Letter: Wilkinson’s Instructions To Pike

St. Louis, June 24th, 1806.

Sir: You are to proceed without delay to the cantonment on the Missouri [at Belle Fontaine], where you are to embark the late Osage captives and the deputation recently returned from Washington, with their presents and baggage, and are to transport the whole up the Missouri and Osage rivers to the town of Grand Osage.

The safe delivery of this charge at the point of destination constitutes the primary object of your expedition; therefore you are to move with such caution as may prevent surprise from any hostile band, and are to repel with your almost force any outrage which may be attempted.

Having safely deposited your passengers and their property, you are to turn your attention to the accomplishment of a permanent peace between the Kansas and Osage nations; for which purpose you must effect a meeting between the head chiefs of those nations, and are to employ such arguments, deduced from their own obvious interests, as well as the inclinations, desires, and commands of the president of the United States, as may facilitate your purpose and accomplish the end.

Col. Zebulon M. Pike

[Copy by Willard of Portrait in Library of Kansas State Historical Society]

A third object of considerable magnitude will then claim your consideration. It is to effect an interview and establish a good understanding with the Yanctons, Tetaus, or Comanches.

For this purpose you must interest White Hair, of the Grand Osage, with whom and a suitable deputation you will visit the Panis republic, where you may find interpreters, and inform yourself of the most feasible plan by which to bring the Camanches to a conference. Should you succeed in this attempt—and no pains must be spared to effect it—you will endeavor to make peace between that distant powerful nation and the nations which inhabit the country between us and them, particularly the Osage; finally, you will endeavor to induce eight or ten of their distinguished chiefs to make a visit to the seat of government next September, and you may attach to this deputation four or five Panis and the same number of Kansas chiefs.

As your interview with the Comanches will probably lead you to the head branches of the Arkansaw and Red rivers, you may find yourself approximated to the settlements of New Mexico. There it will be necessary you should move with great circumspection, to keep clear of any hunting or reconnoitering parties from that province, and to prevent alarm or offense; because the affairs of Spain and the United States appear to be on the point of amicable adjustment, and moreover it is the desire of the president to cultivate the friendship and harmonious intercourse of all the nations, of the earth, particularly our neighbors the Spaniards.

In the course of your tour, you are to remark particularly upon the geographical structure, the natural history, and population of the country through which you may pass, taking particular care to collect and preserve specimens of everything curious in the mineral or botanical worlds, which can be preserved and are portable. Let your courses be regulated by your compass, and your distances by your watch, to be noted in a field-book; and I would advise you, when circumstances permit, to protract and lay down in a separate book the march of the day at every evening’s halt.

The instruments which I have furnished you will enable you to ascertain the variation of the magnetic needle and the latitude with exactitude; and at every remarkable point I wish you to employ your telescope in observing the eclipse of Jupiter’s satellites, having previously regulated and adjusted your watch by your quadrant, taking care to note with great nicety the periods of immersions and emersions of the eclipsed satellites. These observations may enable us, after your return, by application to the appropriate tables, which I cannot now furnish you, to ascertain the longitude.

It is an object of much interest with the executive to ascertain the direction, extent, and navigation of the Arkansaw and Red rivers; as far, therefore, as may be compatible with these instructions and practicable to the means you may command, I wish you to carry your views to those subjects; and should circumstances conspire to favor the enterprise, that you may detach a party with a few Osage to descend the Arkansaw under the orders of Lieutenant Wilkinson, or Sergeant Ballinger, properly instructed and equipped to take the courses and distances, to remark on the soil, timber, etc., and to note the tributary streams. This party will, after reaching our post on the Arkansaw, descend to Fort Adams and there wait further orders; and you yourself may descend the Red River, accompanied by a party of the most respectable Camanches, to the post of Nachitoches, and there receive further orders.

To disburse your necessary expenses and to aid your negotiations, you are herewith furnished six hundred dollars worth of goods, for the appropriation of which you are to render a striet account, vouched by documents to be attested by one of your party.

Wishing you a safe and successful expedition,
I am, Sir,
With much respect and esteem,
Your obedient servant,
Lieutenant Z. M. Pike.

[Signed] James Wilkinson.


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