Citizen Explorer: The Life of Zebulon Pike

Home » Pike: On This Day » 3. March 1807 » March 3, 1807. Santa Fe

March 3, 1807. Santa Fe


Today Pike and his party arrive in Santa Fe, the New Mexican capital, a city of approximately 3-4,000 inhabitants.

3rd March, Tuesday….On our entering the town, the crowd was great, and followed us to the government house. When we dismounted, we were ushered in through various rooms, the floors of which were covered with skins of buffalo, bear, or some other animal. We waited in a chamber for some time, until his excellency [Governor Joaquín del Real Alencaster] appeared…and the following conversation took place in French.

Governor. Do you speak French?
Pike: Yes sir.
Governor. You come to reconnoiter our country, do you?
Pike. I marched to reconnoiter our own.

The conversation continued, with the governor trying, unsuccessfully, to tease out whether Robinson had come with Pike. Exasperated, he gave up, dismissing Pike and ordering him to…

Come here again at seven o’clock, and bring your papers.

Remember the Frenchmen who had offered sympathy and aid to Pike a few days before?

At the door of the government house, I met the old Frenchman, to whom I had given the scrap of paper on the 27th of February. He had left us in the morning, and as I suppose, hurried in to make his report, and I presume had presented this paper to his excellency. I demanded with a look of contempt, if he had made his report? to which he made a reply in an humble tone, and began to excuse himself, but I did not wait to hear his excuse.

After Pike left the governor’s, he stashed some of his paper on his men’s persons. When he returned to the governor’s palace, the conversation resumed. Pike displayed his orders, which included…

…express instructions to guard against giving them [the Spaniards] offence or alarm….[The governor] got up and gave me his hand, for the first time, and said he was happy to be acquainted with me as a man of honor and a gentleman; that I could retire this evening, and take my trunk [of papers] with me.

Believing his gambit of stashing papers successful and seeing his men carousing that evening, Pike decided to retrieve the documents. No telling when a heart hug from a drinking buddy or wandering hand of a female companion might accidentally find them. He returned them to his trunk. But Pike has been outsmarted.


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