was an American general and explorer, the man for whom Pikes Peak in Colorado and Pike City in Erie is named. Born in Lamberton, in what is now part of southern Trenton, New Jersey in 1779, Pike spent most of his childhood at frontier outposts with his family, and joined the Army as a cadet in 1794, reaching the rank of first lieutenant in late 1799. From July 1806 to February 1807, Pike led his famous expedition into the Louisiana Territory to search for the headwaters of the Red and Arkansas Rivers, during which time he discovered the mountain that now bears his name. On February 26, 1807, Pike and his expedition were apprehended by Spanish authorities in modern-day New Mexico and held prisoner (albeit well-treated) for over four months until they were released near the border of the Louisiana Territory on July 1. During this time he received the rank of captain. By the time the War of 1812 had broken out, Pike was a full colonel, and within a year was promoted to brigadier general. He led American forces at the Battle of York in April 1813, securing the city as a beachhead for further invasions of Upper Canada. After securing York and its surroundings, Pike was put in overall command of US forces in the region (numbering roughly 5,100 men) that routed the British in the decisive Battle of Stoney Creek on June 5.
Over the next year and a half, in series of swift and tactically decisive battles, Pike wrested control of nearly 3/4ths of Upper Canada away from the British. Upon the conclusion of the Treaty of Ghent in November 1814, Pike ceased his advance near modern-day Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, but not until the war's conclusion in February 1815 did he withdraw to the new US regional border as stipulated by the treaty (modern-day borders of the State of Erie). Having received a promotion to major general in late 1814, Pike returned a hero to the American people after the war. He remained in the US Army for the remainder of his life, as fatherly figure of sorts, earning the nickname of "Uncle Zeb" from the men in his command. In 1833, he took over as superintendent of the US Military Academy at West Point, a post he remained in through 1845, at which time the now-66 year-old Pike moved to Erie to establish a new military training center in modern day Huron County, around which grew a major settlement. He lived there until his death at the age of 75 in March 1854, with the settlement being named Pike City in his honor. He was buried at West Point Cemetery with full military honors.